Originally published on Couch Assassin.
April is going to be one hot month in the nation’s capital. In case you feel there’s a shortage of burlesque shows in this city, the spring will surely change your mind. There are tons of burlesque shows coming your way in the coming weeks. Couch Assassin recently caught up with Ottawa's own Miss Helvetica Bold, founder of Rockalily Burlesque in 2006 and one of the pioneers of Ottawa's scene.
Over the last few years, Ottawa has seen an increase in the number of burlesque troupes performing. Miss Bold shared that one of the factors that led to this surge of performers was the release of the movie Burlesque (starring Christina Aguilera and Cher). “[The movie] was a sad misrepresentation of the modern, underground movement that we have in most cities, but it sure was pretty and glittery,” said Miss Bold. The film definitely gave the impression of glamour, and Miss Bold understands the appeal. “I applaud the performers who were inspired by that movie to start doing burlesque,” added Miss Bold, “especially after they discovered the less glamorous side of [the industry], like blowing your nose to find glitter, and having to sew all of your own costumes.”
Zaphod's is one of the many local venues that hosts burlesque events on occasion. Owner Eugene Haslam said that he enjoys working with local performers. “The troupes we've dealt with are well organized, very entertaining and fun to partner with.” In addition, Haslam feels strongly that the burlesque scene is legitimate and should be taken seriously. “What's important, and may sometimes be overlooked, is that burlesque is an art, with established traditions and nuances. The young ladies who perform today are as much entertainers as they are women of intelligence, beauty and confidence.”
When asked about Ottawa living up to its reputation of being boring and prudish, Miss Bold said that that could not be farther from the truth. She explained that Ottawa has a thriving arts scene, but you have to look for it. “I've had the privilege of performing in a handful of other cities, and Ottawa remains my favourite,” shared Miss Bold. “We, as a city, have real appreciation for our artists and entertainers.” And Ottawa always shows love to its burlesque performers. “Ottawa crowds hoot and holler the loudest when the bra comes off,” she laughed.
With the increased number of burlesque troupes and performances, there is more and more pressure to stay current and keep the crowds happy. “Rockalily began incorporating variety acts many moons ago with live music, cabaret, and juggling,” shared Miss Bold. “I love that burlesque revival has been able to offer a stage to other art forms that are often forgotten. When I produce a show, I make sure that there is more than just striptease.”
Some of the upcoming events will be featuring performers from various troupes in Ottawa, even some from outside of the city. Miss Bold shared that she enjoys working with other performers. “We don't always see things the same way, but I do love getting to work with new people, and more often than not, I am amazed by the creativity and diversity that our growing community has to offer.”
Although there are new burlesque performers and troupes emerging regularly, Miss Bold points out the hard work that was put in to establish the local burlesque scene that we know today. “I feel that some of the veteran performers, and I've been guilty of this, feel like they had to work a lot harder than the newbies to get stage-time. Sometimes I feel like the newbies don't understand that we [the veterans] were running uphill for years to build the foundations of what is now a thriving scene, and they aren't always respectful [of this].” However, at the end of the day, Ottawa’s burlesque performers ultimately support each other. “Despite a little bit of misunderstanding between the old gals and the newbies, we play very well together.”
Rockalilly Burlesque has come a long way since its inception and they are still working just as hard. “We're preparing for Strip Hop (April 27), and the 6th Annual No Pants Dance Party (June 15),” shared Miss Bold . “This time next year, we will be preparing for No Pants 7!”
This week-end, check out the Burlesque Vanguard tour when it stops in Ottawa. The show will feature Paco Fish, a boylesquer from Baltimore, who is touring the US and parts of Canada. Joining him will be Cherry Typhoon from Tokyo, Lady Josephine of Montreal, and from the Ottawa area Jolie Stripes and Miss Helvetica Bold herself.
To get your burlesque fix later this month, head over to Yuk Yuk's Elgin. Red Herring (Toronto) will bring her Babes in Candyland production to Ottawa on April 21, featuring some of Toronto and Hamilton's finest performers, and including Ottawa's own Rockalily Burlesque, Bella Barecatt, and The Mansfield Brothers. On April 26, Burbon&Spice Burlesque will be celebrating troupe member Betty Mae's 30th birthday at the Rainbow while the Jivewires entertain the crowd.
Although April will be a busy month for Ottawa’s burlesque enthusiasts, don’t expect the spring and summer seasons to slow things down. Keep your eyes peeled - the city's many burlesque troupes will be hard at work entertaining and tantalizing us.