I discovered the Vancouver burlesque scene in 2004 when I was on the board of my local chapter of the Graphic Designers of Canada. I had a decent budget to book some entertainment for our chapter’s Christmas party that I was organizing. Clowns or magicians were suggested to me but didn’t seem edgy enough for a bunch of urban, black-clad, introverted graphic designers with cool eyewear. Burlesque dancing somehow appeared on my radar, and I started reviewing local acts online, then ended up booking Sweet Soul Burlesque. Three women with yummy names like Cara Milk, Miss Cherry on Top and Crystal Precious showed up and danced for us, and gave a free tassel-twirling lesson to anyone who asked (allright, here it is: 1. have breasts; 2. wear tassels on them; 3. stand on your tiptoes; 4. raise your arms up high; 5. bounce up and down; and 6. most importantly, look surprised.)
A bit off-topic but fun: On the day that I had to review the venue and make a quick decision on the dancers, I happened to have a high school senior in my office to job-shadow me. I dragged this young man along to the Alibi Room to look at the venue and menu, and made him put in his two cents on the dancers’ videos I was reviewing. He got a skewed, but surely favourable impression of what goes on in a design studio.
After that, Jeff and I started going to burlesque shows once in a while. We’ve also seen two burlesque shows in Las Vegas, and while they were well-produced, and the women perfectly and uniformly sized, these more commercial shows are walking a fine line of primarily catering to men while trying to entertain women as well. In general, those slickly produced shows are lacking soul and don’t take any creative risks. In contrast, Vancouver burlesque dancers are usually women of all shapes and sizes, doing it primarily for themselves, and for a diverse crowd, because it’s a creative outlet for them. At its best it can be a form of performance art. They often make their own costumes and write their own choreography, all on low budgets. They are sexy, but with soul and sass.
In 2010, a flickr friend, Marc Taro, posted intriguing drawings of costumed models in creative poses. It helped that Marc is an excellent artist. He was living in San Francisco at the time, and I lamented in a flickr comment that we didn’t have any model drawing like this in Vancouver. But Marc wrote “yes, you do!” and introduced me to Dr. Sketchy. It’s amusing that someone from San Francisco had to tell me what goes on in my own city.