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Kitty Nights Burlesque celebrates nine years of art and individuality

Thursday 12th, January 2017 / 16:27
By Yasmine Shemesh

Photo: Rene Blais

VANCOUVER — Burgundy Brixx is curled up inside of the Pekoe Tea Lounge on Broadway, near Cambie. Here is a haunt of hers, a place she frequents so often that the shop employees know her go-to matcha latte fix. She is poised and radiates calm, even though the month ahead will prove to be extremely busy — Kitty Nights Burlesque, the weekly burlesque show that she heads, is about to celebrate its nine-year anniversary. “Cats have nine lives,” she smiles. “So it’s a fun one.”

The serenity of Brixx’s demeanour is perhaps in part due to the sabbatical she recently took this past year. An eight-month break from focusing only on burlesque afforded the multi-talented performer to reconnect with the other art forms that together comprise her artistic identity — namely, modern dance and theatre. “That’s really important to me — finding ways to integrate, so one thing serves the other, rather than them being so separate that you feel like you’re not giving service to things,” she explains. “Trying to find ways to connect are really great. Reading books is always good, too. I’m reading Twyla Tharp’s Creative Habit — if you’ve ever read that, it’ll blow your mind.”

Burlesque, with its wide-spanning components of dance, clowning, theatre, music, and comedy, is, too, an art form that is the sum of its parts. And for Brixx, with her broad range of interests from costume design to comedy, burlesque feels like the perfect creative outlet. “I always had a cheeky tendency,” she laughs, adding that once she randomly discovered burlesque, it was like coming home. “I walked in and was like, ‘this is it. This is how my brain works.’”

After Brixx and her husband, The Purrrfessor, moved from New York to Vancouver (Canada was always a place of fascination for both), the artist found refuge on the Biltmore Cabaret’s stage and began producing Kitty Nights — a show where performers could perform independently as individuals, rather than being obligated to a troupe. Nine years later, Kitty Nights is an award-winning production that provides an inclusive platform where diversity is encouraged.

“I just feel like it should be a place where [burlesque is] accessible,” Brixx says, adding that last year she had about 120 submissions from everyone from acrobats to singers. Kitty Nights had a place for them all. “It’s accessible for any type of performer.”

Of course, it takes a lot of guts to get up on that stage. Not everybody is a professional. But everybody has their own story — and that, in itself, is powerful.

“A lot of people come to me where they’re dealing with something personal, where maybe they just got divorced or maybe their body’s changed because they had a child and they’re coming back into the world after that,” Brixx says. “Sometimes it’s a body image thing. Sometimes they’ve lost a lot of weight and they want to get out there and show what they’ve done and they’re proud. But it’s usually because they’ve got something that they want to say and they don’t know how else to say it.”

She adds, “I’ve always said every woman that steps on my stage is interesting, because she has something to say and it’s not the same as the person before her and there’s a different reason behind it. And if you just sit back and experience it, it’s really entertaining. It doesn’t have to be a high skill level — it’s something about this connection with the audience, I think, that we look at the performer and find ways to look at ourselves in a different way.”

Kitty Nights Burlesque performs a live tribute to David Bowie at the Rio Theatre on January 14. Its nine-year anniversary happens at the Biltmore Cabaret on January 29.

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