Heather Ragnars sings the stories that are too hard to tell

There have been many debates throughout the years concerning whether an artist should be separated from their art. In Heather Ragnars’ case, however, doing so would be stripping her music from its essence.

Ragnars is a Concordia student of Icelandic origin, currently pursuing a degree in Music Studies, after completing a BA in Psychology. She moved to Montreal when she was eight years old, after spending most of her childhood in Maddison, Wisconsin.

She also happens to be a verified Spotify artist, and a frequent performer at The Wiggle Room on St-Laurent Boulevard. Just recently, she performed a collection of new songs in a show called “Your Money is Not a Gift,” a 1950s/60s-inspired Burlesque show.

Ragnars was raised by opera singers, and was taught the piano at age five. However, such a classical upbringing did not stop her from interpreting the standard musical pieces the way she believed would sound better. 

“I could sing before I could talk,” she proudly said. “I often wanted to change the classical pieces I would learn, and my dad would always tell me not to, but I would go ‘well, wouldn’t it sound better if I played it this way?’ and so it wasn’t long before I started writing my own music.”

She describes the writing process as such: an idea comes to her because there’s something she needs to say to someone but can’t, because it is a difficult conversation. Either it can’t be said, or it’s too hard to say.

“It just comes out like that, and it’s usually not something very pleasant,” Ragnars said. “Hard to say but needs to be said. Some people would maybe think [the song] is empowering or negative. The feeling that I describe might be ephemeral, and it might be something is long-lasting.”

Her music is extremely personal, a sort of musical diary if one would choose to describe it. Her website best describes her songs as “heartbreaking, yet barefaced accounts of the many things we think but don’t say.” 

Some of her musical influences include The Supremes, motown music in general, Etta James, Billy Joel, and Cat Stevens. She is also inspired by contemporary artists like the late Amy Winehouse, Lana del Rey, and The Weeknd.

Ragnars’ show, “Your Money is not A Gift” was inspired by a song she wrote under the same title. Despite having a 60s theme – something she is quite taken by – the song is also a recollection of a time when someone tried to buy her off with gifts and money – things that don’t come for free.

“The song felt relevant to that whole idea ‘are housewives getting a free payout from their husbands?’,” she said. “I’m really fascinated by vintage, the aesthetic, because it also has an economic importance to it. The idea that the woman takes care of everything in the home, looking good while she does it is something that fascinates a lot of people, because the housework never ends. So why not take the housewife as she is, and put a little sexy in it too? Maybe these wives were fulfilled, and maybe there weren’t, but they spark a lot of mystery and fascination.”


Photo by Britanny Clarke

Student Life

Keeping it sultry with Lady Josephine

An open house, the burlesque way: chair stripteases, inner sexiness and tease 101

On Aug. 29, L’Académie Arabesque Burlesque invited newcomers to discover, learn and practice burlesque performance.

Approximately 20 guests, comprised mostly of women, attended the event at the Wiggle Room, a go-to spot for Burlesque nights on Boulevard Saint-Laurent. The event took place in a large, dimly lit room that serves as a bar when classes aren’t taking place. Music played, and high-key lighting drew the eye to the room’s pièce de résistance: the stage. Dark leather couches, brick walls, framed pictures of dancers and large, dramatic curtains gave the space a vintage feel.

Lady Josephine is one of the founders of L’Académie Arabesque Burlesque, and was one of the hosts of the open house. She said her vision for the school started when she participated in workshops with her mentor, BonBon Bombay, in early 2015.

“This is our second year teaching here at the Wiggle Room,” she said. “It started out with workshops, and now I’m the director. There are also other teachers who give classes, workshops and coaching.”

The two-hour evening session was divided into five categories: tease 101, chair striptease, burlesque fitness, theatre exercises and dance choreography. Lady Josephine was accompanied at this event by Jessica Rae, another teacher at the school.

The evening started off with Lady Josephine trying to bring out participants’ inner sexiness. The guests formed a circle, closed their eyes and had to imagine themselves doing something “sexy” in public. They then had to perform that scenario for another guest.

When asked to define the word burlesque and what it meant to her, Lady Josephine described it as a “theatrical striptease”.

“[Burlesque is] stripping, but funnier—a celebration of nudity and sex as two of life’s best things—and a cry for revolution dressed up in a pretty costume,” said Lady Josephine.

Burlesque bachelorette party Photo by Eloise Huston.

Lady Josephine demonstrated striptease on a chair. Each individual chose to play either the submissive character, which involved sitting on the chair and spreading their legs open, or the dominant character, which involved turning the chair around and sitting. For the last two parts of the evening, Rae also showed participants’ the theatre’s place in a burlesque performance, and how dance and striptease are equally crucial to the performance.

At Arabesque Burlesque, Josephine and the other teachers teach the American burlesque style, which is very theatrical, comedic and costume-oriented. Most of the school’s students are women, but Lady Josephine said Arabesque Burlesque also attracts many men. She explained that it is a way for them to embrace their sensuality.

Lady Josephine encourages anyone interested to come visit one of the three open houses that happen every year, or to try out a few classes. Burlesque, she said, attracts people for a variety of reasons.

“People are either looking for a way to discover self-confidence and explore the sensual side of life, or they’re looking for a fun way to use their body on stage,” she said.

For more information on upcoming open houses and workshops, visit their website.


When a by-gone culture gets its revival

Café Cleopatra’s burlesque extravaganza brings back Vaudeville with the Candyass Cabaret

The corner of Ste. Catherine and St. Laurent on Friday night was a scene depicting a pseudo David and Goliath struggle.

Candyass Cabaret offers a revamped version of classic vaudeville performances. Photo by Hanna Joy Farooq.

On one side, Club Soda, with its bright white lights and bold, black letters promoted the closing night of the highly anticipated Montreal Burlesque Festival. Right across, Café Cleopatra, its trademark black sign hidden under construction and its secondary sign outlined by many a dead or missing light bulb, had a mock police officer and an associate distributing flyers that promoted the night’s offering: the Candyass Cabaret.

To the untrained eye, it looked like a case of poor timing. The patrons of the smaller show know otherwise.

“Other burlesque shows will only have one or two variety acts. When you come to Candyass, you don’t know what to expect,” said Marianne Trenka, one of the performers, otherwise known as Lady Hoops. Among the variety of acts that explored the theme of b-movies were burlesque, belly dancing, hula-hoop dance and singing. “I look for people who can bring the show a vaudeville flavour,” said Velma Candyass, the show’s producer.

In the spirit of Halloween, dismembered plastic limbs decorated the edge of the stage, skulls hung from the stage curtains embellished with spider webs, and the DJ dressed up as Freddy from A Nightmare on Elm Street. Candyass performed an act inspired by the prom scene in Carrie, the 1976 movie adaptation of Stephen King’s titular novel. Instead of pig’s blood and mass murder, Candyass opted for red confetti and a unique death, but not before using her telekinetic powers to strip her victim down to her underwear.

The Candyass Cabaret has been showcasing vaudeville, burlesque and drag inspired acts for almost three years as a completely independent production. “I’m ambivalent about government funding because I believe that you should be able to produce a show and have people want to come and pay money to see it, rather than needing it subsidized in order to run it,” said Candyass, who knows first-hand that it’s easier said than done. Unlike the stories bartenders tell of crowded venues week after week, people today have YouTube, T.V. and the Internet—they are no longer used to seeing live shows and spending money to support local artists, letting them explore their acts, said Candyass.

As the production has a role in preserving by-gone vaudeville entertainment, so does the venue in preserving a by-gone culture. Café Cleopatra is important for Candyass, who was involved in saving it from the city and developers, because it’s a testament to Montreal’s vibrant history. “Now, it’s not the same street life as that seen up to the 1960s, but [St. Laurent Street] is really the heart of Montreal, and there’s a lot of significance to keeping the flavour of the street.” In 1996, the street was granted historical status by the federal government.

For upcoming shows, Candyass said that there would be more experimental cabaret and challenging themes for the artists.

The Candyass Cabaret is scheduled every third Friday of the month.

For more information on Café Cleopatra shows, visit   If you’re looking for more on the Candyass Cabaret check out


A magical night at a beautiful burlesque wonderland

Experience sexier versions of your favourite childhood characters at The Wiggle Room

Classic fairytale stories and themes are explored, with a twist, in the delightfully entertaining Fairytale Burlesque show at The Wiggle Room.

Before the curtain opened, drag king Nat King Pole, the show’s dynamic host, began to rap his own unique version of the song “Gold Digger”: “Yeah, I ain’t sayin’ I’m a muff diver, but I be hangin’ with some pretty ladies.” His rendition was met with raucous laughter from the crowds.

Nat King Pole hosted the show bilingually, easily switching back and forth between English and French. He amused the room in between acts with crotch-grabbing and raunchy jokes.

There were eight acts during the night, all with their own signature flare. The first performer was Madria, a queen who was seducing people with the use of black magic.

Ariel the Little Mermaid was only one of the many fairytale characters portrayed in the show. Photo by Marilla Steuter-Martin.

Ruby Rhapsody was next as Little Red Riding Hood, clad in a sparkling red cape and dancing around a wolf. Next up, Tranna Wintour, a trans comedian, told us about her visit to New York City, where she performed in some top comedy shows. She told the crowd that, “my milkshake brings all the sexually confused boys to the yard.” She was dressed like a modern-day Cinderella, clad in sunglasses, fur leopard coat, pink skirt and leggings. Her reasons for being home at the stroke of midnight were slightly different than that of the original tale, though: “I have to be home by the stroke of midnight or my beard grows.”

Lulu les Belles Mirettes, burlesque geek artist, made us laugh with her comedic doll routine and awkward expressions.

Audrey Ivory portrayed Ariel from the Disney’s The Little Mermaid. She brushed her red hair with a long fork and stared at a framed photo of her sailor crush. When Nat King Pole showed up dressed as a sailor, she tried to catch his attention multiple times. When he did notice her, he was a little turned off by the fins.. so of course they had to come off.

The next performance started with a woman in a sexy bunny suit running away from the stage. Lavender May appeared soon after as Alice in Wonderland, wearing a skirt with colourful, functional light bulbs. She stumbled upon a mushroom, and then licked it, only to realize that it was a psychedelic mushroom. At this point, the lights went off and Lavender May began to glow in the dark with fluorescent clothes, makeup and nails, showing the audience what Alice would look like if she were on drugs.

After that hallucinogenic episode, Lady Hoops impressed the crowd with her spinning hula hoops number, using up to five hula-hoops at a time.

Nat King Pole was very secretive about what the final performance would be. After some intrigue was created, a woman in a red dress brought holy water and placed it on branches. As she removed her cape, she cleansed herself with it. The crowd was so focused on her that nobody noticed a woman in a black dress advancing to the stage. She removed her pointy hat and grabbed the woman in red, first dancing with her before stripping her. When the woman in red fell to the ground, the other removed her cape and dress, revealing latex pants, and started to cleanse herself with holy water. Reine Rouge and Reine Noire were performing for the first time that night and they did an incredible job.

Overall, Fairytale Burlesque was funny, sexy and even magical. Definitely worth checking out!

For more information on burlesques shows at The Wiggle Room, visit the


Burlesque Night School really makes you want to study

Night School: History of the Art of Burlesque. The one class you shouldn’t miss.

If asked to describe the perfect learning environment, a fully stocked bar, a sexy and hilarious teacher and an equally sexy teacher’s pet wearing outfits that leave little to the imagination is not what would come to most people’s minds.

Well, that was what was in store at The Wiggle Room’s Burlesque Night School: History of the Tease, hosted by Miss Education, better known as The Lady Josephine, and her A+ student Miss Lavender May.

Photo by Bashir Rifai.

The Lady Josephine ran a tight ship. Class starts with an introduction, followed by setting the rules of the classroom. Rule #1: “Do not have any nasty thoughts about the teacher.” Rule #2: “Do not enjoy the punishment.” Rule #3: “Never speak without putting your hand up.” Rule #4: “Answer my f***ing questions.” And Rule #5: “Don’t be late.”

Audience members who break the rules are punished by being brought up on stage and spanked, which leads to breaking the second rule, as it is tough not to enjoy the punishment. Those who follow the rules and answer questions correctly are rewarded with a gold star, one that The Lady Josephine “marinates in her own saliva” and places on your forehead — that, you are allowed to enjoy.

After that, the class consists of a “lesson” on the History of the Tease presented by the funny and talented The Lady Josephine, with several burlesque performances in between by her favorite student, Miss Lavender May. It is easy to understand why Miss Lavender May is an A+ student; her sexy yet tasteful performances leave the crowd “hooting and hollering,” something the audience is actively encouraged to do.

As for the venue, The Wiggle Room promises a great, intimate environment for a night out. While not easy to find, it is one of the hidden gems on Saint-Laurent Blvd. At the entrance, the hostess behind an old-fashioned ticket booth greets you. One look at the bar and you are immediately transported to a different era. Everything from the bar, to the stage, to the way the servers are dressed creates the perfect atmosphere to accompany the event of the evening. The staff was friendly and engaging, making audience members feel like they belonged to an exclusive club.

This intimate venue also boasted a mixed and vibrant crowd. Students, couples, groups of friends on a night out, a man wearing a three piece suit and a top hat and holding a skull staff–everyone is welcome at the place with the motto, “A Little Wiggle Goes a Long Way.”

After a great show, The Lady Josephine kindly agreed to meet me at the bar for a small chat. Her love of burlesque started when she attended a show in Vancouver six years ago. She fell in love with “the way the women on stage were owning their own sensuality,” as well as the ability to transport those involved to a different time. Clearly a passionate and talented student of burlesque, her lesson about its history, while light hearted and comical, stems from her own admiration of the political, social and artistic contributions of the women who started it all. When asked what her message be to the student community at Concordia would be, The Lady Josephine said: “ take a chance, go and see a burlesque show. I guarantee, it’s the best foreplay you’ve ever had.”

For more information about burlesque and variety events, visit


Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary

The Blood Ballet Cabaret’s Classical Show. Press photo.

You won’t need to stand in front of a mirror to invoke Miss Bloody Mary Anne, otherwise known as Kamee Abrahamian, as she will be making an appearance at The Blood Ballet Cabaret’s Classical Show, Oct 7.

Classically trained as a ballet dancer for 14 years, Anne came up with the idea of starting her own burlesque troupe back in May 2010.

“Basically, I hit the ground running. Somebody suggested it to me and I wasn’t sure, they took me to a burlesque show and basically as soon as I saw my first burlesque act ever, I think I realized that I really wanted to do it,” she said.

The Blood Ballet Cabaret combines diverse circus acts such as aerial contortion and fire hooping, with musical performances and burlesque-style acts. As part of their Classical Show on Oct. 7, the performers will be performing their numbers to classical and operatic music. Anne says that this type of music adds an epic dimension to performances. Some of the show will also be accompanied live with music from the Street Meat trio.

“It always ends up being really dramatic and epic and kind of grand,” she said.

Anne has assembled a crew of unique artists, composed of burlesque, circus and musical performers. Some highlights of her troupe are Petit Pandora, a circus artist from the National Circus School in Montreal, whose specialities include contortion, aerial hoop, aerial chains and straps. The Lady Josephine will be familiar to Concordian readers who attended her show Lovers and Other Strangers last month. A seasoned burlesque performer, Lady Josephine is well known for her strong characters, classical dancing and mime abilities.

Seraphina and Fire Phoenix will be bringing the heat to the cool October evening with their respective fire acts, while Fuhrious Nina delivers a touch of comedy with her humorous 1950s style. For Anne’s part, her act will incorporate some of the mythology of her namesake, integrating blood into her storylines and embodying aspects of the legend of Bloody Mary.

A unique blend of erotic entertainment and astonishing feats of human ability, The Blood Ballet Cabaret’s Classical Show has the makings of a truly unique way to spend a Sunday night.

The Classical Show will take place Oct. 7 at Le Belmont, 4483 St. Laurent. Doors open at 20 p.m., tickets are $10.


Laughing with the sensual side of heartbreak

Have you been to a burlesque show recently? If you’re like most students, your answer might be ‘that’s not really my thing,’ but now is that time to change all that. On Sunday Sept. 16, Lady Josephine and a small troupe of fellow burlesque dancers are proud to bring something different to your night out with Lovers and Other Strangers at the Upstairs Jazz Bar and Grill.

For a minimal fee, students will be able to experience a night of sensual striptease set to the music of renowned jazz musician Stephen Barry. As Lady Josephine explains, she sees her show as a tribute and companion piece to the jazz singer.

“It grew out of my love of Stephen Barry’s music, really. The stories that he talks about in his songs are such beautiful stories that really mean something and that’s what a great burlesque act is,” she said.

For those still on the squeamish side about burlesque, Lady Josephine is quick to point out that this show will be the exact opposite of a dirty dive.

“Don’t expect it to be like a strip club at all because it really is an art form and it’s a very theatrical show that has a sexual side to it. The word burlesque originally means to make fun of,” she said, “expect to laugh a lot.”

Lovers and Other Strangers will use its unique art form to soften the blow of a subject that many find difficult to deal with. When one thinks of unrequited love and heartbreak, the shows that first come to mind are often Greek tragedies. Yet with burlesque, the presentation will allow for a night of laughter and enjoyment.

“That is what’s incredible about it,” Lady Josephine remarks, “it’s taking the whole spectrum of people we have in the world and celebrating their bodies on stage. You should expect to see semi-nude women who are really proud of their bodies but also able to be really self-aware and poke fun at themselves.”

Burlesque is entertainment that does not exist just anywhere. Lady Josephine said she feels very confident that anyone in attendance of Lovers and Other Strangers won’t go home with a heavy heart. Tickets are on sale now for twenty dollars in advance, or twenty-five at the door.

Exit mobile version