Some ladies show up in high heels and lipstick; others roll into the dance studio right after having rolled off the couch. There’s no right way to come to class, said Kate Fitzgerald over the phone in late February. Her voice was low and sultry—the result of a cold rather than any concentrated effort to sound as sexy as the business she runs with co-owner Rebecca Reynolds.
“We’re advocates for doing what feels good. Just ignore your life for an hour and practice some self-love,” she said of Velvet Antler Productions, a Whitehorse-based company that offers private, corporate and commercial entertainment (as well as dance classes), often in the form of cabaret and burlesque-style dance.
In 2012, neither Fitzgerald nor Reynolds had been planning to get into production, though both had dance backgrounds (Reynolds in ballet and modern dance and Fitzgerald in jazz and contemporary) and both had been involved with the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Can-Can Line.
That was the year however, that Fitzgerald was working at The Dirty Northern, which needed a New Year’s Eve event. She and Reynolds put together a performance. When it was a success, they decided to start producing their own shows at venues, and at conferences and events for out-of-towners.
“There’s a demand to bring that kind of Yukon-y atmosphere to an event when you come up here,” said Fitzgerald. “The way people do business and run corporations, there is always that little bit extra they want to bring to events here and we were the extra that people wanted.”
The dance classes grew naturally out of the production side of Velvet Antler. In 2015, Fitzgerald and Reynolds started offering classes, which have evolved to include introduction, intermediate and diva-level heels classes, as well as an urban heels class—though Fitzgerald is quick to point out that heels are optional in all classes.
“The (dance classes) were the catalyst to make it a business and start marketing it,” said Fitzgerald.
Classes usually run for eight weeks in spring and fall, and typically have anywhere from eight to 15 students. While the focus is on fun, Fitzgerald said she and Reynolds teach true dance technique, with proper posture and alignment in mind, so everyone is learning safely.
She said most dancers are nervous in the beginning, because they come to class with little to no experience, but they fall in love quickly.
“There are a few diehards that have danced with me for three years. Most had never taken a class until then. Now it’s their life!”
Some do it for fun. Others do it to prep for the Can-Can Line, or to hone their skills after joining the line. Still others take it with an eye toward doing their own solo or group burlesque shows. Last year, Velvet Antler arranged for a show that focused on providing a performance opportunity for the women who had taken classes.
“That really sparked an interest in a lot of people to dance and to get involved in that kind of thing more, purely because it’s fun.”
“No one’s saving the rainforest,” Fitzgerald said, laughing. “But I think people are becoming more aware of the importance of taking care of themselves in a holistic sense. Doing things that make you feel good.”
For more information on class registration and on drop-in punch card passes, visit VelvetAntlerProductions.com