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culture

The Great Canadian Girlesque Expo Brings Burlesque Legends to Town

A weekend of striptease will feature performances from some of the best in the business.

The Great Canadian Burlesque

Image courtesy of The Great Canadian Burlesque.

The Great Canadian Girlesque Expo
Various locations
January 25–27
$20–$78

This coming weekend, Toronto will once again play host to the largest burlesque convention in Canada, The Great Canadian Girlesque Expo. An annual winter showcase now in its eighth year, it features legends of burlesque and active performers at the height of their power alongside local stars and emerging artists. Over three days, there will be more than 60 burlesque acts from across the country, as well as displays, vendors, and workshops.

The Girlesque Expo is put on by the Great Canadian Burlesque, an association of burlesque performers who also run the Canadian Burlesque Hall of Fame. Founded nearly a decade ago by Toronto-based mentalist, magician, and variety performer Mysterion, the Girlesque Expo is now setting the standard for grandeur in the Canadian burlesque scene.

During an interview, Mysterion immediately identifies the act he’s most excited to see this weekend: Tempest Storm. The pop-culture icon and burlesque legend will appear in Toronto for the first time in over 30 years. A contemporary of Bettie Page, Storm performed for well over 60 years, and her career has taken her as far as Hollywood. She retired in 1995, but still makes special appearances. Also coming: Tiffany Carter, another legend, who Mysterion says “has been performing since the 1960s and never retired.” Other performers will include Tanya Cheex, Jo Boobs Weldon, Burgundy Brixx, Coco Lectric, Fionna Flauntit, and Chaos Divine.

The appearances of legendary performers from the ’50s and ’60s alongside new and emerging performers is something that Mysterion is extremely proud of. Events like this, he says, “validate the Toronto burlesque scene.” He believes that Toronto’s burlesque performances “are at least on par, if not better than anything else out there.”

“[Toronto has] a nurturing scene,” he adds, “and is a city with a dance school on every corner, access to great cloth and crystals and costume makers. There are aerialists and circus schools. Toronto has so much that can allow people to become excellent performers.”

According to the Great Canadian Burlesque’s website, “Burlesque is not a synonym for stripping or exotic dancing. Burlesque is performance art that shines a spotlight on striptease that showcases skits, comedy, variety and seduction.” To this effect, Mysterion says part of the purpose of the expo is education, both for the performers and for the audience. The former have the opportunity to see their contemporaries at work. The latter get to see how far burlesque has come as an art form.

In addition to the performances, eight workshops will be offered over the course of the expo, on subjects ranging from costumes, to how to do a “glove peel.” There will even be a session with Tempest Storm on the psychology of burlesque.

Mysterion hopes audiences will come away with a new appreciation for their city’s steamy side. It’s important, he told us, to remember that “Toronto the Good” can also be naughty.

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