Thursday, August 14, 2014

Toronto Burlesque Festival and getting to know the ropes

Oh Canada, you're more expensive than I realised, hotter than I thought and apparently, come Winter, well according to the locals, winter will break me.
I arrived in the city a week before the Toronto Burlesque Festival opened, my first days were spent getting used to Toronto's streets, a fairly easy grid of busy arterial streets interspersed with leafy suburban areas.
Perth expat Agatha Frisky found me loitering on a street corner my first morning and took me on a walking tour of downtown Toronto including Kensington Markets, an area filled with vintage boutiques, cafes, organic food shops, restaurants, print shops and The Toronto School of Burlesque run by a local dancer, Red Herring.
Red's place is opposite Bellevue Square which on Tuesday nights comes alive with fire twirlers and music, it's hard to choose between sitting on her front stairs to watch the fire twirlers or the classes through the plate glass window.

I dropped by the school on the first day of the festival, Red was rehearsing with her horse Illian. Virginian performer Deanna Danger was chilling in a corner and Blaze the cat was being hopelessly cute- until you patted her stomach when she became viciously angry and latched on to your offending hand with claws as sharp as hooks.

Agatha Frisky with Blaze
I stayed in on Thursday night and missed Hotel Tryst, I hadn't realised there was a proper show on that night and from all accounts I missed something special.
 Friday was a warm day which I really felt as I power walked to the Mod Club on College street to do a quick tech run. The stage at Mod Club is mid sized with smooth and polished floorboards. Tech went well although I felt a bit unprepared lacking costumes and back up dancers.

Tech run at the Mod Club
I headed home to grab some food, an omelette for protein, and another coffee because I'd only had two earlier in the day.
Australia represent! In my ABF 2014 tee
Agatha was performing in the second act of the Dangerous Liasons show and arrived early - the backstage area was big but mirror space was hot property.

Putin on my make up. Yeah. So that's actually Wrong Note Rusty and me making awful puns together.
Regina and Kitty Litteur were to be my back up dancers, we organised a rehearsal but it fell through so we managed a super quick explanation backstage with a final "if it all goes wrong, just kneel down and I'll deal" which was lucky because one of my veils unclipped early in the piece leaving Regina to quickly kneel down and me to deal!

Kitty performed in the early show before joining me in the Late show.

And one more with Kitty... being a bat. Or something. You be the judge. Caption this or whatev's

Photo by Ruth Gilson

Photo by Chris Hutcheson
 Agatha Frisky performed her Love is Blind fan act in the second half of the Dangerous Liason show.
Waiting backstage on the stairs she applied a blindfold whence I questioned her wisdom in descending in heels, a panel skirt and with her hands full of feathers... but being an agile creature, she made it steadily and safely to the stage.
Security guy was super happy with his job that night. Watching performers go on stage in costume and return half naked.

The final reveal- Agatha on stage at the end of her act
We had the choice of dancing or eating after the show... I was tired and hungry so made it to Lake View diner with Red and Deanna where I ate too many sweet potato fries and drank too much chocolate malt milkshake... Perhaps a third choice should have been to go home and rest my stomach and feet. Lakeview's a Toronto institution and we had to wait in line for a while to get in, Red explained that they didn't want smaller (drunk) groups, hence, there was a bouncer on the door to stop people entering.

Waiting in a line at 2am outside Lakeview
Saturday night bloomed early and I woke with an ache behind my eyes.
I reluctantly took my headache to a pole class at Brass Vixens and coffee at Jimmy's in Kensington.
I had meant to sign up for the classes that were being offered by Dr Lucky, PerleNoire and Inga Ingenue but had neglected to do so in my rush to organise a move overseas.

Love that the artist passes were customised!!
I prepared for the Saturday show slowly, thinking I didn't need to leave for the Mod Club until 7:30. A message from Kitty at 7pm telling me otherwise got me moving, but not quickly enough to see her Attack of the 50 Foot Woman act I did however make it in time to see another Aussie, The Great Gadso rip it up on stage.
The audience loved the backflipping, butt bouncing, sunglass wearing, exotic bird dancing, back up girls samba-ing, high energy act.

The Great Gadso and his samba back ups including Regina Denata and Agatha Frisky
Photo by Chris Hutcheson
A crowd was watching from upstairs near the entrance, Deanna, Kitty, Albert Cadabra, Danger Doll, Bianca Boom Boom. Angela MccConnell was shooting photos, I'd only spoken to Angela occasionally in Australia but before moving got in touch with her.
That night I wore a black flocked body suit and found that by simply extending an arm for others to stroke I was causing a lot of pleasure- should have asked for tips.

At the finale of the Early show we headed up College to Smoke's Poutine where Deanna and I attempted to share a vegetarian poutine. It was gross. Poutine is really awful. (all views expressed in this blog are my own, you may love poutine, it may be your staple diet, your grandmother possibly invented it, I do however love maple syrup. And squirrels.)

Photo from Bianca Boom Boom

It reminds me of school lunch I had in Glasgow when I was 8. Nuff said.
I ran into some of the girls who'd been samba-ing in Gadso's act at Harry's, Regina said she'd skipped the poutine in favour of fries and ketchup- she's got the smarts.
We walked back for the late show and upstairs in the artists mezzanine I sat with Agatha and Gadso. I filched Gadso's seat but only made it through the first half before my back started cramping and I headed home.

BUT not before seeing Kitten de Ville's Garden of Eden act, loved the track, MIA's Bad Girls and Kitten really doesn't have to do much more than swan around on stage for people to love her, yet she doesn't, her movement is high energy and creative.
I'd seen Kitten's producer's act the night before, it was taught to her by Burlesque legend Dixie Evans who originally performed it in the 1950s.
Backstage on Saturday night the chair was just casually standing on the stairs, it felt wrong to sit in it so I took a picture instead.

Gotta respect fellow performers props and costumes, never touch unless they offer.
Hugely grateful to Coco Framboise, Ava Noir and Sauci Calla for having me be part of the Festival and to all of Toronto's community, including Red Herring and Chris Mysterion for welcoming me to Canada and showing me the ropes.

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