Burlesque is defined by the Urban Dictionary as a variety show characterized by ribald comedy, dancing and striptease. It had its origins in Europe in the 1840s, eventually becoming a staple in the U.S. and Canada, and then largely disappeared in the late 20th century.
At least in Vancouver, however, burlesque is back. There’s the annual Vancouver International Burlesque Festival, not to mention plenty of shows around town. Among the new staples of the burlesque scene is the weekly show at the Keefer Bar in Chinatown.
Every Thursday night, the tiny bar hosts of some of the most sultry and sophisticated burlesque in the city in an event called Sweet Sip Thursdays. From 10 p.m. to midnight, Vancouver’s Sweet Soul Burlesque troupe presents three shows. Tickets are $10 at the door, and the Keefer Bar features old-fashioned cocktails to go along with the show.
Just to clarify: Between burlesque and plain-old striptease there is a world of difference. Burlesque emphasizes seduction, sass and concealing as much as revealing, with elaborate stage sets and costumes. It’s a form of theatre with deep historical roots that walks a fine line between artistry and titillation.
But it’s still pretty sexy. Sweet Soul Burlesque has been featured on the CBC and MTV Canada and was recently nominated for induction into the International Burlesque Hall of Fame Association. According to their mission statement, they aim to “inspire each other and other women/lovers of women to enjoy themselves and their sexuality and to rekindle their sense of playfulness and confidence.”
Not to mention that the venue couldn’t be better suited for the show. The Keefer Bar is dark and conspiratorial, modeled more or less after one of Chinatown’s historic opium dens. The menu features plenty of retro, handcrafted cocktails, many of which use special ingredients from the markets and herbalists in Chinatown. But the place is tiny – so make sure you get there early on Thursdays for a prime seat at the bar.
Anyone been to a burlesque show at the Keefer? How was it?