Day one of the annual Vancouver International Burlesque Festival kicked off on Friday showcasing some of the world’s top international cabaret performers strutting their cheeky stuff at The Vancouver Playhouse.
Among the group of tireless volunteers at the VIBF that helped put together the two day event and longest running burlesque festival in Canada are Tallulah Lee, (Just Call Her) Heather, Diva Fandango, Norm Elmore, Diamond Minx, David (DK) Kerr, and local Burlesque legend Lola Frost. Many of whom are responsible for the raucous and at times raunchy NSFW, HipHop Meets Striptease nights held monthly at the renovated yet retro Cobalt on Main St
Friday night’s lighthearted affair marked day one of the two day event featuring the international portion of the event. Staging 21 performances by at least 25 entertainers, the VIBF truly outdid itself in what is now the festival’s 11th consecutive year of showcasing the vaudevillian style striptease. Hosted by Betsy Bottom Dollar and a quick witted Bastard Keith, it was clear early that the near capacity crowd was in good hands.
The first performer of the night, The One and Only Inga’s beautifully conservative, pink vintage gown that was soon shed to reveal her milky white shapley dimensions, save for the necessary conventional pasties and bottoms foreshadowed an evening stark with contrast, charm, and silliness.
Ranging vastly in the various subgenres of burlesque, the International portion of the festival did not cease to entertain at any point of the evening. Showcasing everything from nerdcore modern day strippers adored in superheros garb (not too dissimilar from a routine witnessed at The Vogue Theatre a week prior at the Suicide Girls: Blackheart Burlesque show), to the more conventional rhinestones, feathers and emphasis more on the “tease” than the “strip” portion of the silliness. The later of which performed no better than by that of the legend, Ms. April March, who was on the precipice of her 81st birthday Friday night.
One of the more appealing aspects of the burlesque scene in Vancouver is the overwhelming support that the (largely) women performers not only show each other, but receive from the adoring crowd. At a time when photoshop, filters, apps, cosmetic surgery, and body modifications are so commonplace, it’s refreshingly to know that there is a community still holding true to common values such as loving oneself and each other exactly as they are. Burlesque is a genre that champions not taking oneself too seriously while creating a community of like-minded and supportive people. The fact that in every burlesque show one goes to they will see the same uproarious applause for a newcomer with a dream and perhaps unconventionally beautiful proportions as one would see for a veteran dancer with a size two frame is both uplifting and empowering. From Kitty Von Quim in drag, to the ever growing “brolesque” (or boylesque) performance by The Luminous Pariah achieving perhaps the most graceful routine of the evening the energy remained high and jubilant until it ended near midnight . This year’s festival did a tremendous job in staying true to the roots of the art while also including the progressive inclusiveness we have seen throughout burlesque’s history. Anyone involved with the rapidly growing burlesque scene or simply those that appreciate and support it by coming out should be proud of Vancouver’s reputation as the vaudeville capital of Canada, both historically (in the 1940’s) as well as in modern times.
With literally too many high-end performances to list off, and at risk of forgetting to list those deserved of accolades I leave you with the “Tip O’ The Hat Awards”. From someone lacking in any foreseeable talent or redeemable qualities to an inexhaustible well of talented persons:
Best Overuse Of a Confetti Cannon: Cheesecake Burlesque Review
Best All-around Music In A Performance: Kitty Von Quim (“Lady” – Styx with an 8bit transition worked into her performance into “Walking With A Ghost”- Tegan & Sara)
Best Kitty…Good Kitty: Nasty Canasta
Best Use Of a Prop: Flossy the testicle, in its use of Bastard Keith throughout the duration of the show. For those requiring explanation, Bastard Keith (Emcee) had a vote on which testicle was superior (right or left), “Flossy” who currently resides in the left half of Bastard’s coin purse won the vote in decided fashion and proceeded to make a cameo appearance. Almost as impressive as the little guy itself was the moment that Bastard Keith had after asking the audience if they wanted to see Flossy where he could have opted out, but followed through with unsheathing the brawny lad anyway.
Best Lust Inducing Performance: The One The Only Inga / Sapphire Jones
Best “One Could Watch Daily” Performance: Yaretza
Best Show Of Patience: Just Call Her Mystery Girl (Social Media Manager / Festival Organizer)
Performance Of The Night: April March