Jan. 16, 2013 09:13


Purrrlesque! follies at triad stage this weekend

In an old house on Mendenhall Street with a foundation made of raw quartz stone, in a corner room that smells like powder, Sky Bradshaw shuffles the deck of cards and lays them on the table, one by one in an attempt to catch a glimpse of the big picture, the grand tapestry that binds everything together.
She uses the New Orleans voodoo tarot deck, a variation on the traditional one, with a stronger feminine presence, plumbing a deeper, more sensual spirituality. There’s a wild card in this deck, too — les Barons, represented by a crew of cigar-smoking skeletons — that represents the crossroads between sexuality, vulgarity, humor and the unexpected.
It’s an intersection Bradshaw knows well.
The tarot are her day gig. At night, when the lights go low and the feathers and glitter fly, she transforms into Tiger RoxXx, founding member of the Triad’s best burlesque troupe, Purrrlesque, which has been infusing the area with a little T&A, a little bump ‘n’ grind, since 2006.
The movement caught on quickly; burlesque has become as much a part of the scene here as house shows and open-mic nights. And as Tiger RoxXx, Bradshaw has been in the thick of it. Purrrlesque now boasts five regular members. They have plugged into a national network of ladies and men who purvey this most ancient form of theater, going back to Salome’s biblical Dance of the Seven Veils that doomed John the Baptist, and even before.
And this weekend, they’re throwing their big, annual celebration of the art form at Triad Stage.
The Purrrlesque Follies brings more than 60 performers to the main stage over three nights, with workshops during the day on subjects ranging from make-up, body image, drag, ethics, eye contact and the patented burlesque “booty bounce.”
It’s the most ambitious project the troupe has tackled yet, evoking the spirit of la Sirene, the mermaid from the voodoo tarot deck, a personification of creative prosperity and communal growth.
Burlesque as she sees it is more about the beauty of feminine empowerment than the pleasures of the flesh. Though all of the troupe’s performers lean heavily on the tropes of the discipline — musical comedy, sexual innuendo, light BDSM play — at its best Purrrlesque taps into the transformative power of burlesque on both the performers and the audience.
“It’s about positive self-esteem,” says Debbie Griffin, AKA Peaches de Vine. “I have gone from being a thin individual to having a child later in life. I kept the weight on, [and] I had some body issues. This has helped me accept who I am and how I am. Burlesque makes me feel comfortable in my own skin. [When I’m performing] I feel beautiful.”
She might be talking about Oshun from the voodoo tarot deck, the Santeria goddess of love depicted with a fan in front of her face — flirtatious, but bold enough to look right at you. The peacock on the card represents pride in beauty, but her back is turned to the mirror behind her, signifying that she doesn’t place too much importance on her reflection.
The follies is a charity event, benefiting this year a nonprofit organization called Girls Rock NC, which according to its website “empowers girls and women, through creative expression, to become confident and engaged members of our communities.”
They run summer camps and after-school programs, hold workshops and performances. Loud music and free expression are encouraged.
They may be drawing on the strength of Erzulia la Flambeau, depicted in the voodoo tarot deck balancing on one leg atop a bed of corn, daggers in her hands. She is both the protector and provider of nourishment, a strong feminine presence in the deck, signifying courage in the face of adversity, inner strength and the force of will to overcome the fear of failure.
Jenn Martin can relate. She’s been with Purrrlesque from the beginning as well, after a career in opera and a relocation from Memphis. Unlike many burlesque performers, she uses her real name onstage. And as a trained vocalist she does a lot of singing. But belting out tunes in fetish gear in stiletto heels with a whip is something she had never imagined for herself before.
“I never thought I’d have the guts to do it,” she says. “I’ve always done performance, but I always had this thing about being by myself onstage. I think I just put so much pressure on myself, I’d totally freak myself out.
“You just have to do it,” she continues. “I got to the point with burlesque that [I said], ‘Life is short. It’s silly for me to be wasting my talent on just being scared.
“Now I know that if something scares me, that’s when I need to do it.”
Back in the house on Mendenhall, Sky Bradshaw flips through the cards of the voodoo tarot deck and pulls Shi Li-Bo Nouvavou from the stack.
She dances naked in the shallows of the sea with her feet on the ground, her hands hold flames and the wind billows her hair — all four elements at her command. She is fearless and blissful, in command and in the moment. It is a card of strength — not of the physical variety but the kind that comes from within, forged by joyous memories and effortless growth. It is the kind of strength on which one can rely.


Before becoming the “Fastest Tassel-Twirler from East to West,” Peekabooo Pointe was a classically trained modern dancer in New York City. She’s toured the world with rock shows and burlesque revues, appeared in “Gossip Girl” and other TV shows, and has been featured in the New Yorker, Washington Post and High Times, among other publications. In 2009 she won a Golden Pastie for Most Sensual Performer at the New York Burlesque Festival and took one last year for Sexiest Shimmy and Coolest Quake. She was also ranked 24th in Century Burlesque’s Top 50.

Nasty Canasta, “the Girl with the 44DD Brain,” has a resume that includes winning second runner-up in the 2010 Miss Exotic World Pageant, being named Brooklyn’s Greatest Burlesque Star by the Village Voice, hosting and producing NYC’s Naked Girls Reading, founding Sweet & Nasty Burlesque and Pinchbottom Burlesque in New York, and acting as the reigning Cheese Queen of Coney Island. But she got her start in the theater as an actor and costume designer with a degree from Brown University, gravitating to burlesque “after too many years of horribly embarrassing (though, fortunately, horribly-attended) off-off-off-Broadway shows,” according to her bio.
nastycanastaburlesque.blogspot.com; nastycanastaburlesque.tumblr.com

Purrrlesque Follies
Purrrlesque Follies features shows on Friday and Saturday nights at Triad Stage and a Sunday brunch at Sessions, with featured acts and emcees. Showtimes are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Sunday brunch starts at 12:30 p.m.
Workshops begin Saturday at 9 a.m. at Triad Stage. Register at purrrlesque.com.

Friday night
Act I: Ula Uberson, New York
Act II: Kisa von Teasa, Tennessee
Brandy Valentine, SC
Brouhaha Revue, NC
Cougar Cantrell, Tennessee
Dahlia Vee, NC
Descending Angel, NC
Fonda Lingue, Georgia
Jenn Martin, NC
Jessica Katharsys, NC
Lady Monster, Ohio
Pandora von Kit, NC
Peaches de Vine, NC
Private Tails, Washington, DC
Rachel Riot, NC
Stache, Washington, DC
Stage Slave Gavin, NC
Sterling Maxwell, NC
Sunny Midnight, Georgia
Virginia Scare, NC
Xavier Shadowdancer, NC
Music by Whiskey Christy & the Half Pint Orchestra

Saturday night
Act I: Baroness VONschmalhausen, Ga.
Act II: Big Gay James, Tennessee
Ace Falcor, California
April le Queen, NC
Bunny Wigglebottom, Tennessee.
Deanna Danger, Virgina
Delinda d’Rabbit, Tennessee
Faun Finley, NC
Kisa Von Teasa, Tennessee
Lady Gatita, NC
Maria Bella, Maryland
Memphis Muerte, NC
Nipsy Tussle, Tennessee
Rena LaMarr, Ohio
Rosey Lady, Tennessee
Siren Santina, Tennessee
The Follies Girls, Tennessee
Tiger RoxXx, NC
Ula Uberbusen, New York
Viva Valezz, Ohio
XRay Esoteric, NC
Music by Whiskey Christy & the Half Pint Orchestra

Baroness VONschmalhausen, Georgia
Radiant Estelle, NC
Lollie la Rouge, NC
Cheeky Boom Boom, NC
Cabaret for the Cure, NC
Ruby Redd, NC
Music by Whiskey Christy & the Half Pint Orchestra

Saturday workshops
Main Stage:
9 a.m.: Jessica Katharsis — Hoop Dance: Connection and Empowerment through Movement
10:15 a.m.: Descending Angel — Work Your Ass!
11:45 a.m.: Kisa Von Teasa — the Art of Hosiery
1:30 p.m.: Ula Uberbusen — Acting Your Act: Storytelling Through Burlesque
2:45 p.m.: Deanna Danger — Fan-tastic/Stage Fans
Dressing Room (upstairs)
9 a.m.: Nasty Canasta — the Performer as Producer
10:15 a.m.: Nasty Canasta — Private
11:30 a.m.: Nasty Canasta — Private (group of four, $25/person)
1:30 p.m.: Nasty Canasta — Burlethics
3 p.m.: Nasty Canasta — Private
4:15 p.m.: Nasty Canasta — Private

Dressing Room (downstairs)
9 a.m.: Xavier Shadowdancer — Belly Dance for Burlesque
11 a.m.: Virginia Scare — Beginning Ukulele for Vaudeville and BurlyQ
11:30 a.m.: Lady Monster — Presenting… You
1 p.m.: Big Gay James — Improv Acting
2:45 p.m.: Rosey Lady — Self-Guided Self-Esteem
4 p.m.: Rachel Riot — Bombshell PinUp Makeup

Twisted Dance Studio classes
9 a.m.: Peekaboo Pointe — Private
10:15 a.m.: Peekaboo Pointe — Private
11:45 a.m.: Peekaboo Pointe — Burlesque Booty Bounce
1:30 p.m.: Peekaboo Pointe — Private
3 p.m.: Peekaboo Pointe — Eye Contact and Sensuality
4:15 p.m.: Peekaboo Pointe — Private
5:30 p.m.: Sterling Maxwell — Sterling’s School of Drag
9 a.m.: Peekaboo Pointe/Nasty Canasta — Private
10 a.m.: Peekaboo Pointe/Nasty Canasta — Private
11 a.m.: Peekaboo Pointe/Nasty Canasta — Private

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