Dec 2020 - May 2021
“In seduction there is a push and pull, truth is movable.”
— Dainty Smith
PUSH.PULL is a six-month online series of interdisciplinary events examining emergent and intersectional developments in performance art and QTBIPOC cabaret. Curated by storyteller, producer, and stage performer Dainty Smith and multidisciplinary artist Golboo Amani.
The series questions what is considered legitimate art and what is seen as entertainment, by highlighting QTBIPOC cabaret performers as artists at the intersections of live stage performance and radical political performativity. Programmed events take place online from Dec 2020 to May 2021.
PUSH.PULL includes three online showcases featuring performers from across North America. Each showcase offers a diverse range of contemporary practices reflecting the theatrical, political and emotional range and depth of cabaret performance.
All showcases are free, but require pre-registration. Tickets for Bare will be available starting January 1. In the meantime, you can sign up for a reminder here:
Pull also includes a series of talks and workshops. Visit Aluna Theatre’s website for more information.
banner photography + design by Sly Pereira
[The January 15 event is postponed, check back soon]
BARE: A showcase of sensual exploration that reimagines and extorts the expectations of our own desires. Performances offering consensual and deliberate confrontations, challenging the idea of the submissive and passive nude.
When skin is presented, when nudity is shown, who is vulnerable?
Who is powerless?
”I wasn’t really naked. I simply didn’t have any clothes on.”
— Josephine Baker
Intermission performance by LAL
Lara Ebata is a seasoned interdisciplinary performer, with a career spanning over 20 years. A graduate of the York University Dance program, Lara’s interests lie in fusing circus with dance, resulting in theatrical pieces that transcend traditional circus. Lara has been a principle cast member of Circus Orange and Femmes du Feu, and has made appearances with Anandam Dancetheatre, Company Blonde, Flying Solo-Dirty Circus, Lookup Theatre, and Punctuate! Theatre. As a burlesque artist, Suki Tsunami made her debut with Les Coquettes Cabaret Burlesque in 2011. She has been a guest artist of Boylesque TO and Skin Tight Outta Sight, and appeared at the Toronto Burlesque Festival. Suki is currently a member of Les Femmes Fatales: Women of Colour Burlesque Troupe.
photo by Chris Hutcheson
Robin Akimbo is a multi-disciplinary artist and advocate based in Toronto. She has been a part of several exciting performances, short films and video projects, most recently as a founding member of the site-specific movement performance collective featuring two spirit indigenous and queer artists of colour: The Switch Project. Robin earned her Bachelor of Arts in Humanities from the New College of California for Social Change in San Francisco, with a minor in Experimental Performance.
Kimora Koi is here to slay, and here to stay. With cheekbones so sharp they could kill you, Kimora isn’t just turning heads – she’s breaking necks. You might be familiar with the Koi dynasty (the infamous Baby Boi Koi just to name drop one), they’ve been entertaining audiences all over for the past 7 years. This mixed-race queer babe is also a member of Toronto’s own Les Femmes Fatales: Women of Colour Burlesque Troupe. Kimora is an entity of richness – not just in extravagance, but in art, beauty, sexuality and strength.
The Enchantress of the East and the Scarlet Siren of Siam, Crocodile Lightning is a high-voltage temptress whose face tells a tale and whose gaze electrifies you. With a blast of humour, a splash of sensuality, and a flash of naughtiness, she is here to captivate you with her dazzling performance. Crocodile Lightning has twirled her signature ribbons and performed across the USA and in New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, and Canada. An OG (Original Goddess) of the House of Knyle, Crocodile Lightning has strengthened her grip on the throbbing passion at the root of burlesque. She is ready to make you explode with maximum pleasure with her performance. She sure puts the Bang in Bangkok!
The one and holy Gay Jesus is a drag king serving up a mouth-watering communion of Latinx wine and non-binary bread. Born of virgin-ish loins and baptized in sex-appeal, his sermons consist of multidisciplinary protest pieces decked out in draglesque. Dubbed one of the Ten Canadian Drag Performers to be Following by OutTV in 2018, Gay Jesus is featured on Season 1 of the CBC Arts’ docu-series Canada’s a Drag and, in 2019, was announced as a nominee for LGBTQ Person of the Year by the Inspire Awards. When selected as the 2019 Producer’s Choice Feature at the FIERCE! Queer Performing Arts Festival, Gay Jesus debuted his first drag film entitled Préstamo. One of his most recent video creations, All of the Above, debuted on CBC Gem as a part of the CBC Arts & Buddies in Bad Times virtual cabaret, Queer Pride Inside. He’s bushy. He’s bearded. He’s blasphemously #blessed.
A former gymnast, Ivory boasts a storied history of dance and movement training. A Graduate of Toronto’s prestigious Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts, Ivory studied Tap, Jazz and Ballet. An avid yogi, Ivory’s love for movement carries her through all performing disciplines. A brief foray into Burlesque in 2005-2006 petered out when Ivory’s burlesque troupe disbanded – but 2016 has seen her triumphant return to the Burlesque Stage. Ivory combines both classic and contemporary burlesque into her repertoire, with her notoriously sultry “sing and strip” numbers being her signature.
The dynamic duo of poet, singer and Bengali-rooted tough-guy Rosina Kazi and her life partner, producer, sound designer, philosopher and Barbados-born, Nicholas Murray. LAL always proved hard to describe. Their musical experience is wide with Murr having been a member of the hip hop collective, da Grass Roots and sound designer for theatre and film. Rosina singing on techno to hip hop tracks, both committing to bridging the gap between art and justice. They’re a music making magical mushroom, the visible flowering part of a much larger organism, connected with very fine but infinitely resilient roots. Their new album METEORS COULD COME DOWN, was written when their tour got cancelled in the US during the beginning of COVID-19, so what else could they do but make music? Yet, because they had been building a different world with BIPOC and friends for over 20 years, they just went into music and community support mode. Like they have always done…
Friday, March 26th
TAUNT: A show that celebrates the power of seduction; of intentional sexuality.
A thread of rage runs through burlesque. Burlesque is unapologetically rebellious, it is where the feminine, self-love, sexual agency, and manipulation are performed without shame or explanation.
It is a place and space where we can all misbehave together and where we are taunted by sexuality wielded like a weapon.
”Seduction is the power to captivate the audience BEFORE any clothes come off”
— Dainty Smith
With intermission by Anasimone
Toronto-based performer Betsy Swoon certainly lives up to her name. Known for her allure she has been called “the love goddess that leaves them wanting more.” Betsy is where elegance, grace, and raw sensuality unite. Truly a performer like no other, her gorgeous gaze and luscious curves have not only captured audiences digitally through her Onlyfans page as well as venues all over Toronto; She has dazzled such celebrities as Michael b, Jordan, Rza, and Jamie Fox. She’s a member of Les femmes fatales: women of colour burlesque troupe. You’ll hate to see her go but love to watch her leave, The golden beauty with the booty!
Dolly Berlin is Toronto’s own “High Femme, Low Brow,” Indigiqueer bump n grind beauty. Having delighted audiences for over a decade with her blend of raw sensuality, humour, and retro styled charm, Dolly is a familiar figure in the local cabaret circuit. She favours the creation of erotic themed performance for intimate venues, but has also appeared at large scale events such as Toronto Pride, Fierce: Queer Performing Arts Festival, and the New York Burlesque Festival, among others. Pre-pandemic, her focus had been curating the popular weekly revue Sinful Sundays at Cherry Cola’s.
photo by Haley Hrushka
Johleen is the Southern belle with secrets to tell, so you better stay on her good side! She made her burlesque debut in November 2018 and has performed everywhere from Cherry Cola’s to the Great Hall to the brown/Out stage at Pride 2019. Sometimes glamorous and glitzy, other times dark and sultry, Johleen uses her brown body to radically take up space and subverts all your expectations on what a burlesque performer ought to be.
Silver screen star, scream queen, and fever dream: Lucinda Miu is a drag queen, burlesque performer, and costume designer bewitched by horror movies, theatrical magic, and all things vintage. A first generation Canadian performer, Lucinda inherited her poise from her Peruvian mama and her fire from her El Salvadoran father. Her performances combine her love of clever costuming with effective storytelling to dazzle audiences all across the city. Outside of drag and costuming, Lucinda is also passionate about theatre and acting and infuses narrative structures into her performances. You can catch her as Minnie on the CBC Gem original series, Queens, and as Gladys Claus in the upcoming Lifetime holiday movie, The Christmas Set-Up. Her costume work has appeared in the first season of Canada’s Drag Race, Drag Heals, and Private eyes. Most recently, she has been nominated for Now Toronto’s best local drag performer.
James Knott is an emerging, Toronto-based artist, having received a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Integrated Media from OCAD University . Their performance-based practice combines theatre, video, and audio art to create immersive and emotionally resonant experiences for the viewer. Currently their practice looks to house personal narratives and queer experience through poetic retellings, self-mythologizing, and auto-iconographic aestheticism. Explored themes include: paradoxical and queer identity, inner dialogue, mental illness, and camp theatrics.
Anasimone George is a comedian and producer from Toronto, known for her wildly descriptive stories. She is also known for one of Toronto’s fastest growing shows: SHADE. A show that celebrates women, the LGBTQ2S+ community, and performers of colour. She is also the creator of SHADE Fest and various other shows throughout the city. Besides hosting and producing, Anasimone has opened for Aparna Nancherla, Emily Heller, Sam Jay, Sasheer Zamata, and more! When she is not performing comedy you can catch Anasimone on various panels, podcasts, and workshops.
Friday, May 14th
TOPPED: Cautions, titillates and teases. The cabaret is a feminized, glamourous and glittered, a holy and sacred place. Moving and living through expressions of sexuality in its full scope of dominance and assertion, the performer toys and plays with gender, power, laughter, vulnerability, and seduction. In cabaret, we have the audacity to believe that our bodies are important, invaluable, meaningful and worth listening to.
”Everything in the world is about sex, except sex. Sex is about power.”
— Oscar Wilde
Cara De Melo
With intermission by Adrienne Huard
Miranda EJ. Warner is creating visual and performance art exploring themes including race, gender, and sexuality, often through the eyes of a clown. Formally educated at University of Waterloo and Ecole Philippe Gaulier, Miranda has travelled extensively around the world as a designer and creator. Feature performances include (but are not limited to) Edinburgh Fringe, FIERCE Queerlesque Festival, Edmonton Burlesque Festival, TOO QUEER: A Bi-Visibility Cabaret (Rhubarb Festival), Summerworks Festival, Toronto Festival of Clowns, Montreal Festival of Clowns, and more. Since the onset of the current global pandemic, Miranda has focused their artistic efforts on curating and hosting digital clown shows with #ClownsKillsEmpires, who are an international collective of femme and non-binary clowns dedicated to queering the practice of clowning to build community and liberate minds. Check them out on Zoom the first Monday of every month!
Babia Majora is a trans non-binary artist and advocate who seeks to dismantle gender on stage and in everyday life. Their work as a peer counsellor, advocate, and public educator in sexual and gender-based violence centres anti-oppression, decolonization, and the disruption of cis heteropatriarchy. Their lived experiences inform their work as they seek to build community healing from trauma. You can also see them performing on stages (even digital ones) across North America, sauntering all the way along the gender spectrum. They are also a proud member of a member of Canada’s first BIPOC centred burlesque troupe, Les Femmes Fatales: Women of Colour Burlesque Troupe, and drag haus Rebel Gen.
CARA DE MELO
Cara De Melo is an interdimensional burlesque performer borne to the royal reptilian gods. The Lizard Queen enraptures and bewitches her audience with honey-coated striptease, a soul snatching gaze, and unpredictable storytelling through costuming and movement.
photo by Sarah Thompson
Tanya Cheex aka The Satanic Stripper, staged her first “strip show” at the age of eight in her neighbours’ backyard and hasn’t put her clothes back on since! Tanya is instrumental in spear-heading the Burlesque Revival in North America in 1998. She is the founder and artistic director of Toronto troupe Skin Tight Outta Sight. Tanya is also the first inductee into The Canadian Burlesque Hall of Fame. Tanya considers herself a theatrical provocateur and uses burlesque as a medium to challenge perceptions of beauty and desirability.
photo by David Hawe
Electrifying, sexy and powerful, Cat “ButtaKream” Zaddy knows how to command a stage. This Toronto born and raised performer has starred in shows across the city for pole, burlesque and heels dance and was accepted to perform at renowned burlesque festivals in Spain and England in 2020. Cat is known for her infectious energy that captivates audiences through her raw sensuality and signature flirtatious style. She’ll have you on your feet and leave you wanting more, and by the end of it all she’ll have you calling her Zaddy.
Mikiki is a performance and video artist and queer community health activist of Acadian/Mi’kmaq and Irish descent from Newfoundland, Canada. They attended NSCAD and Concordia before returning to St. John’s to work as Programming Coordinator at Eastern Edge Gallery. They later moved to Calgary to work as the Director of TRUCK Gallery. Their work has been presented throughout Canada and internationally in self-produced interventions, artist-run centres and public galleries.
Their identity as an artist is informed and intrinsically linked to their history as a sexual health educator, harm reduction worker and activist. Mikiki’s creative themes often address safety and responsibility, disclosure and self-determination, community building and reckoning with trauma and loss. Mikiki has worked as a Sexuality Educator in Calgary’s public schools, a Bathhouse Attendant in Saskatoon, Drag Queen Karaoke Hostess in St. John’s. Mikiki has worked in various capacities in the Gay Men’s Health and HIV response in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto, and recently in Harm Reduction Outreach and HIV testing.
Tygr Willy is BoylesqueTO’s newest Boylesque member, as well as a drag artist part of HausBoat and a Drag-rent of Tygr Haus. They’ve recently performed for the FSU Stage as part of PrideTO’s Stay Home Saturdays and is a frequent performer and producer around the city.
photo by Quinton Cruickshanks
Adrienne Huard is a Two-Spirit/Indigiqueer Anishinaabekwe registered at Couchiching First Nation, in Fort Frances, Ontario, and born and raised in Winnipeg. She is a hard femme, a pole dancer and snapping turtle clan. After graduating in 2012 from the University of Manitoba with a bachelor of fine arts majoring in photography, she pursued a bachelor of fine arts in art history at Concordia University in Tiohtià:ke/Montreal. Huard graduated from Concordia in April 2018 and went on to complete OCAD University’s graduate-level program in criticism and curatorial practice in Tkaronto/Toronto. In September 2020, she began the PhD-level program in Indigenous studies at University of Manitoba. She now joins the team at national arts publication, Canadian Art magazine as an Editor-at-Large.