The Vancouver International Burlesque Festival (VIBF) hit Hot Art Wet City and the Vancouver Playhouse earlier this month. For those who don’t know, the art form of burlesque is a combination of caricature, extravaganza, and parody, usually centred around the removal of the player’s clothing.
The festival kicked off at the Wise Hall with Diamonds in the Buff, an industry appreciation night that included a red carpet awards section called the “Buffies.” Unfortunately the party was closed to the general public, but it was a wonderful excuse — not that the people of burlesque require one! — to dress to the nines and celebrate the unique, local community.
VIBF featured the TED Talks-style show, TIT Talks, at Hot Art Wet City. Speakers presented their stories and perspectives, with two different shows for both local and international talent. Presenters at TIT Talks included UBC associate professor in the department of anthropology and sociology, Becki Ross, for her work on the history of burlesque in Vancouver; April March, the “First Lady of Burlesque,” who started doing burlesque in 1952; and life partners Mat Fraser — of American Horror Story: Freak Show fame — and Julie Atlas Muz, an award-winning performer.
The first show was the International Cabaret, featuring acts from globally renowned burlesque stars in classic showgirl acts — complete with rhinestones and feather boas — as well as comedic nerdcore performers who added a strong dose of satire to the stage. Living legend, April March, closed out the first half of the show to thunderous applause. Other acts included Axis d’Evil, the Luminous Pariah, Sweetpea, and Mat Fraser with Julie Atlas Muz.
Vancouver Uncovered featured a variety of local talent from Screaming Chicken Theatrical Society, the Vancouver Burlesque Centre, and other hubs of burlesque education. Hunter S. Johnson delivered a hilarious performance which comprised of moving from tacky tourist clothes to a crisp, sparkly suit. The Lost Girls provided cult neo-burlesque in an unconventional but sensual experience.
Tassel-twirling was a feature in many of the acts, and although some were lost (oops!) the performers carried on in confident style. Clothing was flung, poles were conquered, and the performances were amazing. There was never a dull moment, with hosts Betsy Bottom Dollar, Bastard Keith, Mister Nickel, Mat Fraser, EmpeROAR Fabulous, and Sailor St. Claire keeping the ball rolling and the jokes cracking between the main events.
If you couldn’t make it to the festival this year, there’s always next year. If you can’t wait that long, catch any number of local shows at the Fox Cabaret, the Biltmore Cabaret, the Wise Hall, or elsewhere. It’s a fun, flirty, and sexy night out on the town that you won’t forget. Be prepared for plenty of skin, boobs, and profanity — everyone’s three favourite things.
When you want to join in on the fun instead of just playing spectator, the Vancouver Burlesque Centre offers classes, workshops, and student showcases to show you how to strut your stuff and bare some fine skin.