Heating Up the North with Sex and Satire


Blues music vibrates through the floor, signalling when the dancers are to make their move. A sultry sway of the hips oozes with sex appeal as the women take a seat, teasing their audience with swift kicks in the air.

It’s all part of an audition for one of the sexiest shows to hit the stage in Whitehorse.

Fiona Solon is perched on a chair at the front of the room, while Jessica Thiessen saunters around marking each choreographed step.

Solon and Thiessen are the masterminds behind Varietease – a burlesque variety show to be unveiled this spring.

“It started to incorporate elements of strip tease, but it also incorporated poking fun at the political situations of the day and satirically looking at the place of women in society and the way that sex was evolving as a new cultural stimulus,” Thiessen says of the burlesque style.

“I wanted to grab on to that sort of classical Vaudeville element, but also bring a modern twist to it and poke some fun at sexual norms that exist today.”

While not denying its sexuality, Thiessen and Solon intend to use the show to break down the stigma and misconceptions surrounding the performance style.

“Even if you do have a woman up there partially clad, she could be doing a comical skit about why she thinks it’s funny that she’s naked,” explains Solon. “It doesn’t have to be all sexy. And just because someone’s naked doesn’t mean they’re trying to be sexy.”

A chat with the Yukon Arts Centre’s Patrick Matheson put the idea in motion. Solon says she sat down with the technical director last year and he remarked that young people don’t utilize the venue.

From there, Solon says a burlesque show was born, showcasing a variety of humour and dance that involves both experienced and inexperienced performers in original and commissioned acts.

The project received an Arts Fund grant and Solon and Thiessen say community support is pouring in. On top of that, they’ve netted a stellar production team – Brian Fidler will direct, Anthony Trombetta is set to stage manage and the Northern Lights School of Dance’s Rebecca Reynolds takes care of choreography.

“I feel like I really want to try to make it classy and funny and sexy,” Reynolds says.

“And I think that’s what our greatest struggle will be, as a group, as the creative team,” Solon says, chiming in.

“We’ll have to really think about what is our definition of sexy and what is our definition of that’s too much or that’s too little,” Reynolds adds.

PHOTO: MORGAN WHIBLEY [email protected]

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