Fans of alternative dance can expect a rise in popularity

Compared to some other Canadian cities, Calgary’s burlesque scene is lagging behind. Supporters of the city’s burlesque community are hoping the new Calgary International Burlesque Festival – which debuted last month – will help change that in the future.

The festival kicked off with a bang at Dicken’s Pub, showcasing a two-act performance of dazzling burlesque from local and international talent. Other events of the festival included a main stage performance at the Epcor Centre, interactive burlesque workshops, and a finale burlesque brunch at Hyatt Regency Calgary.

While this is the first time the festival has been held, performers and supporters in the city have been reviving the sensual art form for about ten years.

“The community isn’t very big, but it’s very passionate. We’re pretty fiercely loyal,” says Raven Virginia, festival board member and a member of The Garter Girls, a local burlesque troupe. “Members of our community have brought in performers from out of town, as well as toured the festival circuit.”

She hopes such activities will let the world know that there’s a community in Calgary and that it’s fostering some incredible talent.

But despite our city’s burlesque talent, places like Vancouver, which will be hosting their 10th annual International Burlesque Festival next year, are further ahead in supporting the art form.

In addition, having had a decade of festivals, Van City also boasts various other burlesque venues and events, such as the Vancouver Burlesque Centre, Kitty Nights Burlesque, Sweet Soul Burlesque, Neo Burlesque and the Screaming Chicken Theatre Society.

Meanwhile, Toronto will be holding its seventh annual burlesque festival this year and hosts events such as Red Herring Burlesque, Great Canadian Burlesque and the Canadian Burlesque Hall of Fame.A busy Friday night burlesque showcase entertains the crowd.

Photo by Ashley King

When it comes to Calgary though, the co-president of the city’s burlesque festival Ruby Demure says, “It’s a tricky situation. Calgary has an art scene, but it’s a little bit behind the rest of the world.”

Virginia says that may have to do with where the city is located, speculating that “the reason we’ve been unable to grab a lot of geographical attention is because we’re so segregated.”

But according to Demure, in the last three to four years, there has been a strong serge of new dancers, performers, and new audience members.

Demure believes that this is a result of Calgary’s two burlesque schools, Burn Burlesque and The Garter Girls School of Burlesque.

“They’re producing so many more burlesque dancers and people that are interested in it, and in turn, their family and friends become interested in it.”

As a result, Demure says Calgary’s dazzling tassel-popping scene is poised to take off — with the burlesque festival being just the beginning.

“I really hope that the launch of this festival will expand everyone’s knowledge and will reach a greater audience, and that people will learn and appreciate that burlesque is a really important aspect of the artistic community” says Virgina.

And that appreciation will continue at next year’s festival – which will be bigger and broader, with more performers and bigger venues.

“We had over 100 applicants and over 500 patrons attend shows and workshops which is good for a first year but we want to have a greater international reach,” says Virginia.

Calgarians can stay posted on next years festival, who will be headlining, and what volunteer positions are available by checking out the website, the facebook fan page, or by following their twitter page.

aking@cjournal.ca