July in Toronto can only mean one thing – it’s time for the annual Toronto Burlesque Festival (July 18-22). In it’s 5th year, it’s bigger and better than ever with more than 8 star-studded events happening in venues throughout our great city including a burlesque brunch and the eagerly awaited world premiere of The Burlesque Assasins, where Ontario’s very own Roxi DLite (among others) uses her feminine charms to lure her way within killing distance of top ranking members of the Nazi regime. Sounds awesome!
This is the third Toronto Burlesque Festival that I have the privilege of attending as an official photographer, along with my colleagues MOPO Photography and Toni Wallachy, and in the years that I’ve been shooting the beautiful lads and ladies of the burlesque stage, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some amazing, creative, and truly genuine people behind the glitter and velvet.
I’m excited that many of those wonderful performers will be coming back to perform this year and I’m eager to see how their already splendid acts have changed and grown to even new heights of creativity. Some of the performers I’m looking forward to seeing that are coming in from out of town are (with photos taken from previous festivals):
The creator of Capital Tease Burlesque in Ottawa, Koston is a classic pin-up beauty who really knows how to work a hula hoop. The last time I saw her perform, she wowed me with a feather fan act. She’s so busy producing shows in Ottawa that we’re truly lucky when she has a chance to come and perform in Toronto.
The winner of 2005′s Miss Exotic World, Miss L’Amour is the owner of a burlesque school in Chicago called Studio L’Amour, home to the Chicago Starlets. She’s also the founder of Naked Girls Reading and recently release a burlesque moves workout video called Tease & Tone (need to get that). She has graced the stage in Toronto several times for the burlesque festival and every time she just blows the audience away.
If you know what “I have an Amber Ray!” means, then you probably also know that not only does this gorgeous burlesque performer from NYC shimmy and shake, but she also makes the most divine flower hair fascinators (yes, I have an Amber Ray that I guard with my life). Performing for over a decade, she’s known for her lavish costumes, artistic flair, and dramatics. Her costumes are the most lush I have ever seen on stage as anyone who has seen her monarch butterfly or Lotus outfits can attest to. I am so thrilled to see her perform in Toronto again.
What can I say about the “No-Panster Romancer”? I think his bio says it best – “he is the internationally beloved icon of glamour, passion, and lusty elegance. He has headlined in shows and festivals all over the US and Canada, spreading his dreams and charms like sweet, creamy butter on the crusty toasts of the world.” Based out of Chicago, he’s a third of the Stage Door Johnnies, an all male burlesque troupe. All I know is I melt every time I see his acts – especially the peacock – and I’m ecstatic that he’s on the festival playbill.
What can I say about a the “Fastest Tassel Twirler From The West” who can twirl them on her butt? You heard me. This lady has brains, beauty and brawn! I have seen her perform now at several festivals and she has wowed me every single time. A platinum beauty, her stunningly tattooed body is sheer perfection – and if you’ve ever taken one of her workshops, you’ll know why after you try to make it through just her warmup exercises. From her black cat routine to her snow queen routine, she knows how to rock the house. I cannot wait to see what she has in store for Toronto this time around.
Cherry is a fiery storm of burlesque frenzy all wrapped up in an adorable geisha package. This Japanese performer is a favourite of mine not only for her absolutely stunning costumes, but also for her neo-burlesque and Okinawan dance mashup style. A mix of slow tradition and fast shimmy & shake, she takes the audience by surprise each and every time she performs.
The producer of Hot & Heavy Burlesque, this performer from Chicago is like a tornado on stage. Don’t let her size fool you – the energy in her heavy metal inspired performance will floor you. She’s so good, she was a contestant on last season’s America’s Got Talent. I’ve only seen her perform twice, but I was truly impressed with her style – she’s the only heavy metal performer I’ve seen so far. I’m really looking forward to seeing what she’s bringing to the table this year.
Oui Oui is a retro fan after my own heart. Her classic style and beauty fit perfectly with her revival of traditional burlesque numbers such as fan dances, stripping with scarves, and shadow play. She’s the founder of Blue Light Burlesque in Montreal and she offers burlesque strip classes to bring out your inner vamp. The last time I saw Oui Oui perform, she blew me away with a gorgeous fabric and wind fan number that was Art Nouveau’s Mucha embodied. So beautiful and so classic, I cannot wait to see her perform again.
One of the most creative and unique burlesque artists out there, it’s hard to believe that Lady Josephine has only been performing since 2008. A student of Mlle Oui Oui Encore, she won “Most Beautiful” act at the Great Boston Burlesque Expo in 2011. A statuesque goddess (I have to look up, way up to make eye contact), she wows audiences with her morbidly sensual acts – from cannibalistic bird to monoptically-challenged caped crusader bouncing on a large plastic eyeball. What wonderfully gorgeous terrors will she shower upon Toronto this year?
Along with all the wonderful returning local favourites from the Great Canadian Burlesque, troupes Les Coquettes, the Harlettes, the Saucy Tarts, and Glamour Puss Burlesque, as well as many solo performers, I look forward to meeting new faces from around the world and enjoying their performances.
Hurry, hurry and get your tickets to the festival. You don’t want to miss any of these fantastic performers!