More than 60 Performers Gather in Cleveland for 9th Ohio Burlesque Festival

Thu 8/1-Sat 8/3

What began back in 2011 as a modest little one-night showcase at the Beachland Ballroom has grown into a monster.

The 9th annual Ohio Burlesque Festival will present more than 60 performers over three days at that venue. And if you think burlesque is just about pretty girls taking off their clothes, think again. The lineup includes acrobats, aerialists, dancers, singers, drag artists and burlesque queens with routines that range from glamorous to hilarious to macabre. They come from across the country: San Diego, Salt Lake City, Denver, Tucson, Minneapolis, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, Nashville, New Orleans, El Paso, Richmond, Panama City, Panama — even Akron.

“We have performers from all over the world that are going. to blow people’s socks off,” says festival founder/head producer Bella Sin, who also founded Cleveland’s longest-running burlesque troupe Ohio Burlesque (formerly Le Femme Mystique) more than 15 years ago. She emphasizes that the festival is also an intentional showcase of diversity: gender, ethnicity, size, color. This year’s Saturday night headliner, for instance, is Lou Lou La Duchesse De Rière (picture above), a member of Canada’s Mohawk Nation.

The festival gets started on Thursday with the Rock ’n’ Roll Opener, with 18 performers currently scheduled. Chicago’s Shimmy La Roux headlines with local drag star Samantha Echo as the special feature. This evening, says Sin, “sets the level for the rest of the weekend. I really cannot wait to see Shimmy La Roux hit the Cleveland stage again.”

Friday’s All Stars show “is going to be absolutely bananas,” says Sin, with 27 performers booked. Ryan Clapton-Zymbler hosts the evening with headliners Hanky Panky, a returning favorite from Kansas City, and Bella Sin herself, along with special feature — belly dancer/drag performer/burlesque artist Ophelia Zayna Hart.

Maestro Maestra

The Saturday Night Gala is a diverse evening starring the above-mentioned Lou Lou La Duchesse De Rière along with Chicago’s Vivi Valens; Syracuse-based ballet dancer Maestro Maestra, another returning performer, is the special feature; Ryan Clapton-Zymbler again emcees. Sin points out that the costumes alone are worth the price of admission, with many performers sporting elaborate, multi-layered ensembles bedecked with sequins, rhinestones and feathers, and accompanied by extensive accessories.

There are additional events to make this festival even more, well, festive. The Friday night After Party features Black Mass with an “off the clock” and new wave party.  And over in the Space: ROCK Gallery next door to the Beachland, photographer Bob Perkoski and writer Erin O’Brien will be selling and signing copies of their new book Rustbelt Burlesque, with a display of photos in the gallery by Perkoski, open from 6-8pm each evening of the festival, prior to curtain time. Read about that here.

In addition, the festival’s vendor/sponsors, including Fear’s Confections, In the 216, Yates Perfumes, Graffiti Heart, Mac’s Backs, Elektra Cosmetics, Glamoured Edge Beauty, All AXL, Black Mass, Black Girl Cle, La Plaza, the AIDS Taskforce, Destination Cleveland, Ushabu, Jakprints and Melt, will give festival goers something to check out during intermission, either selling their wares or providing information about what they offer. Be sure to save some money for Fear’s outstanding many-flavored brownies.

For ticket information, go here.

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