By Colin Gallant
CALGARY — As the second Calgary International Burlesque Festival (CIBF) approaches, BeatRoute spoke with its board president Ruby Demure of diversity, adversity, history and community.
“The history of burlesque is deeply rooted in Victorian England,” begins Demure. “It was a way of drawing attention to the absurdity of Victorian women wearing all these ruffles and hoops and corsets to hide every possible part of their bodies and change their bodies. Burlesque was kind of a mockery of that and have people pay attention to what these women had to say.”
In its long history, burlesque has undergone various revolutions, including its Westernization in the ‘50s and a contemporary rebirth over the last 20 years.
Says Demure: “There’s been a huge resurgence in the last 10-20 years of burlesque culture throughout the U.S. and throughout Canada and Europe—well, everywhere really. It is now about performance, it’s about individuality and it’s extremely vast. It can be funny, it can be serious, it can be absolutely hilarious or it can just be extremely sensual.”
Calgary is home to a passionate burlesque community of its own, prompting the creation of CIBF. However, the conversation on burlesque in the city has often come back to one prickly detail—that it must navigate the AGLC’s policies on the more explicitly sexual industry of exotic dancers.
“I think that’s part of what a lot of people different don’t understand. That it is an art,” says Demure. “The thing with burlesque is that we have never asked to be nude. We as a community here in Calgary, going down to pasties is as far as we would go… So that, I think, is where things get complicated because the AGLC does not believe that pasties are sufficient coverage. So, when we are in pasties and underwear, we are considered nude.”
In conversations with the AGLC, Demure learned that staged plays and contemporary dance are not subject to some of the restrictions regarding nudity (or near nudity) that the burlesque community is. This fits in with the misconception that burlesque performers are “glorified or posh strippers.”
While this remains a point of contention for burlesque performers in the city, they can look forward to a weekend that celebrates rather than chastises them with the upcoming burlesque fest.
Organizers are expecting between 300 and 400 attendees in an assortment of intimate venues including the Engineered Air Theatre and Dickens. Burlesque Hall of Famers Kitten & Lou stop in for some raucous comedy on Friday, Oct. 16 while septuagenarian vixen Judith Stein gives a master class on the 17th. It all wraps up on Sunday with a community-focused Burlesque Brunch at the Blind Monk, where up-and-coming talent gets a spotlight.
Most important to Demure, this weekend is about empowerment and openness.
“I keep coming back to the importance of cultural diversity in Calgary and this festival really does that illustrate that. We have people from all walks of life, from all over the world and from all spectrums of the gender continuum all in one place supporting each other and that, I think, it what is so special about this… It’s just a really special place and it’s a really intimate place and it’s a place where we are inviting you, as the audience, in to have a consensual good time.”
Check out the Calgary International Burlesque Festival Oct. 16-18. For more info go to www.cibf.ca.AB, Alberta, burlesque, Calgary International Burlesque Festival