Burlesque is back in Montreal, with the city’s first ever Burlesque Festival.
Burlesque diva, Scarlett James organized the four day festival, which includes burlesque dancers from all over the world. Performers with names such as Dirty Martini, Coco Framboise and Miss Sugarpuss will bare nearly all at the Just For Laughs Studio on St Laurent.
To kick off the fest, Concordia will hold a free burlesques show on Thursday Sept. 17, which will take place in an outdoor parking lot on Mackay street.
However, James says that people should not expect anything vulgar at the festival. “It is an art showcase. It is like Moulin Rouge or a Ziegfeld Follies, a spectacle extraordinaire. It is very far from a strip club.”
The focus of a burlesque routine is not to strip, but to tease. “It’s not about revealing,” explained James, “but how you reveal.Its all about nuances and the game of seduction”
For instance, James plans to kick off the first evening performance of the festival with a crystal champagne act. “I’ve only done it once before, at a private event,” she said. “The highlight of the number is when I climb into a five foot tall glass of champagne.”
The festival, however isn’t just about stripteases and semi-nudity. On Sept. 17, the festival will screen the 2009 documentary of A Wink and a Smile at Cinema du Parc. The film is about ten ordinary women who decide to enrol at Seattle’s Academy of Burlesque with the goal of learning how to become showgirls within six weeks.
The film, (along with burlesque courses given to the public by performers) are meant to inspire women and not objectify them, said James. In fact, the underlying message of the festival is for women to feel more comfortable in their own skin. “Burlesque is about accepting yourself,” James said, “learning how to be sexy and beautiful in your body.” She encourages women with body image issues to show up to a course, because “they are sexy too.”
Montreal is one of the few major cities across North America that does not have its own Burlesque festival. Vancouver has burlesque festivals that last over a week.While cities like Toronto, Chicago and New York have been hosting their own festivals for many years. James hopes that the festival will restore the Montreal burlesque scene to the glamorous spectacle it was back in the 1930s.
The burlesque festival is also set to have a number of variety performances. Circus acts, tap dancers, a pop rock band and even a magician are set to take the stage alongside burlesque performances.
The burlesque festival runs from Sept. 17 to Sept. 20. Purchase tickets online at www.montrealburlesquefestival.ca
Talking frankly with Scarlett James
Q: How did you get into burlesque?
A: About 3 years ago, I went to see a Halloween burlesque show with friends, and I realized that everything I loved was found in burlesque. Now i get to do singing, dancing, makeup, costume design and production. It’s the perfect combination.
Q: What was your husband’s reaction when you decided to become a burlesque performer?
A: Well, [in] the beginning he didn’t quite understand. Once we took it to a pro level he became very supportive; he even takes care of the business structure of the company. We are a power couple now.
Q: Does he ever get jealous that other men stare at you half naked?
A: He is very confident in himself, and I’m very trustworthy. There is no room for misunderstandings like that.
Q: Do you mind if I ask how old you are?
A: Oh, no, no, no. You never ask a woman her age. Just write that I am ageless and forever wonderful.
Concordia Burlesque Show in Parking lot across from 2060 Mackay
Screening of documentary A Wink and A Smile at Cinéma du Parc
Miss Sugarpuss’ Inner Journey workshop at Cat corner’s studio, 3rd floor, 3451 St-Laurent
All star Burlesque night featuring pop rock band A Hard day’s Night
All star Burlesque night featuring musical guest Lyse and the Hot Kitchen