The Toronto Burlesque Festival: bringing sexy back to the city, one striptease at a time
By Brianne Hogan
Kristina Nekyia will be providing lessons at the festival's Burlesque University
On Valentine’s Day in 2002, Sauci Calla Horra was sewing roses onto her lingerie in preparation for her first burlesque show. She was helping out her friend Tanyacheex, the founder of Skin Tight Outta Sight, one of Toronto’s first burlesque troupes. What was supposed to be a one-night-only engagement turned into a full-blown love affair with burlesque for Calla Horra. Five years later, she would start Toronto’s first Burlesque Festival.
We chatted with Calla Horra about the origins of the festival and what you can expect from the city’s most titillating theatrical event.
It’s all about community
While attending the New York Burlesque Festival in 2003, Calla Horra was inspired by the sense of community she witnessed amongst the performers.
“I was like, ‘I want to do something like that in Toronto,’” Calla Horra recalls. “It was at the time when people weren’t doing a lot of burlesque in Toronto. It was such a smaller scene back then, you could count the number of people on your hand. But in New York, there was a community of artists who started doing their festival and when they started it, they drew all sorts of people from across North America. It was a dream of mine [to have the same thing]. I wanted to create the same sense of community there, in my city.”
Four years later, her dreams became a reality.
“Part of my goal is to not only bring international talent to Toronto, but also to show the amazing people from out of town and surrounding areas how talented Toronto is.”
Burlesque is more than just stripping
“Burlesque is many things,” says Calla Horra. “The Italian root word of it, burlesco, means to make fun and poke fun. There are many different styles of it. There are people who sing in sexy costumes who don’t take much of their clothing off. But then there are those who are more circumvented and are related to performance art. Then there are those who are pretty and opulent. There are a lot of different interpretations of it because it has such a long history. People were doing burlesque back in the 1500s. Stripping is focused on the monetary aspect, a sexual experience for money. Burlesque is more of a theatrical experience.”
An amazing stage name matters
Calla Horra says that the best stage name “should be something that shows off your personality,” but she thinks there are enough girls who have the name Honey, Kitty and Coco. Calla Horra also advises doing a Google search to make sure no one else has the same name.
“I think it should be something that speaks to who you are.”
As for her own stage name, Calla Horra recalls, “I was looking up different names in Spanish, and I saw this name, ‘Calla Horra,’ and I thought it sounded like calling a whore, and I thought it was funny. ‘Sauci’ came from me liking to cook. The Sauci part I can still see now, because a lot of my act involves food and drink.”
There’s a lot of local and international talent at the show
As for the top acts to see at the festival, Calla Horra says there are too many to choose from, but admits that Roxy D’Lite, who hails from Windsor, Ont., is definitely an act to catch. One of the youngest performers to ever be crowned Miss Exotic World, she was also the first Canadian to win the accolade.
Victoria Romanova, from the Netherlands, is another must-see performer. Originally from Russia, Calla Horra says, her act Quick Change is “really amazing.”
We can all be burlesque dancers
Thanks to the festival’s Burlesque University, wanna-be burlesque dancers can learn to get their gyrating groove on. Non-performers can try “Bringing Sexy Back” with Kristina Nekyia, while more experienced students can try out “The Art of Originality” with the current reigning Queen of Burlesque, Imogen Kelly.
“Burlesque is an art like any other,” says Calla Horra. “It takes hard work, dedication and discipline, as well as originality, love of movement and comfort with your body.”
Toronto Burlesque Festival, July 19 -22.