For the performers of Birthday Suit Burlesque, body positivity comes from getting onstage and doing seductive, funny, or shocking numbers at their monthly themed shows.
The troupe’s upcoming Under the Big Top show on Friday, May 31, will have a circus theme. The troupe will present its themed Housewives and Hussies show on Saturday, June 29.
The troupe is run by Kitty Victorian, a burlesque dancer who started in Washington, D.C., and later brought her talents to the Valley. Along with running Birthday Suit Burlesque, she is also in charge of the Phoenix studio Burlesque University.
Victorian first took an interest in burlesque after seeing renowned performer Dirty Martini.
“She was just so voluptuous and energetic. It was what I wanted to do,” Victorian says.
Victorian began doing burlesque in 2004. In Washington, D.C., she helped to start the DC Gurly Show, a queer burlesque troupe that is still going strong.
She started the Phoenix show and burlesque studio in 2011, shortly after moving to the Valley.
Victorian says Birthday Suit Burlesque is different from the DC troupe because it is less radical and meant for a wider audience.
Through her Phoenix studio, Victorian offers classes in areas such as pinup hairstyles, stripping for lovers, sex positions, costume creation, and burlesque as a cardio workout.
She also has introductory and advanced classes in the burlesque style. All of her dancers at one time started out in her eight-week Burlesque 101 class, where they learned the basics and history of burlesque.
“They need to have that foundation to be able to move it forward and honor the art form,” Victorian says.
Since it started, the troupe has highlighted more classical and modern forms of burlesque. A number of dancers, including Trixter Taley and Inna Cent, have been working with the group since it began.
Victorian says the troupe stands out from others in the Valley because "each performer brings their own personality.”
The dancer choose names that have a special meaning to them.
Kitty Victorian developed her name when she was trying to present a more sophisticated, traditional burlesque persona. She has found that her talents lie more in the comedy realm but has kept the name.
Taley’s name comes from how as a child, she liked to play tricks on others; Cent was drawn to her name because of its play on the word “innocent.”
The dancers started doing burlesque for different reasons.
Taley had taken a pole-dancing class and was looking for other ways to work out. After going through the Burlesque 101 class in 2011, she grew to love the style of dance.
“I was nervous at first because my body confidence was low and because of the new dance moves. It has gotten easier and easier. … It has been very empowering. I don't know where my confidence would be without burlesque,” Taley says.
Taley has taken other Burlesque University classes, such as chair routines, to help build her skills.
“It helped with body confidence, learning floor and chair work. I thought I was too heavy to do it. I already loved myself,” she says.
After a burlesque performer from California felt her up, patted her down, and told her she would be perfect for burlesque, Cent decided to take a class. Her only experience as a dancer was through preschool dance lessons and recreational swing dancing.
“I had always admired burlesque. I don’t know why, but it just resonated,” says Cent, who took her first class in 2012. “It teaches you the history behind burlesque, all of the emotions behind it. It is so much more than costuming and picking routines.”
Over the years, Birthday Suit Burlesque has developed a devoted group of followers. Many fans attend shows regularly or almost every month.
Victorian says the group’s audiences are made of people of different ages and a strong contingent of women.
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The troupe offers general admission, reserved individual or group seating, or VIP packages to the monthly shows.
With reserved tables and birthday VIP packages, attendees receive special perks such as raffle tickets, party favors, and seating near the stage. The VIP packages also come with birthday shots and cupcakes.
Birthday Suit Burlesque’s Under the Big Top. Doors open 8 p.m. and show at 9 p.m., Friday, May 31, at Rips Ales and Cocktails, 3045 North 16th Street; tickets are $9 presale general admission, $10 for general admission at the door, $13 for individual reserved seat, $50 for a reserved table for four, and $60 for a VIP table for four via birthdaysuitburlesque.com.
Birthday Suit Burlesque’s Housewives and Hussies. Doors open 8 p.m. and show at 9 p.m., Saturday, June 29, at Rips Ales and Cocktails, 3045 North 16th Street; tickets are $9 presale general admission, $10 general admission at the door, $13 for individual reserved seat, $50 for a reserved table for four, and $60 for a VIP table for four via birthdaysuitburlesque.com.