Tuesday Tease: The Las Vegas Burlesque Festival

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color Las Vegas Burlesque Fest logoMan, 2013 is shaping up to be the year of the inaugural burlesque festival. If you’re a regular reader of the Tuesday Tease, you’ve seen that we’ve featured a ton of them this year.

Surprisingly, Las Vegas, a city steeped in burlesque history, is having their first “neo-burlesque” festival this year. While the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend is probably the biggest event in burlesque today, it is mostly focused on the legends of burlesque and classic burlesque. Vegas hasn’t had a festival that focuses on solely on the “neo-burlesque” scene; those that are pushing the boundaries of burlesque and taking it into the future.

Well, those days are over, because Cha Cha Velour, long time Vegas burlesque stalwart, founder of Las Vegas Burlesque Classes and the monthly showcase Live Burlesque in Las Vegas has started the Las Vegas Burlesque Festival! The festival kicks off this Thursday with the Thursday Night Showcase at Boomers Bar. We are absolutely thrilled to be a sponsor of the festival and to be ticketing Thursday night’s show.

Cha Cha took some time out of her insane pre-festival schedule to talk to us about the burlesque scene in Las Vegas, where to find the “real” burlesque in Vegas and she even offers a little advice to those of you thinking of starting a burlesque festival in your own town.

So, without further ado, I give you Cha Cha Velour, “burlesque beauty and tattooed cutie”:

Is this the festival’s first year?

This is the inaugural year of The Las Vegas Burlesque Festival.

Las Vegas is a town known for showgirls. What do you feel separates the burlesque performers that you are showcasing in the festival from those performing on the Strip?

I actually address my thoughts on this often with my burlesque students. The goal of the performers in a “showgirl” show is to be uniform or the same. They have to meet a  standard for height, weight and other characteristics based on the show they are hired for. They also perform someone else’s choreography and vision for whatever act they get hired to perform. The goal of most performers in burlesque is to let what is special about themselves shine. Most burlesque performers come up with their own act ideas, choreography, and costumes. Burlesque is very much a DIY art!  Our festival is showcasing such a diverse group of performers. We have beautiful classic acts, acts that are heavily focused on actual dancing, acts that feature no dancing at all, guys performing burlesque and even a stripping hot dog!

I have seen a lot of production shows on “The Strip” that have billed themselves as burlesque. It’s been a popular word in Vegas for a while now among these production shows. All those shows in my opinion are just showgirls shows. Sexy dancing does not equal burlesque! Burlesque is far more complex then just doing some sexy jazz dancing while taking some clothing off. Burlesque must have personality and humor. The performer must really connect to their audience to be a great burlesque performer. This is what these shows lack to qualify for burlesque. They are good showgirl shows though, they’re just not burlesque shows.

If I was coming to Vegas for a visit and wanted to avoid the Strip, where would I go to see the local burlesque scene in action? 

Live Burlesque in Las Vegas happens the last Saturday of every month at Boomers Bar. This is the same location that the Thursday Night Showcase of our festival is also being held. I have producing that show for three years and it’s been called “Las Vegas’ BEST Neo-Burlesque Show.” There are other local shows being starting in Vegas by newer performers. This is exciting to me as it will only expose burlesque to more people in Las Vegas and give local performs more opportunity to perform.

Vegas has a deep history with burlesque. Do you think it’s important to pay homage to that legacy in the festival? 

One major goal of mine in starting The Las Vegas Burlesque Festival was to have a big nationally recognized show showcasing Las Vegas’ neo-burlesque community that is put on by Las Vegas’ neo-burlesque community.  We love the history of burlesque in Las Vegas and many legends of burlesque live here. Our local community has a great relationship with the local legends and we often take classes from them, perform in shows together, or just hang out.

I chose not to include legend performances in The Las Vegas Burlesque Festival because every June The Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend happens here in Las Vegas. That event is put on by The Burlesque Hall of Fame and a team of people from all over the national burlesque community. There is not very much involvement on the production or performing side from the Las Vegas neo-burlesque community, though almost all of us attend and LOVE that event.  One of the major focuses of that event is honoring the history of burlesque and that includes showcasing lots of legend performances (which is my personal favorite part of BHoF Weekend).

Your lineup features some big names from all over the country. What do you think separates the Vegas burlesque scene from other scenes around the country? 

Our scene is still very young there are very few of us seasoned performers in comparison to the new ones. This is exciting, but has it’s growing pains too. A lot of the new performers come out of my burlesque school, Las Vegas Burlesque Classes. We have a friendly community overall that is welcoming to newbies and we all support each other.

I see that you’re a registered nurse. Ever have a patient recognize you from your burlesque shows? Have your nursing skills ever come in handy at a burlesque performance? 

I’ve never been recognized by a patient, but I have from other staff members. Once I was in the break room eating lunch and another employee asked me “I heard you do burlesque, do you know Cha Cha Velour?” I felt silly saying “I AM Cha Cha Velour.” I felt like she might not believe me. I look way different when I’m in my nursing scrubs and no stage hair and makeup then I do when I’m on stage.

I have not needed to use my nursing skills at a performance. But if I needed to, I’m ready to.

This year, I’ve noticed more and more cities around the country starting their own burlesque festivals. Based on your experience with the Las Vegas Burlesque Festival, what advice would you give to a producer thinking of starting their own show? 

Put a good, hard working, and motivated team to work on the event with you. This will help support you. Learn from your mistakes and don’t get frustrated. This will help keep you sane. Be clear with yourself about what your intention and goals are for the event you are planning. This will help guide you.

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A big thank you to Cha Cha for taking the time to talk to us! If you’re in Vegas or heading there this weekend, do not miss the first year of what is sure to become one of the top burlesque festivals in the country. Tickets are going fast so be sure to get yours now!

If you’re not in Vegas, no worries. We got tons of great burlesque events coming up this weekend all over the country and even some in Canada and the United Kingdom! Check these out:

Friday, October 11

House of Burlesque presents LoveLondon, United Kingdom   The award winning critically acclaimed House of Burlesque celebrates 2013 with an explosion of romance, roses, decadence and sparkle with their latest Burlesque show inspired by LOVE; its glory, beauty and glamour, but also its lust, longing and passion. Selecting their most beautiful and elegant routines designed to tug at your heart strings and ignite your passions this evening will present the absolute best in elegant and extravagant burlesque and cabaret led by international star Tempest Rose  -‘A woman who oozes so much sex appeal she is probably illegal in several countries’ Recognise Magazine.

Blue Morris presents: Beatles BurlesqueVancouver, British Columbia   One of Vancouver’s most popular live-music burlesque shows returns to Vancouver! This time at FanClub on Granville Street! Beatles Burlesque is a live-music burlesque show that combines music of the “Fab Four” and burlesque inspired by The Beatles. Experience your favourite Beatles songs with burlesque by some of the sexiest starlets from Vancouver, featuring choreography by Vancouver’s go-go queen, Miss Fitt! All the music is performed by a live band, fronted by guitarist Blue Morris. Performers include:  Calamity Kate, Melody Mangler, Miss Kiss, Veronica Vex, Violet Femme, Voodoo Pixie and Connie Cahoots.

The Life Erotic: A Very Wes Anderson CabaretSeattle, Washington   Celebrate the characters, music and aesthetics of Wes Anderson’s film career in a way you’ve never experienced before – as a live cabaret! There will be tantalizing and thoughtful burlesque, live music, a photobooth complete with themed props, a costume contest, and of course, tiny red hats. Your host, troubadour and anchor for the evening will the unparalleled Simon Kornelis. Featuring performances by Lolo Ramone, Lady Drew Blood, Crystal Tassels, Maggie McMuffin, La Petite Mort, Cherry “Killer” Tomatoes, Crystal Explosions and Jovie Devoe.

Northern Lights Burlesque Terror TeaseDuluth, Minnesota   The beautiful Clyde Iron Works will ones again come alive! People love Halloween, So dress up or come in costume! Get ready for a night of great burlesque, singing and mayhem and who knows what will be “conjured” up! Come see the new dancers and singers adding to the variety of a great night out!

SUBVERSION! presents: High Stakes – Witch Trials a go-goSt. Louis, Missouri   Reclaiming their status as both satirists and pioneers, Subversion STL returns with a show months in the making, based on the Burning Times, and the Salem Witch Trials in particular, as well as paying loving grindhouse tribute to the infamous Mark Of The Devil witchsploitation films of the late 70’s. So hot, it’s banned in Hell! Featuring burlesque, drag, belly dance, fetish, performance art, live singing, the most fire performances since 2010’s Pyres & Pyramids show, and the most guest performers since Axis & Allies (including VIVA LA MUERTE of Chicago and the STL’s own AMI AMORE’), this show is unlike anything that has been attempted by the “malleable malificarums” and witchfinder generals of the Subversion team, and possibly unlike anything attempted ever, in a blaze of gallows humor, socio-religious satire, and…um, boobs.

Saturday, October 12

Tempting Tarts Burlesque presents: TARTS FAMILY VALUES!Seattle, Washington   It’s Halloween time!  That means it’s time for the Tempting Tarts’ favorite show of the year, and this time they’re paying tribute to the kookiest family ever! It’s gonna be a screa-um! Hosted by The Cavorting Mouthpiece Dickie Gazoonie! Performances by: Jezebel Vandersnatch, Morgan LaMay, Pepper Patootie, Kiki Amor, Ginger Lu, Katie Kat and Sashay Chante.

Moxie Le Femme’s Something Wicked Halloween ShowLakeland, Florida   Be sure to join the ghouls of Moxie Le Femme for their Something Wicked Halloween Show! Come in your zombie best and get ready to rattle your bones for this dead sexy time.