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Spectre Burlesque: An Intersectional Collective

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Spectre Burlesque are bringing their debut show, Spectrum, to Yellow Arch Studios on Thursday 29 November. We had a natter with the collective's Creative Directors, Ivvy and Holly, to find out more about Spectre and what we've got to look toward to at their first show.

Who is involved in Spectre Burlesque and what prompted you to start the collective?

Ivvy: Spectre Burlesque is made up of myself (Poison) and my partner in crime, Lola Haze. We also have two core in-house performers, Petit Mort and Bambi. Lola and I were inspired to create Spectre Burlesque when we saw a gap in the market. We longed to turn our passion for burlesque into something professional, to create a safe space for performers where our creativity would unite us in a society that often tries to separate us based on our differences. We wanted to support local artists, musicians and performers from all walks of life, whilst creating a magnetic environment that people can't help but be intrigued by.

Holly: If you compare Sheffield to somewhere like London or even Manchester, its burlesque scene is almost non-existent. We want to be seen as part of the queer community that's dedicated to lifting up our fellow queens and queers, as well as local artists. A place where everyone is welcome, especially women and people from the LGBTQIA community.

'Burlesque' originated in the 17th century, why do you think it has enjoyed such longevity as an art-form?

Ivvy: Burlesque, in its origins, was created for entertainment. It was comedic and campy, and generally enjoyed by everyone. As time has passed, and censorship of people's, specifically women's, bodies has become more and more evident, I think people enjoy burlesque because it feels kind of wrong. It's like a 'guilt-free' strip show where you can bring your wife and friends and call it an 'evening'. We really capitalise on the fact that society deems our bodies to be sexual and offensive and places content warnings on female nudity. Modern burlesque is just as much of an expressive art-form as any type of dance, I think that's especially true for Spectre shows.

Holly: I think burlesque has evolved so much as an art-form and that's what has kept it relevant. You still see the more traditional burlesque, very glamorous and cheeky, but it's great that more alt-performers are now taking this and moulding it to their own personal style. I feel like it's more rebellious that way because it's changing people's expectations of the art-form and challenging society's ideas of femininity and sexuality. It's a way in which you can express yourself without boundaries.

Where does Spectre draw inspiration for its performances from?

Ivvy: Each individual performer draws inspiration from different places. Our debut show Spectrum is about identity - it's about presenting ourselves to the world, in all our soft strength. We are heavily inspired by the local music scene, political activism and sex/body positivity.

Where do you think burlesque sits within the current wave of feminism?

Ivvy: I think this depends on how you view modern feminism. There still exists this notion that to be a feminist you must rid yourself of the idea that women are sexual, and doing anything remotely sexual is falling privy to the male gaze. Rather, we align ourselves with more intersectional feminist ideals, we fit well within the modern millennial movement of body positivity and living as your true authentic self. In my opinion there is nothing quite like capitalising on the fact that what I do, how I perform and the body I have, are deemed to be sexual and shameful. I can take this age old notion that I am a sexual object and make a whole room full of people bend to my every whim. We are not objectified when we perform, we have the power, we are in control. It's liberating to be so naked in front of so many people, the world is terrified of powerful women, and burlesque is an army of powerful women here to smash up patriarchal notions of femininity.

Holly: Burlesque is ultimately an intersectional art-form. It's an inclusive space not only for women, but for anyone of any gender, race and sexuality. In a world where our bodies are unfortunately still objectified, where society still tells us to repress our sexuality, we rebel. Our bodies and our sexuality are our power.

What can the crowd expect at your upcoming debut show on 29 November?

Ivvy: Something they've never seen before. We have so many exciting performances lined up. There definitely won't be any high leg kicks or giant champagne glasses. We present a much more alternative representation of burlesque and that will be particularly evident at Spectrum. There's gonna be a lot of laughter as well, our shows are so fun, they're so sensory and engaging. They're addictive too, once you've been to one you patiently wait for the next. Spectrum is a very safe recreational drug and we're gonna take you on one hell of a trip.

Holly: Any assumptions and expectations people have before coming to see Spectrum will be completely blown out the water. Our performances are unlike anything they will have seen before.

You can see Spectrum by Spectre Burlesque Collective on Thursday 29 November at Yellow Arch Studios. Buy tickets here.

Spectre Burlesque website

by Felicity Jackson (she/her)

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