Kitty Nights celebrates Vancouver's burlesque scene
Sexual revolution? Done. Sensual revolution? Thanks to Kitty Nights Burlesque, it’s well underway in Vancouver.
Every Sunday night for the past five years, burlesque performers have been taking to the stage of the Biltmore Cabaret and celebrating their bodies.
“Burlesque is a lot more playful and innocent than many people think,” says Burgandy Brixx, who started Kitty Nights five years ago with her husband, the Purrfessor. They’re throwing a party on January 20 to celebrate.
Yes, the women take off their clothes but it’s not stripping. Yes, they’re doing it for the enjoyment of the audience, but they’re also doing it for themselves because they want to. Burlesque is their way of saying they love their bodies and want to show them off with a ta-da! moment thrown in for fun.
“I call it the sensual revolution,” Burgundy says. “A performer is baring a lot more than her body. It’s her soul, her spirit. We’re doing it for ourselves, not the male gaze…. And we’re pulling the comedy and parody back in. We’re laughing at ourselves.”
“It’s not vulgar,” says the Purrfessor, who hosts the show and provides some of the funniest lines with his fake stage accent. Burgundy adds, with her vixen’s smile, “but we do get dirty.”
When they left their successful performance careers in New York to move to Vancouver, you might have been able to see a burlesque show here once every few months. When they came up with the idea to continue hosting weekly burlesque nights in their new home town, “we were told, ‘It’s a no-fun city — don’t even try.’”
But every Sunday night, you will find about 200 people paying their $7 to walk down the steps of the Biltmore and feel transported to a 1930s speakeasy. Surprisingly, perhaps, two-thirds of the audience is usually (heterosexual) women. “Women can see something of themselves and feel good about themselves,” Burgundy says. “We celebrate the audience, too. The interaction is like Cheers — everyone knows your name. We make it a party.”
WE Vancouver’s readers gave Kitty Nights the 2012 gold medal in the Best of the City readers’ choice awards for best place to meet new people in Vancouver.
Burgundy says burlesque started in the 1800s when a performer’s reveal found her dressed in shape-suggesting tights. The golden age was in the 1930s. “She was poking fun at the upper class and they loved being parodied. In its heyday in the Great Depression, it was light-hearted and saucy. They could forget about their troubles.”
Kitty Nights are all about the talent on stage, fostering a growing community of burlesque performers and making Vancouver the hub of Canada’s burlesque community. Burgundy is thrilled that for the fifth anniversary party, one of the performers will be 65-year-old Judith Stein. “To see one of the legends of burlesque you get it — the nuances, the control of the audiences.”
Tickets to the fifth anniversary party are $7. Go to KittyNights.com for details.