As a premiere entertainer in the “New Burlesque Revival” movement Vaudie Va-Boom has been creating a hybrid genre of “punk-cabaret/burlesque” over the past few years that has created quite a stir here on the West Coast. I had the chance to chat with Vaudie before her performance at The Skylark in my neighborhood, The Mish SF. Over a couple glasses of ice water we started our chat in The Skylark but when that proved a bit too noisy, quickly moved over to the café next door. I first got to know Vaudie through Pyrate Punx, she was a founding member of the Sin-Valley PP Crue; Eventually relocating to the Bay Area. Vaudie brought a different, unexplored element to the typical punk shows that had been occurring at the warehouse she was living in at the time in Oakland. The Can-Cannibals (the world’s only cannibalistic can-can troupe) rose from the wrong side of the tracks and began their flesh eating frenzy at the first ever Valentine Punk-Rock Cabaret in February of 2008. Vaudie however has been performing cabaret since high school. This lady has done it all; dance, performance, modeling, choreography, teaching, acting, promoting, set design, make-up and hell I’ll let her tell it…”ladies and gentleman, PE readership, here’s VAUDIE VA-BOOM!”
PE- What drew you into doing burlesque and forming the Can-Cannibals? Which do you prefer performing with a troupe or solo?
Vaudie- I’ve always been a bit of a ham, and I really got into performing during high school in Modesto where I took dance and drama classes all four years. My first burlesque performance was actually in a high school production of Guys and Dolls to a song called “Take Back Your Mink.” Of course, we didn’t strip down to pasties, but I did get to strip down to a bustier and bloomers in front of pretty much my whole high school and other pretty large audiences, and hey, it was FUN! After I graduated, I danced the can-can in a community theater production of Beauty and the Beast (I was a can-can dancing napkin) which started my love for that type of dance too. When I moved to the bay area from Modesto, I really wanted to continue performing so I got connected with the people at the Dickens Christmas Fair at the Cow Palace in San Francisco and auditioned for their resident can-can troupe called Le CanCan Bijou and made it in. It is a very “traditional” troupe, and I wanted to do something a little more “alternative” so I decided to start my own troupe. I didn’t start performing solo for a couple more years after the Can-Cannibals were formed. Performing solo vs. with a troupe is just so different, it’s hard to compare.
PE- I’ve seen you perform at The Dickens Fair, really cool and it being a time period (Victorian London) really gives it a raw bawdy feel. Not what most Americans see when catching a burlesque show.
Vaudie- Le CanCan Bijou are a very traditional troupe, they really take it back to the original days of Can-Can performance and are all very good at what they do. I encourage people to come to The Dickens Fair and see us.
PE- What does your mom think about you showing your stuff?
Vaudie- haaahaa, my mother is really supportive of what I do as long as it’s tastefully done, she is my biggest supporter and she has seen me perform quite a few times and I’m not really stripping… what I do is more of an art. The farthest I get down to is pasties.
PE-I think I saw ya get down to electrical tape?
Vaudie- Yeah I do have an act where I have black tape as crosses on each nipple…so I get down to pasties or tape, not full on naked.
PE- Where did you get the name Can-Cannibals? And why incorporate a cannibalistic shtick into your troupe?
Vaudie- The first dancer in the Can-Cannibals other than myself was my friend to the bitter end, Brooke Sommerfeldt (known on stage as Miss Treat), and she was the one who actually came up with the name. My original idea was to have a punk rock can-can troupe, so I knew I wanted the name to incorporate the word can-can and something brutal, blunt or “punk.” We never came up with anything that grabbed us until she thought of the Can-Cannibals, and instantly knew that was it. Our first dance (H.B. Hotel by THE VANDELS) was choreographed before we even had a name and didn’t even have a cannibalistic theme. The schtick kind of came later, and is still only a loose theme to most of our shows. We have a broad spectrum of classic can-can, punk songs, gypsy punk songs, burlesque, and some blood, guts and gore. Sometimes we cannibalize people and sometimes we cannibalize the traditional meaning of can-can and burlesque.
PE- You come from a punk rawk background, how did you come up with blending punk and burlesque?
Vaudie- My older brother Matt was the original drummer of CAPITALIST CASUALTIES and they were my first punk show as a kid and I’ve been involved with putting on d.i.y. punk gigs with Pyrate Punx, so that was where I had the ability to do performance. I’ve always enjoyed acting and being on stage, so combining both of my interests came kind of naturally for me. Oakland has a pretty good circus people community and I just wanted to create something else that nobody was really doing with some friends.
PE- Some of you danced in Mikee Ramen’s video Ill Gotten Gainz- which is pretty cool, how’d that come about and would you be down to do more video stuff?
Vaudie- That was Amyrose (known on stage as Rummy Rose) and my side project called the Dishrag Dollies. We did a couple of duet burlesque acts and the dance that we did in Mykee Ramen’s video was originally choreographed to She Said by THE CRAMPS. He asked us to do the music video and it made it pretty easy when he asked us to do the dance we already had choreographed. just tweaked a few things to go along with the song, went out to the landfill wearing gunny sack dresses and leopard print cave girl outfits and filmed us a music video. It was really fun, and I would totally do it again. I’ve always loved dancing to live music and collaborating with local and like minded bands and performers.
PE- What’s the toughest aspect of choreographing a group of people into your vision? Is creating the Can-Cannibals dance routines a group effort or is one person primarily responsible?
Vaudie- As director, ultimately what I say goes, but it is definitely a group effort. Everyone contributes ideas and choreography and unique movement that can only come from 6 completely different creative women with varying skills and experience. I think the toughest aspect is all agreeing on what looks good or not, and being able to admit you’re not always right and change your original idea for what always ultimately turns out for the better.
PE- Who inspires you in the burlesque genre? Who have you preformed with that just blew you away? Who are you a fan of and would like to perform with in the future?
Vaudie- One of my favorite burlesque performers is a man named Twinkeltoes McGee. The first time I saw him perform was at First Friday Follies for a DAVID BOWIE themed show. He came out wearing a one-armed metallic unitard with a lightning bolt on it and ballet point shoes! You could tell he was a trained dancer as he turned and leaped around the stage, and I loved how he combined his training into the classic bawdiness of bump and grind burlesque. I’ve done a couple shows with him since then, and he is a constant crowd pleaser and very fun performer.
PE- What’s your guilty pleasure as far as burlesque goes, come on you can tell us?
Vaudie- Honestly, I like to see the expressions on people’s faces. Expressiveness and tease is an important part of a good burlesque dancer, so I like to single people out and make faces at them, wink at them, drape a stocking around their neck, etc. and be able to work off their reaction. “Breaking the fourth wall” so to speak.
PE- What are your thoughts and experiences with Suicide Girl?
Vaudie- Thoughts about Suicide Girls, I enjoy most of the photos I’ve seen of the Suicide Girls and think it is a alternative and provocative way to show “out of the ordinary” as still sexy and empowering. I’ve heard they have strict contracts binding the models to strictly Suicide Girl jobs and then not having enough work to pay them as an exclusive model who can’t get modeling work elsewhere, which I am not for.
PE- Have you ever been treated disrespectfully or heckled while performing? How did you handle it?
Vaudie- Yes, it happens occasionally and in the burlesque world, it’s just something you have to get used to. Most of the time I try to ignore it unless I can play off of it (example being someone yelling “take it off” right before I was actually planning on taking it off, so I just say cheekily “okay!” and do). Most shows are very positive, diverse and open minded, and any out of hand behavior is dealt with before it escalates to an “incident.”
PE- How does performing in a punk d.i.y. environment compare to performing in for lack of a better term “real” club? Which do you prefer?
Vaudie- The punk crowd is always way more rowdy than a real club, and are equally if not more respectful to the performer. I love performing at punk shows because it’s something new happening in the punk scene and people are that much more interested and eager to see more, as opposed to a burlesque or cabaret crowd who’s seen it all before. Since I grew up in the punk/diy community, I relished the idea of combining my love of dance and performing with my roots in the “underground.” I do have a biased pull for punk shows, but shows in real clubs with a larger, wider audience gives a different and equally pleasing rush.
PE- What advice would you give somebody interested in dance performance/burlesque but not having the knowhow of where to start?
Vaudie- Go to lots of shows, watch lots of videos, and really STUDY the art that you want to perform. My only gripe in the burlesque scene is that people rush the practice, preparation, and execution of their act because they want to hit the stage, but don’t take the TIME to perfect their art. I urge you to take some sort of ballet, jazz, or other technique based dance class before pursuing any strictly burlesque school, and put your unique twist into anything you do. For those around the Bay Area, I offer private and group dance classes and performance workshops, and there are many other dance, theater, and burlesque schools and classes available to broaden your skills and develop a personal style.
PE- How can folks reading this get ahold of you?
Vaudie- You can “like” Vaudie Va-Boom on Facebook and I check and respond to Wall Posts often.
or you can e-mail me at cancannibalstroupe (AT) gmail (DOT) com
PE- What are your plans for the future?
Vaudie- I’m focusing more on producing cabaret shows, and plan to open a production company and venue in Oakland early next year! More info will be posted on my Facebook as things progress.
PE- Thanks Vaudie for taking the time to do this little interview.
Vaudie- Thank you!
“When you do the ordinary things in life in an unordinary way, you demand the attention of the world.”- Vaudie Va-Boom