‘Redress’: The show pushing the boundaries of burlesque in South Africa

Unapologetic about representation.

Redress is the first burlesque show in South Africa exclusively starring performers of colour. As this is a huge deal for representation in the burlesque world, we interviewed co-creator Vita Nova about the process.

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This burlesque show transforming the scene in South Africa

Unapologetic about representation, the cleverly titled Redress pushed the boundaries of burlesque last Friday. On stage, we saw women of colour finesse this classic form of striptease. Subverting norms, this body-positive show is redressing the scene.

It was the first of its kind in SA. So who are the innovative creators? Vita Nova and Bon Bon are two of Cape Town’s top burlesque performers. They were literally crowned the first official burlesque queens in SA last year at the Baby Grand Burlesque Festival. Elana Bailey better known by her stage name Vita Nova, gives us the story behind this piping hot extravaganza.

‘Our entire cast and crew are women of colour, and each performance includes music by artists from marginalized groups,’ Vita Nova explains that the principle of representation extends to the crew and music as well (think Salt-N-Pepa and Eartha Kitt numbers).

Vita Nova, artiste, producer, co-creator

The artiste and producer delves into the bigger idea behind this unique South African production:

‘There’s something that Viola Davis said during her 2015 Emmy Award acceptance speech that has stuck with me, and that is: “…the only thing that separates women of colour from anyone else is opportunity.” And with this show, we’d like to expand on the burlesque platform to celebrate and represent (more) women of colour. To open conversations and challenge existing privileges and preferences within our community,’ says Vita Nova.

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How did you come up with the title Redress?

‘Before we’d settled on a name, “Redress” was used by our designer as a placeholder in one of the mock-ups so I could check fonts, and I loved it. And the more I thought about it and lingered in the definition, the more perfect it felt. Redress was initially cute and funny in terms of burlesque as we’re often undressing and having to re-dress for the next performance. I love wordplay.’

‘But redress also means to remedy, repair, reform and the one I connect with most for this show is ‘to adjust evenly, to balance’, in terms of representation,’ says Vita Nova.

What inspired the show?

As we know, real dialogue can shake up the status quo. This show was inspired by conversations between the performers on the lack of representation within the local community. And so Redress emerged from a desire to create and expand on platforms for performers of colour.

Bon Bon
Bon Bon, co-creator and performer

‘I am proud to be a part of this, and I believe that this work is powerful and impactful, beyond the burlesque and performance community,’  says co-creator and performer, Bon Bon.

Why is representation important to you?

‘The burlesque community in Cape Town/South Africa is mostly white womxn. The professional burlesque scene even more so. That comes with its privileges and it filters through in a lot of ‘preferences’ and interpretations of beauty and what is ‘presentable’ on a stage.

Redress is intended to be a kind of relief from that, of trying to conform to the comfort and obedience and prove ourselves. It’s multilayered. It hasn’t been easy, of course, because as WoC, we’ve been conditioned that we’re not good enough on a greater scale (as well as individual) of belonging and feeling worthy.

Seeing and connecting with something or someone you relate to or resonate with, especially in art, can be so powerful. Representation is also about possibility to me. For existing performers and artists, and for aspiring ones. It is possible to exist and perform in a way that speaks to you, to create pieces that represent you or your character,’ – Vita Nova.

Chilli D'Vine
Chilli D’Vine

Will you produce more shows like this?

‘Absolutely. With this show, we all happen to identify as womxn of colour, but I’d like to expand upon the platform to include performers of colour, and to further connect other performance art forms.’ – Vita Nova

What’s been a highlight of the production process?

‘Being part of a strong cast that wants to improve, learn, share and expand in their performance. Moving through things together that aren’t familiar to us. Navigating conversations and overcoming the difficulties surrounding identity politics has been huge, and curating a dope playlist that includes music by marginalized groups only has been fun.’ – Vita Nova

Let’s meet the cast and crew:

Here are some of the kak-sexy names and faces seen at the debut show last week alongside Vita Nova, Bon Bon and Chilli D’Vine.

Producer and sound tech, Pillow Talk:

Pillow Talk
Pillow Talk

 

MC Charlie French:

Charlie French
Charlie French

 

Singing sensation Marguerita Freeks:

Marguerita Freeks

Naturally, we spoke to some of the performers to find out what they love about burlesque. And this is what they had to say:

Glitter Tush

‘I appreciate the confidence it has given me, to be comfortable in my own skin – ALL my skin,’ says performer, Glitter Tush.

Glitter Tush

Lacy Bittz

‘I love how it oozes sexiness and its a different kind of sexy,’ says Lacy Bittz.

Lacy Bitts
Lacy Bittz

So…. if you missed it, HAATIES FOR YOU. The show sold out pretty gd fast in Cape Town. Keep an eye out for the next one, you can be sure die ding gaan ruk. Let’s redress burlesque.

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