Beerlesque II blends burlesque and beer
Burlesque is about playing with expectations, and sometimes confounding them. When Nicky Ninedoors performs at the Beerlesque II celebration next Friday (September 21), she won’t be taking off any gorgeous garments. She’ll be putting them on—an act known as a reverse strip.
A classically trained jazz vocalist, Ninedoors will sing Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” as she wraps herself once again in the gown she co-designed and wore at her wedding to bassist John Bews earlier this summer. Such a reversal in the usual flow of a burlesque act presents special challenges, but yields rich rewards.
“The timing is crucial,” says Ninedoors, interviewed at the couple’s East Side studio. “It is way, way easier to get undressed than to get dressed into a costume in time. It takes a lot longer. And normally you’re getting things on quickly and fixing them after, but I have to do it in a way that makes getting dressed look as good as getting undressed. As I’m not getting naked it’s harder. I have to be very decisive.”
Ninedoors has been planning the reverse strip for more than six months, and came up with the idea for the ’30s-inspired gown, which was created by her sister-in-law Jessica Bayntun. “Some of the lace pieces were cut by my mother, so it’s quite a family affair,” says Ninedoors with a laugh. “Jessica and I have been working together since I started doing burlesque three and a half years ago. I’m making a hat to go with her gown. Millinery and fascinator-making—that’s my ‘craftiness’. It’s how I hide my microphone, so I can sing and be amplified without having a mike on my body. Trickery.”
Beerlesque, a fundraiser for Roundhouse Community Programs, also features stellar burlesque performances by Burgundy Brixx, Melody Mangler, Jenny Magenta, Rebel Valentine, and Diamond Minx, plus music from vaudevillian ska and country band Blackberry Wood. With Vancouver Craft Beer Week contributing ales from 15 micro-breweries, costumes encouraged, and a prize for the best one, the vibe will be loose and festive.
Ninedoors and Bews live the burlesque life all the way, and performed at their own wedding reception. “We did a half-length version of our regular show,” says Ninedoors. “My closest burlesque friends each did an act, and I got to stand in the audience and enjoy. I didn’t have to do anything except my own act, and to sing one song.”
The piece in question was “Go Slow” a smoky and sensual hit for the glamorous Julie London in the ’50s, and an item in Ninedoors’s regular repertoire that’s of special significance. “Just before John and I got together I invited him to a concert of mine and it was one of the songs. I pretty much stared at him the entire time while singing it. He was sitting far away, so he couldn’t be sure I was staring at him, but I was laying it on pretty heavily.”
When the two first met Ninedoors was just beginning her burlesque career, and in search of a bassist. “I wasn’t doing well in terms of finding one because I would develop these crushes,” she recalls. “But I was a waitress, so I had a bunch of tips to spend on things irresponsibly, and I bought myself a sparkly electric bass. To hell with all the men who’d failed me in this regard, I would do it myself. I signed up for lessons with John and pretty much instantly I knew ‘Oh God, I’m in trouble.’ I took the lessons for maybe three months. I tried at the beginning, but didn’t learn much, knowing I didn’t need to. I’ve never been so thankful for one of my expensive impulsive-buying decisions.”
Beerlesque II is at the Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre on Friday (September 21).