It’s been years since Juneau has had a vibrant burlesque scene, and Rachael Byrd hopes that’s starting to change.
Byrd, who has lived in town for the past 13 years, has seen burlesque take off in other Alaska communities such as Homer. In Juneau, however, she’s seen fewer performances the past few years.
“As far as I know, there’s been more cabaret-style singing in town,” Byrd said, “but in the last eight or nine years I haven’t seen much burlesque-style events, and we don’t have a troupe.”
In an attempt to bring not only burlesque but other performance art to Juneau, Byrd began The Byrdcage Performance Art Promotions earlier this year. Since then, she’s brought a comedian and a ukulele musician to town. Tonight, she’s staging her biggest event yet — The Rebels &Vixens Burlesque and Variety Showcase.
The Gold Town Nickelodeon will open its doors at 9 p.m. tonight for the event, which will feature eight performers. Six of the performers will be from Juneau, including The Mystic Diamond, Scarlet Dragon, Salty L’Amour, Polaris, Tripp Crouse and Ra’Bell, according to the event poster. VIP seating sold out already, but general seating tickets are $15 and are available to people 21 and older both on the Gold Town’s website or at the door. Byrd said 20 percent of proceeds are going to local charities.
While some might look at burlesque shows as merely a sexed-up dance routine, Byrd said, there’s often a comedic element to it. Burlesque usually does involve a striptease, but it’s also meant to be a parody or social commentary. Byrd laughed as she recalled a recent performance she saw where the performer came on the stage dressed as a burrito, wearing a paper bag and tortilla-colored clothing.
“Burlesque is really fun because you take these outrageous props and turn them into this comedy striptease that’s just wild,” Byrd explained, saying that creativity is far more important to a successful performance than any other factor.
Local vocalist Salissa Thole will sing between dances, and there will also be a spoken-word performance. Audience members are encouraged to tip as well, and Byrd said it’s fine to just crumple up dollar bills and toss them on the stage during a performance.
The two headliners, Bobbye Pinup and Bunnicu’La Blanc, hail from Homer and Anchorage, respectively. Rendezvous is providing a no-host bar for the event as well, and Byrd said she often sees the joy of the dancers spread to the audience.
“I am a burlesque dancer and I love it and I can’t get enough of it,” Byrd said. “My goal is to bring a lot more of that style and variety too.”
Though there hasn’t been a great deal of local burlesque as of late, Byrd is optimistic that there’s still an audience in Juneau. The challenge is finding it, and Friday’s show will be an indicator of how popular burlesque can be here.
“I’m just sticking toes in the water and seeing what the response is to it,” Byrd said. “So it’s one show only and, hoping to build on that.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org.