To Jody Gallant, her burlesque troupe is a place of acceptance, inclusivity and empowerment.
Known by the stage name Anita B. Naughty, Gallant has been a burlesque dancer for the last five years.
It was love at first sight: “I saw a show and fell in love — it was the costumes, the glitter, the rhinestones, the art aspect of it,” says Gallant, who performs with the Foxxie Follies in Quesnel.
At that point, she didn’t think she could do it, but she wanted to try. Gallant started out as a kitten, someone who dresses up and plays a part in the show, but all they do is pick up the clothes after a routine and make sure the stage is clear for the next number. While they pick up the clothing, they act cute and play with the audience. It’s like putting a toe in the water to test the temperature before diving in.
People can also take the Sass Class taught by troupe leader Sasparilla Foxx, where students learn an entire routine and are then given the opportunity to perform it — if they want.
Gallant says they start small in the class, learning a number where they might take off their gloves, for example.
While some troupes are stricter about who they accept or the kinds of performances they do, the Foxxie Follies do a little bit of everything.
“It’s so crazy because we accept everybody,” says Gallant. “It’s kind of one of those things: you don’t have to be a certain size, you don’t have to look a certain way in order to do burlesque. Your burlesque is your burlesque and that’s what we love to see.”
After giving birth to twins, Gallant says over the last few years she has grown as an artist to be even more comfortable in her body. She says she has never been a small person, and she had to figure out a way to return to burlesque and still love herself.
But in burlesque, it’s not size that matters to the audience, it’s confidence, and Gallant has that in droves. “You could be a size zero, but if you don’t have that confidence on the stage, people don’t respond to it as well. You can be any size. You can be thin, you can be thick, you can be in the middle, you can be a guy, you can be hairy, you can be non-binary, you can be trans — it doesn’t matter with burlesque. Like, we love everybody.”
Gallant says the moment she walks on stage, she’s in charge. “I own that stage for those four minutes or whatever it is up there, it’s me. That is my time. And you don’t think about ‘oh my [butt] is jiggling, oh my stomach is jiggling or my bat wing’ or whatever. You don’t think about that. You’re in the moment and you have such a great time and the audience is loving you. It’s like a high. It’s amazing.”
She adds: “it is one of the best things that I have done for myself, for my self-confidence. And I totally recommend it.”
The burlesque performed by the Foxxie Follies is a mix of everything, including cabaret and vaudeville styles. The performers tell stories, put on skits, sing, or just put on the slow, sexy striptease burlesque dancers are known for.
Although burlesque dancers are known for their striptease, Gallant clarifies that they never go fully naked — they’re always wearing at least nipple pasties and some kind of underwear.
“Our shows are like nothing people have ever seen before — even if they have seen burlesque before,” says Gallant.
Sasparilla Foxx, the leader of the Foxxie Follies and a Quesnel native, worked as a professional ballerina for a year before leaving her life behind after refusing to lose more weight for a company named Balletmet in Columbus, Ohio. The weight she was at already was bordering on uncomfortable and to go further would have crossed a line. Besides, as she observed, she likes beer and chocolate a little too much for that to happen.
After spending some time at sea dancing on a cruise ship and being a starving artist in Vancouver, Foxx returned to Quesnel to work at Gold Pan City Dance. Bored, she, decided to throw a party with dance and music. As she was organizing the event and setting up a routine with some other dancers, she unintentionally began incorporating burlesque elements into her choreography.
“It was a very slow-burn cabaret-feel and I was like ‘what if we were wearing gloves and we took them off?’ at the first rehearsal. Then at the second, I was like ‘what if we just dropped our skirts and it was legs for days?’ and before I knew it without really knowing anything about burlesque, I was choreographing a mini striptease routine,” Foxx cheerfully explained. “Then I found out (burlesque) was actually a whole world and I started to do my research and I said ‘Holy Moly this is fabulous! Let’s do this!’ The show was a hit and the rest is history.”
The Foxxie Follies have their monthly performance at the Occidental this Friday, Feb. 15, called ValenTEASE. It’s a show loosely based on love, something the troupe considers a burlesque variety show for the variety of acts in it.
Foxx and Gallant are also organizing the fourth annual Itty Bitty Burlesque Festival in Quesnel. The festival will take place from April 25 to 27 and will see headliners from Los Angeles, Edmonton, and Vancouver. Applications for other burlesque troupes to perform in the festival will be open until the end of February.