Five mudboot-clad, umbrella-twirling women danced their way onto the stage of the Red Dog Saloon as the opening act for Skagway Burlesque’s colorful, creative show this past weekend.
Co-producers Taylor Vidic and Cameron Brockett have been friends since their days performing around town while attending Juneau-Douglas High School. Both said they’re inspired by Seneca Harper, also known by his stage name “The Luminous Pariah.” Harper grew up in Juneau and is a founding member of Mod Carousal, a Seattle-based, gender-bending boylesque group that has performed around Southeast.
“We were incredibly inspired,” Brockett said. “We loved the drags and all the performance art around town even before we could (were old enough to) go to the bars.”
Vidic performs in local concerts and theater; Brockett studied in Seattle at the Academy of Burlesque. Both friends, however, eventually found themselves working at the historic Red Onion Saloon in Skagway during the summer of 2014.
At the saloon, which first opened as a brothel in 1898, Brockett and Vidic felt encouraged to explore their talents as burlesque dancers. That first year of producing “homegrown” shows, the entire crew of dancers were Red Onion employees. And after a few shows in Skagway, they decided to bring that pizazz to the halls of Juneau in 2016 for a one-night, sold out performance. Brockett and Vidic aim to round out the strip tease that’s at the core of a burlesque performance with other kinds of performance art as well.
This year, they scheduled two shows, with additional artists, one making their burlesque debut, joining in.
“Juneau has some of the bravest and boldest, from never having done this before to walking on stage and kicking ass,” Brockett said. “We have so much faith in each performer… we’ve performed with all of them in some capacity in the past.”
The participating artists were Taylor Vidic, Cameron Brockett, Allison Holtkamp, Annie Bartholomew, Anya Absten, Hali Duran, Rachael Byrd, Kathleen Manning, Johanna Evans, and Kelsey Riker. Ericka Lee was hostess and emcee.
“Lately, there’s been such a great energy in Southeast around this kind of performance art and we want to build that momentum and deliver that message to continue to inspire more performances of this kind,” said Dana Herndon principal for Higher Image Management, which promoted the event. “Juneau is a uniquely creative place and we want to celebrate that. Being in a place that accepts and encourages creativity is a powerful thing and we love to promote the culture locally and within our region through similar events.”
“I wish I had the balls to do that,” one of the audience members commented while Racheal Byrd popped the balloons wrapped around her body to reveal the pasties and undies she wore underneath. Others in the audience were taken aback by Annie Bartholomew’s “power and amazing voice” during the second act. That act did just as Erika Lee promised, “bringing brimstone and fire to burlesque.”
Many of the acts were accompanied by the lively “Better Than Boobs” band. DJ Tim Sislo’s full beard was entirely covered in gold glitter affixed with hairspray and Elmer’s glue. That’s commitment. Dollar bills flew from all directions during the acts, raining down from the balcony in paper airplanes and balled up and tossed at the stage from as far back as the bar. From Ruby Reckless, a deck hand who recently graduated to “Master-Bater” with her fishing pole and merman prop, to Miss Ooh La La’s mime act, which tantalized the crowd with each finger she removed from her gloved hand, the Skagway Burlesque crew brought their A-game.
“People come up and ask me, ‘isn’t it empowering?’” Brockett said. “Well, hopefully whatever you’re doing in your life is empowering. This, for us, is empowering ‘cause its so much fun to put on a show. It’s a spectacle, it’s not empowering because of why you think, but because, like any other art, it’s something of yourself that you’re sharing, and that’s why it’s empowering. We’re making magic on stage, be it in a musical, or a play, or, in this case, a strip tease with a story.”
• Mackenzie Fisher is a freelance writer living in Juneau.