Cabaret Roulette star and promoter Vivacity Bliss talks us through her burlesque journey…
Vivacity Bliss on Cabaret Roulette
Describe yourself in 5 words… Doubt. Compulsion. Love. Optimism. Passion.
How did you get into burlesque and why? When it comes to burlesque, I’m not sure there ever was a “why”. It was a rapid but organic progression from a dare to take a dance class to contemplating compèring to taking a beginners technique class, “Just to do it once, to say I’ve done it” to prancing around in my knickers today.
I can say why I stay in burlesque – the creative outlet, the joy, the stress, the emancipation, the camaraderie, the people – but that’s not why I got into it in the first place. I wear a grain of rice around my neck that says “Because”, made for me in Brazil many years ago to remind me that life is not always rational.
Who are your inspirations and hero/ines? I am inspired by strength, however that manifests in an individual. Rubyyy Jones inspires me with her iconoclastic courage and unselfconscious ability to create and redefine and explore.
Mr Pustra inspires me for bucking convention and consistently creating art that is provocative and unusual and exquisitely beautiful. My friend Nilmini inspires me with her tireless pursuit of her passion, often taking the less safe path to do so. I could go on…
What is your defining act/highlight to date? I possess a shameful pride at being the only performer (that I know of) who performs to Justin Bieber. It was the logical music choice the moment I decided to create an act in honour of my home country of Canada.
Creating Northern Exposure was also a major turning point for me as a performer, for its success has convinced me to scrap my original (chronologically, not creatively) idea of being some sultry sexpot in favour of embracing my actual super power: audience interaction.
It’s also just a crazily fun act to do, as it involves snow throwing and seal cuddling and audience manhandling and music that the entire room tends to sing along to at the top of their lungs. I won Burlesque Idol with it in July 2012, and it has definitely become my signature act.
Why Cabaret Roulette? Cabaret Roulette was born out of a very simple idea – that fellow performer Vivi Mae and I could both do a ringmaster-themed act because, as our styles were so different, our resulting acts would be nothing alike.
From the beginning, the focus was very much on the potential of the creative process, especially when the performer is challenged to do something outside of his or her own comfort zone, and the intellectual experiment of how diversity responds to singularity.
Its become about more than that. I want it to be a show about artistic risk and the resulting success or failure of that risk. I want it to be about the audience challenging the artists, pushing them, engaging with them on a level deeper than, “Whoop if you want to see more!”
I want it to shake the cobwebs off of a scene that sometimes feels a little formulaic and encourage a return to what cabaret can and should be: dangerous, exciting, unexpected, alive, furtive, iconoclastic. While I respect the parade of women beautifully removing their stockings these days, my god but I’m bored of obligatory boob reveals!
Cabaret Roulette: Apocalypse
What’s it all about? Quite simply: eight artists representing the widest possible range of disciplines, both in and outside of the standard cabaret scene. They have two months in which to create a new act based on a single, simple, interpretable theme chosen by the audience. No rules, other than that they must in some way base their act on that theme. If the contortionist wants to interpret “pirate” as computer hacker, all the more power to her.
The theme for our inaugural show is “apocalypse,” and is being taken on by Daisy Black the hula hooper, Bonnie Blondell the showgirl, Lou Safire the freakshow boylesque dancer, Vivi Mae the slapstick comedian, Ginger Cupcake the cheesecake burlesque performer, Chilli Blush the technical belly dancer, Anna Larkin the accordian-playing chanteuse and Miss Jones the fire-eating magician, with headliner and Boylexe star Mr Mistress doing his brilliant gender bending thing and the incomparable Rubyyy Jones – Burlexe star! I appear to be poaching your performers! – as compère. When the line up was first confirmed, I actually wept with joy.
You’re one of the few burlesque dancers and promoters, why? I took to the stage for that, “Just once, to say I’d done it” show back in March in order to better understand the burlesque performer experience as part of my preparation to produce, and it’s been a wonderful surprise for me that it’s gone past that moment.
Producing, however, has always been my truest love. It was where my professional theatre career took me back in Canada and it was my goal from the first time I saw Luna Rosa on stage and fell in love with burlesque. I believe I will be a better producer for understanding first-hand the work, effort and cost that goes into creating a four minute routine, and for knowing how shows unfold on and off stage.
Whether or not I will continue to perform is the larger question, as I do love it and so far it appears that there may be a place for me in the community. I have a notebook of act ideas I’m dying to start working on and a bank account that is begging me not to. The biggest challenge I’ve found is balancing performing with the day job – producing is much more symbiotic!
What does burlesque mean to you? I’m actually struggling a lot with this question. It’s why its taken me so long to type the answers to this interview. What DOES burlesque mean to me?
I did my Masters thesis on why audience members attend the theatre and concluded in the end that many audience members continue to buy tickets in what journalist, William Thorsell, called, “The exalted but pickled name of art.” The performing arts simply cannot compete with movies for the passive-recipient market, nor should it. What is unique and essential about the performing arts is its liveness: that relationship between audience and performer, the fact that the show actually depends on the audience to succeed as an event.
Burlesque – and its bigger sister, cabaret – are for me the pinnacle of entertainment as visceral, interactive, LIVE artistic experience. Like any art, it absolutely has the potential to be boring or safe or contrived, but there is little as exciting for me as witnessing a truly brilliant cabaret act.
That it also involves a celebration the female body in all its shapes and sizes and textures (for I have zero interest in the Crazy Horse-esque line ups of conventionally-attractive miscellaneous hotties, regardless of how talented those hotties may be) is just a bonus for me, and a perspective I feel is critically important in this misogynistic society of ours.
Because of burlesque… I can keep getting up at 7am for the day job that actually pays the bills.
Burlexe is a sensational London burlesque show inspired by the women who created the genre and perform the art. It fuses burlesque performance with storytelling, dancing with acting.
We love to showcase UK burlesque performers and share the stories of these wonderful women who perform burlesque. Vivacity Bliss and the Cabaret Roulette performers are some such women.