Arts

Burlesque troupe Virago Nation are on a mission to reclaim Indigenous sexuality

Vancouver's Queer Arts Festival has gone virtual this year...and this is one event you won't want to miss.

Vancouver's Queer Arts Festival has gone virtual this year...and this is one event you won't want to miss

Virago Nation. (Kate Whyte)

As it has with pretty much every cultural event over the past four months, the pandemic has made Vancouver's annual Queer Arts Festival go virtual — the silver lining of which is that we can all experience what it has to offer from wherever we are. From July 16-26, visual art, performance, theatre, music, dance and literary events will be presented across various platforms, all curated around the theme of WickedWicked's specific mission is to reimagine "identity politics, exposing the implications of homonormativity as erasure." 

One major highlight of the festival is sure to be a performance by Virago Nation, a collective of Indigenous artists creating work "through burlesque, theatre, song and spoken word as well as workshops, and community networks rematriating Indigenous sexuality." Featuring performers Shane Sable, Scarlet Delirium, Sparkle Plenty, Monday Blues, Lynx Chase and RainbowGlitz, the virtual event takes place July 17th at 7pm PT.

"You can expect to see amazing array of different styles, pushing the envelope of the art we call burlesque," RainbowGlitz tells CBC Arts. "We are all leaving not only our hearts but our own individual point of view on Indigenous sexuality. Get ready for the heart, power and super talent of this amazing group of Indigenous burlesque artists."

Founded in May 2016, Virago Nation has been on a mission to "reclaim Indigenous sexuality from the toxic effects of colonization" ever since.

"It actually started with Shane Sable wanting to make a community for herself and other Indigenous artists," RainbowGlitz says. "That's why she reached out to Sparkle Plenty, Scarlet Delirium, Manda Stroyer and Ruthe Ordare and invited them to come together to talk, attend more Indigenous events and just be with each other on their journey to explore their Indigenous culture."

"After meeting a few times they decided since they are all burlesque dancers, why not make it a troupe too? From there, they became Virago Nation. Shane posted on Facebook that they were forming a group and look for other Indigenous burlesque dancers, and that's how I joined the group."

RainbowGlitz says that "through humour, seduction, pop culture and politics" the group will show that Indigenous women "will not be confined to the colonial virgin-whore dichotomy but design a new dynamic and multifaceted sexual identity rooted in their own desires." 

RainbowGlitz. (Jon-Christian Ashby)

Like many artists, the past few months have been very up and down for the members of Virago Nation.

"We've just been taking it one day at a time," RainbowGlitz says. "It's been a little hard to be artistic for myself during this time, but a lot of us have been doing online shows and working on costumes while we have the somewhat downtime. But we all have different dreams for this amazing thing we call Virago Nation, and right now we are still letting the wind take us where we want to go."

You'll get to see where it takes them July 17th when Virago Nation show the world the many facets of Indigenous sexual rematriation

CBC Arts understands that this is an incredibly difficult time for artists and arts organizations across this country. We will do our best to provide valuable information, share inspiring stories of communities rising up and make us all feel as (virtually) connected as possible as we get through this together. If there's something you think we should be talking about, let us know by emailing us at cbcarts@cbc.ca. See more of our COVID-related coverage here.

About the Author

Peter Knegt has worked for CBC Arts since 2016, writing the LGBTQ-culture column Queeries (winner of the 2019 Digital Publishing Award for best digital column in Canada) and spearheading the launch and production of series Canada's a Drag and interactive project Superqueeroes, both of which won him 2020 Canadian Screen Awards. Beyond CBC, Knegt is also the filmmaker of numerous short films and the author of the book About Canada: Queer Rights. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter with the same obvious handle: @peterknegt.

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