Burlesque group Virago Nation shares joyful connection to sexuality

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Members of the Virago Nation burlesque troupe pose for a group photo. Photo submitted by Nicky Nine Doors

Marking their first in-person performance since the pandemic shutdown, Virago Nation brings their brand of joy and acceptance to the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh territories.

The all-Aboriginal burlesque group is perform Saturday at the Vizzy Forest Lounge as part of the Vancouver Pride celebrations.

Shane Sable, a Two-Spirit artist from the Gitxsan Nation, said the evening will be filled with flair, drama, drag and resistance. It will also challenge colonial ideas about gender and sexuality.

“Sex can be joyful, and it can be a celebration, and it doesn’t always have to be shrouded and weighed down in guilt, shame, propriety, or measures of purity,” said Sable, organizing member. by Virago Nation.

“People can expect a wide range of badass indigenous sexuality and empowerment.”

Embracing being Indigenous and/or queer in sexualized performance art like burlesque is a radical act that confronts colonization, Sable said.

“That in itself is political, making a statement and pushing against some people who would really rather we didn’t – and a society that would really rather we didn’t.”

A woman poses in a fur jacket on a beach, wearing
Shane Sable poses for a photo on a ‘Vancouver’ beach. Photo submitted by Kate Whyte Photography

Healthy connection to sexuality

As an art form, burlesque celebrates the sexuality of adult performers of all ages and sizes. Shows frequently include provocative dances to arouse the audience, and performers often strip down to near-naked onstage.

Ruthe Ordare, who is from the Mohawk Nation and a founding member of the Virago Nation, said for her troupe, it’s also an act of resistance that challenges harmful stereotypes about Indigenous women and Two-Spirit people.

“We’ve lost our healthy connection to sexuality and our ability to embrace it in a positive way,” Ordare said.

“For the safety of our community, we must eliminate shame, the virgin-whore dichotomy, objectification and violence. All these things come from colonization.

Pushing back on these ideas contributes to the safety and well-being of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, Ordare explained.

“You can expect a nice cross section of politics, drama, sexuality, empowering art, and see a whole range of positive portrayals of intersectionality in a celebratory way,” Ordare said.

Reconnecting to Indigenous understandings of gender and sexuality includes welcoming and accepting Two-Spirit and queer people into communities and embracing the gender expressions of 2SLGBTQIA+ people, Sable added.

“Finding that love and acceptance in the Indigenous community, in a decolonial way of seeing Indigenous bodies, sexualities and genders, has just been a relief. »

Sable adds that when you decolonize your mindset about sexuality, you can reclaim your identity, self-expression, and relationship to your body. For Sable, understanding her gender and sexuality from an Indigenous perspective has helped her let go of harmful beliefs about herself.

“Having this decolonial focus…in some ways has allowed me to breathe a lot easier because it has allowed this issue to no longer be a critical issue in my life,” Sable said.

“It is important for everyone to decolonize their attitudes towards sexuality because colonization fundamentally harms everyone.”

Back on stage

Sable and Ordare said the group was excited to return to live performance.

A few band members recorded performances for Vancouver Pride in 2020 when the festival went digital due to pandemic gathering restrictions, but it wasn’t the same as playing to the energy of a live audience.

“It’s a really exciting and celebratory way for us as a group to be together and to be with the audience again, and to collaboratively create this really beautiful magic that happens when you have the exchange between a live audience and a live performance,” Zibeline said.

The show will also include “stage cuzzinz” performances from Virago Nation, Mx Bukuru, Xanax and Abb’Original, to name a few.

“You can expect a lot of love and excitement to be together and create this art form for the public,” Sable said.

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