Winnipeg International Burlesque Festival

May 30 to June 1

What exactly is burlesque? It’s a word that conjures up a particular mental image of risqué turn-of-the-century stage acts with sharp wit and sexually charged energy. When asked to define “burlesque,” DD Brassiere, director of the Winnipeg International Burlesque Festival (WIBF), has a more direct response.

“Well, it’s stripping,” she says. “But, a lot of things are ‘stripping’ ... I have a background in producing standup comedy, which is also a kind of stripping of your soul, just with words (instead of clothing).”

WIBF is in its fifth year, but it’s Brassiere’s first year as director.

“I moved to Winnipeg (from Vancouver) in 2021,” they say. “In Vancouver, we had a thriving burlesque community, with shows two or three times a week. When I moved to Winnipeg, I realized that there were only shows, like, quarterly, and that the community was a bit more conservative.”

Supplied photo

The difference in culture between the two cities has underpinned Brassiere’s efforts to make more space for women and gender-di- verse folks to express themselves onstage through burlesque. That approach carries over to WIBF, which had more than 100 applicants from around the world for 2024.

“A lot of these performers are people who have never performed on the same stage before, who have never met each other,” they say. “We’re taking different cultures, different backgrounds, different locations and putting all these people into one show together.”

Brassiere is particularly excited for the show Josephine, performed by visiting headliner Tymisha Harris.

“It took a lot to get (Harris) to fly uphere from Orlando for two nights,” she says. “She’s a very booked-up person and (has performed Josephine) around the world ... she plays (20th century French singer, dancer and actress) Josephine Baker. She’s a magnificent performer, a true triple threat.”

Published in Volume 78, Number 25 of The Uniter (May 30, 2024)

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