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Salty Lady Burlesque brings something sweet to Denton

Salty Lady Burlesque brings something sweet to Denton

Onyx Fury, a local Denton dancer, performs at Glitterbomb hosted at Andy's Bar.

Salty Lady Burlesque brings something sweet to Denton
February 14
22:34 2018

Taking clothes off is an every-day task, but for burlesque performers, it’s an art and a statement. And now, their presence is about to grow under the producers of Salty Lady Burlesque, a company that produces and performs theatrical burlesque.

The newly emerging company is the brainchild of Lilith Gray, a DFW icon who’s spearheaded shows like Tuesday Tease , Glitterbomb and the Texas Queerlesque Festival. And with Salty Lady, Gray aims to shed light on a niche performance art rarely seen in Denton.

“What we’re trying to do is integrate theatrical dialogues, monologues, stand-up comedy and narrative,” Gray said. “Throughout the history of burlesque, there’s been a lot of this, so it’s not innovative but it is innovative for the area.”

Denton has held a notable history with drag performance, but Gray said this will bring the art of burlesque to more audiences.

“There is a lot of drag in Denton right now,” Gray said. “There are drag shows and Glitterbomb and a lot of stuff happening, but there’s not a lot of burlesque happening.”

For some, the concept of burlesque may only be from movies or TV shows, but Gray said there are more layers to it.

“The word burlesque is ‘to poke fun at’ or ‘to satirize,’ so that’s the root of it,” Gray said. “There is a side of sexuality and a side of eroticism that usually accompanies it. There’s usually a strip tease of some sort, a statement, character or a narrative.”

Gray will be producing shows alongside partner Chloe McDowell, who is the artistic director at Sundown Collaborative Theatre in Denton. McDowell will bring more of the theatrical elements to the production, most notably in their second show next month.

“It sounds like a really interesting challenge, and I’m really excited to explore it,” McDowell said. “We have a show in the Black Box theatre in March, so I’m super excited for that.”

Unlike other shows such as Glitterbomb, Salty Lady is not an entry-level production. Performers must have significant experience for the company’s vision of high-quality, theatrical performance to be featured. 

Onyx Fury, a local Denton dancer, performs at Glitterbomb hosted at Andy’s Bar. Omar Gonzalez

“People use troupes in different and collective ways and really, it’s just me and Chloe producing shows,” Gray said. “We have a ton of performers and what we find is that makes it artistically competitive, so they’ve got to step up their game.”

Gray and McDowell have been in the industry for years now, and if they find a performer they see fit, will cast them for the shows.

Each performer has different preferences, talents and types of audiences.

“At this point we’ve been producing long enough that I know all the performers in the scene, I know where they’re at and what their strengths are,” Gray said. “So I kind of know what I want.”

For Birdie Holly, a 24-year-old burlesque dancer, Salty Lady is a new medium of performance. Holly has spent her whole life in theatre but entered the world of burlesque in July of last year.

“Denton hasn’t, up until now, had a show like this before,” Hollie said. “It’s really nice for people like me to have more space to perform and have a different variety of shows and styles to do.”

Holly has been an up-and-coming star and ever since she started, and said she has found a place where she truly belongs.

“I finally feel like I’ve found my community, my space and my niche of performing, and I’m so grateful for it,” Holly said. “I’ve kind of been wandering around aimlessly trying to find the thing that fit the best — and I feel like I’ve finally found it.”

Not all shows in Denton are exclusive to experienced burlesque performers, however. Anyone interested in burlesque can find plenty of opportunities to learn it.

“There are some schools for burlesque, there are online classes, and coming to Glitterbomb is a great place to see all different levels, body sizes, all different talents,” Gray said. “Coming here is really good for new performers because they can see what resonates with them and what doesn’t.”

For performers and audiences alike, Gray said the community is a welcoming environment sans-judgement or exploitation. 

“We are, as a community, primarily women-directed, and I think that makes a difference in a sense of collaboration and unity,” Gray said. “There’s not an element of seediness or exploitation, and when it does pop its head up, it gets squished real fast within the burlesque community.”

The relationships developed in the inclusive-based community have also been key in creating a tight-knit group of people.

“[It’s the] community that comes with that,” McDowell said. “There’s a sense of camaraderie from witnessing [the shows].”

Amidst a bruising political climate, Gray said audiences can rest easy in knowing they will be in a safe, fun space.  

“It’s kind of a terrible time to be an American, but we have really strong values of [being] explicitly anti-racist, anti-transphobic, anti-sexist, and we don’t tolerate that,” Gray said. “So you know you’re coming into a safer space and can maybe forget about the world for a bit and feel like things aren’t so terrible. There’s boobs and tassels and funny people, so I think it’s important to provide entertainment in harder times.”

Featured Image: Vivienne Vermuth performs her routine at Glitterbomb. She is an experienced DFW burlesque performer. Omar Gonzalez

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Amy Roh

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