An Anchorage burlesque group is touring Northern Southeast Alaska for the first time this weekend. The ten-year-old Viva Voom Brr-Lesque troupe is a modern spin on the old time striptease. They’re taking the stage in Skagway, Haines and Juneau.
Kamala Stiner and Amanda Chriswell are two of Viva Voom’s members’ given names. But when they’re on the burlesque stage, they go by Lola Pistola and Danger Maus. Both are performers and producers in Viva Voom.
They say in a word, burlesque is striptease. But it’s really more than that. Here’s Lola:
“When people ask us it is difficult to tell anyone in short amount of time what burlesque is,” Lola said. “I mean, I can tell you what burlesque used to be and where it comes from, and people seem to understand that. Because everyone understand pin-up culture, you know, the ladies who did striptease in 30’s and 40’s and 50’s.”
She says they build on that history but also encompass modern music, styles of dance, costumes and ideas in their neo-burlesque performances. She says that includes social commentary.
Lola and Maus say performing burlesque is empowering for them.
“Just being up there and saying ‘this is me and this is who I am and deal with it.'” Maus said. “It’s all about endorphins and love and body positivity and glitter and sparkles and getting out of my head for a while.”
Lola says there is some stigma that comes with being a burlesque performer.
“When you get right down to it, we’re getting naked on stage. Not completely naked, but we are removing clothing, we’re doing striptease. We are, for all intents and purposes, strippers. So people do tend to have their own ideas about what that is, what it means and who we are because of it.”
Both women say they were hesitant at first for some of their family members to know about their participation in burlesque. They say when those people did find out, they were accepting.
Viva Voom has toured towns around the Anchorage area, but they haven’t ever been to Southeast.
“It’s a chance for us to reveal to other communities around Alaska what burlesque is, what we do with burlesque and how that can translate into other areas of people’s lives,” Lola said. “And that is, for me, the greatest part of this.”
They say the group is traveling ‘lean and mean,’ with just seven of their 24 members. They’ll perform in Juneau Thursday night at the Rendez Vou, in Skagway Friday at 10 p.m. at the Red Onion Saloon, and at the Fort Seward Lodge in Haines on Saturday at 10 p.m. On Sunday, Viva Voom will hold a burlesque 101 workshop in Haines. There is a charge for performances and the workshop. More information at vivavoomburlesque.com.