The Montreal Burlesque Festival had its seventh edition between Oct. 15 and Oct. 18
The Montreal Burlesque Festival was back in action for their 2015 edition at Club Soda. This year Scarlett James—founder and burlesque performer—along with Montreal Burlesque Productions brought us the seventh edition of this festival, which had a wide range of performances, each one more interesting than the last.
From Oct. 15 to Oct. 17, fashion shows, dancing and singing were seen on the MBF stage. A silent auction was held during the festival, all proceeds from which will be donated to Anorexia and Bulimia Quebec (ANEB), a non-profit organization offering support to people who suffer from eating disorders.
The MBF team wished to emphasize how important it is to be healthy and self-confident for overall well-being. Indeed, burlesque is all about being confident in your own body and showing it off on stage.
According to Les Femmes Rebelles, one of the performing groups, there is no particular body type needed in order to take part in a burlesque show—it is all about what motivates you, what drives you to perform.
While the burlesque scene is now bigger than ever, it is still not entirely mainstream. In an interview with Cult Montreal, Scarlett James explained that she was extremely surprised that burlesque, one of the main attractions in Montreal over the last century, had almost been forgotten. “We’re the city of festivals and we don’t have a burlesque festival? So I jumped in the pool and I made one,” she said in the interview.
Derived from the Italian word “burla” which means “joke,” burlesque is by definition a comically exaggerated dramatic work often involving striptease. Burlesque performances take a variety of forms, such as singing, dancing, engaging with the audience and more. Although it is not always the case, performers typically dressed in retro costumes. For example, one of the vintage performances was an impersonation of Charlie Chaplin whereas a performer who impersonated Christina Aguilera had a more contemporary costume.
Throughout the festival, a red-lit, misty room made the atmosphere exciting, sexy and intriguing. During the show the hostesses kept walking in between the tables and the jazz music was only interrupted by the sound of champagne corks being popped and the public applauding. Similar to the staff, some of the audience members dressed in costumes from different eras ranging from the ‘20s to the ‘60s, but dressing up was optional.
Any burlesque performer wishing to try out for the festival was invited to do so and experience was not the main focus. On the other hand, most of the performers seen on stage had previously won prizes, some as a group, others as solo performers. Among them was the award-winning Lady Josephina, a burlesque performer who has gained recognition in Canada. She has created her own burlesque school, named Arabesque Burlesque, which she invited everyone to check out online to learn more about the dance classes, the fitness classes, specialized workshops and more. A few of her students were even in the festival and they taught swing dance moves to the viewers who wished to try it.
The host, Billy L’Amour–a drag queen who was also performing during the festival–made the show not only spectacular but also funny with her genuine enthusiasm. The festival began with a fashion show as models walked around the room wearing burlesque clothing imagined and created by designers from Montreal. Such burlesque clothing is often extremely revealing and is made of lace, feathers, glitter and rhinestones.
What was interesting in every performance is that although each of them was basically a slow striptease leading towards an end where the performers would get almost entirely undressed, each performer brought something completely different, thus keeping each performance fresh. In between the shows the rockabilly band Eric Sandmark & his Rumblers performed, which gave a very relaxed atmosphere. Near the end of the show on Thursday, a lucky spectator who happened to be celebrating her birthday ended up being tied up to a dance pole on stage, surrounded by burlesque performers who incorporated her into their routine. At times the audience also engaged in some of the performances, which made you feel as if you were a part of the show. Throughout the festival, performers showed their incredible skills in dancing, their strong voices, their sense of humor and their open-mindedness. The Montreal Burlesque Festival does not only appeal to those who are passionate about burlesque, but also introduces you to this exciting universe if it is still unknown to you.
If you didn’t get a chance to catch the MBF, you can see Billy L’Amour in Hysteria on Oct. 31 Phi Centre.