This coming Valentine’s Day offers area audiences not just one, but two opportunities to take in the bawdy, comic and body-positive arts, as burlesque not only returns to Manresa Castle on …
This coming Valentine’s Day offers area audiences not just one, but two opportunities to take in the bawdy, comic and body-positive arts, as burlesque not only returns to Manresa Castle on Friday, Feb. 14, but also takes center stage for the first time at the Finnriver Farm and Cidery, later that same evening.
MY BURLY VALENTINE AT THE CASTLE
Aleksandra Bukovic, the “Mistress of Fusion,” serves as a performer, dancer and producer of the Castle’s burlesque programs, which brought together burlesque performances and stage magic with “The Enchantment Show” last November.
Bukovic expressed an equal measure of excitement to be bringing “My Burly Valentine” to the community at 8 p.m. on Feb. 14, with the doors opening at 6 p.m.
“We’re celebrating a day of love,” Bukovic said. “Love for yourself, love for your friends, and love for your beaus!”
Bukovic promised the evening’s lineup of burlesque performers from Portland, Port Angeles and Port Townsend all will be ready “to enchant the heartache out of you.”
Port Townsend’s Rummy Rose has been doing burlesque for a full decade, while Port Angeles’ Iva Handfull has been going strong for a lucky 13 years, and Portland’s Wanda Bones hit the ground floor of her hometown’s developing burlesque scene in 2012-13.
Rose got her start with her punk rock can-can troupe, the Can-Cannibals, while Handfull got involved after seeing her first show.
“I’ve always been a ham, but I didn’t see an art form where I could share my love of fashion and performing for people,” Handfull said. “Burlesque is the only art form I know of where the performer is the artist, choreographer, producer, director, writer and usually the costumer.”
As for Bones, she followed a friend’s lead into taking classes at the one burlesque school in town at the time, and what kept her going was her further research into burlesque performers around the world, which led her to learn about bona fide burlesque legends.
Each performer appreciates slightly different shadings of what burlesque offers them, and their audiences. Rose, a lifelong dancer, enjoys incorporating that background into her burlesque storytelling, while Handfull welcomes the direct connection that burlesque provides with her audiences, and Bones likewise hopes to draw her audiences into her performances.
“I love having the freedom to tell a story through visual arts, from start to finish,” Rose said. “I make a lot of my costuming, so I love presenting the finished product to my audience. I want my audience to feel like they are able to escape their daily lives, to enjoy live art.”
“There’s no fourth wall, so both the performer and the audience are experiencing something together,” Handfull said.
“I want my audience to feel like they are actively taking part in the experience,” Bones said. “Our goal is to make them feel immersed in the experience. Other times, it’s to celebrate sexuality, and the variety of ways that can be shown on stage. What I enjoy most about performing is letting loose, and not limiting myself on stage.”
While Rose’s style offers classic burlesque “with a rock-and-roll twist,” Handfull promises to bring her love of fashion to the show, and Bones is dusting off some of her older routines, this time with newer music.
Although Handfull is making her return appearance at the Castle due to her enjoyment of the venue and her friendship with Bukovic, both Rose and Bones are first-timers at the Castle.
“I have an obsession with castles and old architecture,” Rose said. “Staying the night at a castle has always been on my bucket list.”
“I have a few friends who have done performances out there, and I have heard amazing things about the space,” Bones said. “The fact that it’s ‘haunted’ is right up my alley, and I can’t wait to explore the space offstage as well. This is going to be an amazing show, and I really think that no one in the show will be bringing the same thing, so watch for a variety of music, bodies and experience!”
Bukovic encouraged would-be attendees to get their $24 pre-sale tickets at thecastleinpt.com, and to arrive early to select their choice in seating, as well as meals, snacks and beverages from the Castle’s menu.
DATE NIGHT AT FINNRIVER
While burlesque has become a relatively familiar feature at Manresa Castle, the performers of Sky House Productions expressed their appreciation to the Finnriver Farm and Cidery for being willing to host their independently produced show from 9 to 11 p.m. on Feb. 14.
Sky House boasts a bustling lineup of performers, including Paris Jade as Whiskey Neat, Mallory Langer as Ms. Cheeky Peaks, Aba Kiser as Abakis, Becca Spencer as Miss Chamber of Secrets, Taylor Corrigan as Kismet, Justine Rebekah and Sarah Blessington as Stage Kittens, and Jesaint Baril as DJ Nipple Tape.
When The Leader had the opportunity to chat with a couple of those performers, Langer revealed that her nearly decade-long run in burlesque was preceded by about five years of classically trained dance and ballet, while Jade admitted that the Finnriver “Date Night” will be her first foray into burlesque, although she brings with her at least a dozen years of experience in acting.
“I’ve wanted to do burlesque for a long time, and everything finally came together for it to be the right time,” Jade said. “It made me feel empowered, and allowed me to see myself in a different light, more confident and in charge of my own sexuality, without worrying how women should be or act.”
Langer echoed Jade’s sentiment of feeling empowered by burlesque, especially since she came away from her time in ballet coping with some body issues.
“It helped me overcome my negative ideas about myself,” Langer said. “Burlesque allows you to be both comic and sexy, to be silly and goofy and engaging, and I wanted to help empower other women, so their visions of themselves could change.”
Ironically, Langer attributes the confidence-building of burlesque to how it “takes you out of your comfort zone, and forces you to face your fears,” while Jade agreed that “all different shapes, sizes and physical ability levels” are welcome at Sky House, which advocates a message of body positivity.
“We’re all different, but we’ve all found what works for us,” Jade said.
“It’s an opportunity to show the world that we don’t all have to fit into set boxes,” Langer said.
Although Sky House has men serving in its support staff, it’s a woman-run independent production.
And just as the Sky House performers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so too did Jade and Langer assure prospective attendees that more than just couples are welcome to the “Date Night.”
“You can come with your friends, or with people who are experiencing burlesque for the first time,” Jade said.
At the same time, Langer hopes to dispel the notion that attending a burlesque show is something one shouldn’t do with a partner.
“We want it to be something that people can experience together,” Langer said.
“A lot of single people who have attended burlesque with their friends have had a blast,” Jade said. “Bring your friends, your grandma, whoever.”
Langer promised that the “Date Night” would showcase other art forms under the burlesque umbrella, comparing it to a variety show of old.
Attendees must be 18 years or older, and pre-sale tickets are available online at skyhouseproductions.brownpapertickets.com.