Monday, April 15, 2024
April 15, 2024

Burlesque passion shared at upcoming show

When Tala Small Wolf was a student at Gulf Islands Secondary School (GISS), one place she would not be found was in the dance studio.

“I was an apprentice cook, like nowhere near dance, because as a plus-sized human, dance wasn’t really open to people who weren’t straight sizes at that time,” she said.

But Small Wolf is now the owner, producer and creative director of SINnergy Productions, a Victoria-based burlesque dance company she founded in the summer of 2022, and is bringing her group’s Caravan of Desire show to ArtSpring on Saturday, March 16, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Dancing in the show will be Small Wolf, whose stage name is Chai Tease, as well as Jacqueline Daniels, Tommy Tricker and Ginger Vicious, and drag performer Oliver Clozoff.

How did Small Wolf end up dancing professionally after graduating from GISS outside of the performing arts stream in 2013?

Small Wolf moved to Victoria two years later and started taking general dance classes at the Passion and Performance dance studio.

“I really started to learn about dancing sexy, and just how fun dancing is, and it kind of reevaluated my entire relationship that I had with my body,” she said.

When the studio added a burlesque program to their offerings, Small Wolf immediately signed up, having loved the 2010 movie Burlesque, which starred Cher and Christina Aguilera.

She said she was surprised when the instructor turned out to be “a plus-sized human. I was not expecting that. I kept taking the classes, and being like, ‘Oh my god, there is space for us. There is a lot of space for us.”

Small Wolf is now the burlesque class instructor at the studio and loves to share her passion for the genre.

“Burlesque is incredibly transformative for how people feel about the skin they are in,” she said, “because I can say, personally I’ve been 140 pounds — and 240 pounds — on stage and the cheers never change.”

Even if Small Wolf wasn’t part of the GISS dance program, she always enjoyed the shows, supporting friends on stage and being amazed by the choreography.

“Whenever I listened to music, I would create routines in my head — the creativity has always been there — but there was just that blockage of ‘Oh, but that’s not for me.’” Now, she says, “Choreographing routines for groups is my favourite thing to do and I cannot imagine my life without that.”

Small Wolf was encouraged to create Caravan of Desire, where the dancers play travelling showgirls, and bring it to Salt Spring after getting enthusiastic feedback from a burlesque show she participated in at Mateada in Ganges last year.

For the March 16 performance at ArtSpring, the audience will get a taste of the huge range of burlesque forms that exist.

“We’re going to be going through styles like bump and grind, drag-lesque, nerd-lesque, burlesque that tells a story . . . There’s just so many micro categories of burlesque that I’m really excited to show everyone who comes to the show.”

Varied music is used for the routines, from an Elvis piece to smooth jazz to metal. A BC Ferries joke routine that uses sounds from the ferries is also on tap.

Due to nudity, the show is for people aged 18 and older, with two pieces of ID required at the door.

Small Wolf explained that the word burlesque has 18th-century Italian roots in “burlesco” and “burla,” which means to joke or to make a mockery of.

“So original burlesque was making fun of the higher-ups. It would be common for them to take highfalutin Shakespearean plays that normal people couldn’t get their hands on and make some jokes out of them and make it a parody.”

Small Wolf said while some people might initially think it’s “a little weird” to watch people dance naked, “Every single person I’ve talked to afterward who’s gone to a burlesque show is so enthralled in the art form itself. It’s just such a beautiful way for people to express themselves and show how happy they are with their body . . . and it’s just such a creative world; it’s just another type of dance.”

Tickets for the March 16 show are available through ArtSpring.

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