News / Winnipeg

'It’s more about the tease': First burlesque festival comes to Winnipeg

At least one performance will feature a large steel hoop suspended from the ceiling.

Winnipeg burlesque performer Dixie Cups will be among over 25 acts at the Winnipeg International Burlesque Festival.

Eddie Miller/Bamba M Photography

Winnipeg burlesque performer Dixie Cups will be among over 25 acts at the Winnipeg International Burlesque Festival.

The first annual Winnipeg International Burlesque Festival will bring the art of the tease to the Park Theatre this Friday and Saturday.

“The way that burlesque was explained to me is that it’s more about the tease,” said festival MC and standup comic Heather Witherden, who is a member of the organizing committee.

Burlesque is not just stripping, said Witherden. “There are different levels of nudity in burlesque,” she explained. “Some people will go down to pasties and a G-string, while other performers are not stripping at all; they’re just in sexy costumes. It’s more theatrical.”

“All we’re trying to get out of the audience is more applause. Quote me on that,” she said with a wink.

“It’s not something I think Winnipeg audiences are used to seeing a lot of, but they’re warming up to the idea,” she said. Witherden has helped put on a few smaller-scale burlesque showcases at the Park Theatre previously.

The festival will feature over 25 local and visiting acts, including headliners Angela La Muse (formerly of Winnipeg, now living in Miami), “boylesque” performer Matt Knife (New York) and Arabella Allure (Edmonton).

“I was doing a comedy sketch in a show a few years ago; it was me being a ‘50s housewife, kind of a sexy character. Miss La Muse, who was also on the bill, came up to me and exclaimed, ‘You’re doing burlesque!’ And then she explained to me how burlesque had so much comedy in it,” said Witherden.

“Like, a lot of burlesque was based in parodying high art; that was its origin. So instead of opera, you had people singing opera and taking off their clothes or being ridiculous. Instead of ballet, they were doing ballet and slowly removing their clothes. It was vaudeville,” she said. “I think that still holds true in the good shows. You can have really sexy stuff, but underneath it all, the best acts are the ones that don’t take themselves too seriously.”

Individual tickets are $35 and $50 (VIP), and weekend passes are $65 and $110 (VIP), at the Park Theatre and Ticketfly.com.

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