Burlesque performers have long teased audiences with naughty humour, racy dancing and suggestive clothing.
Whether in smoke-filled cabarets or packed theatres, this art form has a proud – and flirtatious – tradition that can be traced back to the 17th century.
In more recent years, this artistic style has seen a resurgence, with about half-a-dozen troupes in Ottawa alone.
Among them is Bourbon & Spice, a five-member group that was founded in January 2011 by Kerosene Misfortune, a music instructor who plays fiddle in two different bands.
“I had a friend a few years back who worked in a burlesque show,” recounts Kerosene, when asked how she got inspired to do burlesque. “I had never been to a show before so I decided to go. I really enjoyed it. It was fun, it was tasteful and it was sexy.”
This positive experience led Kerosene to join the Sin Sisters, a local burlesque, go-go and variety show, before branching off and founding Bourbon & Spice.
Drawing from traditional burlesque, Kerosene and her troupe mates offer an original act that combines humour, dancing and music. (See here for videos of some of their past performances).
Audiences will be able to see the show upfront on Halloween night, when they perform at the Rainbow Bistro at 76 Murray Street in the Byward Market, alongside musical group Mystery Pill. (Doors are at 9PM, $10 cover).
While some burlesque shows come close to being erotic entertainment, Kerosene prefers to appeal to her audiences’ brains rather than naughty parts, by focussing on dance and humour rather than the striptease.
“We like to be very creative and original with our routines,” she says. “We bring back old-style cabaret with a modern twist.”
This appeal to witty humour has strong historical roots, as the English word burlesque derives from the Italian burlesco, which itself stems from the Italian word burla for joke, ridicule or mockery.
Looking forward to Halloween, Kerosene promises a fantastic show with crowd participation, cat calls and play on words.
“Our show is going to be awesome,” she says with a laugh. “You definitely won’t regret coming. It will be a crowd pleaser – there will be prizes for best costume – and it will be worth you coming out.”
Among other audience incentives, the troupe is planning on giving out candy and cupcakes to the crowd, with the cupcakes being homemade with – what else – bourbon and spice, e.g. a possible combination of Jack Daniels and cinnamon. Lucky crowd members will also be welcomed onstage, although Kerosene was purposely coy on what that exactly entails.
Other burlesque shows in town on October 31 include the Sin Sisters at Zaphod Beeblebrox at 27 York in the Byward Market, and the Rockalily Burlesque 3rd Annual Zombie Strippers Halloween Show at Babylon at 317 Bank Street.