Opinion: Vancouver has the best burlesque scene in the world

Mar 27 2017, 12:44 am

Written for Daily Hive by Diamond Minx. Burlesque performer, producer, and costume designer in Vancouver since 2002. Diamond serves on the Board of Directors of the Vancouver International Burlesque Festival, which is coming to town on March 31 and April 1.

Have you heard the news? Vancouver’s burlesque scene is rocking.

Our city has a community of some of the most creative and talented burlesque artists out there.

With local performers invited to headline international festivals and competing (and winning) titles at the Burlesque Hall of Fame in Las Vegas (our version of the Super Bowl), Vancouver is a powerhouse in the world of burlesque.

Aside from winning glamorous titles, here are five reasons why Vancouver has some of the best burlesque in the world.

See also

Gotta catch ‘em all

Image: Bob Ayers Photography

One thing that many people are surprised about is just how diverse the burlesque scene is here – the shows are just so different from each other.

Gastown Cabaret, for example, is reminiscent of old vaudeville with a burlesque/drag contortionist, live singing, bellydance, and regular odes to the joy of pizza. The down and dirty NSFW takes advantage of the exotic dance license at The Cobalt and features hip hop, nudity, and raining dollar bills.

On the other end of the spectrum there is Pandora and the Locksmiths, with a live jazz band and a plethora of elegant ladies. The Kitty Nights crew does shows with dancers backed by a live rock band, and Moonage Kingdom is the girl power burlesque adaptation of Sailor Moon. For those with a gothy bent, The Lost Girls bring a monthly “ritual” to The Fox Cabaret.

Neo-Burlesque, Vancouver Style

Vancouver’s most oft seen style of the art is called “neo-burlesque”, which is the modern incarnation of a 100-year-old type of theatre featuring comedy, bawdy skits, variety acts, and (of course) pretty dancing girls.

Replaced by modern exotic dance clubs in the 80s, retro-minded performers in the 90s revived burlesque in the city, this time integrating absurd comedy into striptease. Today, Vancouver’s neo-burlesque is a unique art form where the performances are the creation of the performer, complete with intricate costumes and choreography.

Not your grandfather’s strippers

Image: Screaming Chicken Theatrical Society

These days, you’ll still see variations on “classic” burlesque with the big feathered fans, boas, stockings, and gloves. But you’re just as likely to see someone running around on stage dressed as a chicken, in an outfit made of rubber gloves. Or a stripping pop culture character. Or someone bedecked in a finely sequinned gown.

The one commonality you will almost always find is the famous final reveal – often complete with a set of pasties with wildly spinning tassels. (Because gyrating boobs are awesome.)

Sometimes the room is part of the show

Different venues can make for unique flavours of shows – The Orchid Club at The Projection room is an intimate floor show, whereas the big stage at The Wise Hall (home of Screaming Chicken’s Taboo Revue) allows for big group numbers and oddball prop comedy. There’s a stage for everybody in town, whether you’d like to be up close to the action or not.

Where being different is celebrated

Where else can you find entertainment that packs so much into one delightful package? Through dance, theatricality, intelligent sexuality, politics, pop culture – not to mention the diversity of the performers themselves – we are a community that celebrates differences and embraces a wide view of beauty. We encourage our audiences to share in the joy we bring to the stage, and create an environment where all can have a good time while being sexy, smart, and witty.

Have I tickled your fancy yet? Go check out a show! You never know – the dancer you watch in that tiny bar tonight might be gracing a grand European stage next week.