Violet Tendencies heads to BHoF’s “Movers, Shakers, and Innovators” showcase.
~ by Jessica Price
The Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender’s kickoff show – aka the “Movers, Shakers, and Innovators” showcase- is one of the most hotly anticipated events of the weekend. Featuring the crème de la crème of the most groundbreaking acts from around the globe, it’s an inspiring peek into future possibilities as much as it is a look at what some of our most intensely creative and forward-thinking artists are putting out there right now. This year, Seattle’s exquisitely bewitching Violet Tendencies will take the stage at BHoF for the very first time.
Most know Violet as one of the earliest members of Stripped Screw Burlesque, the en pointe vixen that functions as the troupe’s administrative backbone. During her tenure Violet’s dedication and drive have helped to fortify the troupe as they’ve grown into their current, most fruitful period (among other productions, Disney After Dark now spans several sold out weekends, multiple cities, and is something of a destination show for those who don’t normally follow burlesque). With Stripped Screw firing on all cylinders and powered equally by the entire troupe’s sisters-in-arms, Violet has found herself in the well-deserved position of being able to push herself more as a soloist. The outside world has been only too happy to have her: Violet was selected for the Vancouver International Burlesque Festival, the Show Me Burlesque Festival in St Louis, and of course, BHoF.
Violet’s path to burlesque has been circuitous but oddly purposeful. As a child she was enrolled in tumbling classes and eventually Violet began a love affair with dance – in particular, ballet. “I didn’t really gravitate towards jazz and tap because I was a super shy kid; I liked the non-flashiness of ballet,” Violet confessed one morning this spring over coffee and mimosas. “I feel like [ballet] is a little more internal, you have to focus so much on your self and the goal always. Your grooming in a professional company is to be a member of the corps, not to be a soloist…and I liked the idea of working together and being your best.”
Being a steadfast member of a collective and pushing herself as a dancer shaped Violet from an early age. By high school she was dancing six days a week, including two or three classes on Saturdays. She studied at the Pacific Northwest Ballet School and briefly apprenticed with the American Repertory Ballet before returning to Seattle and continuing her studies at Cornish. Although Violet’s goal was to be a professional dancer, eventually, she says, her “body gave out on her” and she suffered an injury. “I would have been great in the Margot Fonteyn era,” Violet joked, explaining that in the 40s and 50s, grace and delicacy were de rigueur, whereas a beautiful athleticism is more prevalent in today’s dance world. “I’m a little obsessed with Tory Tiara [Wake The Night, principal in Burlesco DiVino: Wine In Rome],” Violet says with a giggle.
At Cornish Violet felt like she could finally be herself, and among other freeing moments, came out at 21. She moved to Olympia to go to Evergreen, hopped over to the University of Washington, then to Paris to write her dissertation on gender presentation in advertising, with a focus on the differences between the USA and France. Our beautiful and brainy Ms.-Future-Violet-Tendencies earned her degree in French, and back in Seattle found herself in the company of women involved in something called burlesque. Violet made Miss Indigo Blue’s acquaintance at a barbecue, as Violet recalls. Given her performance background, the fearless Violet performed a few times before taking the Academy of Burlesque’s 101 class, back when the school was held in Indigo’s house.
It wasn’t long before Violet was invited to join the troupe that became Stripped Screw. “We had no expectations,” Violet explained. “Nobody was doing the types of shows we wanted to see, so we decided to do it ourselves. At that time it was mostly classic or really funny [shows], which was great- but we wanted to do something a little darker.” Over the years, the troupe evolved and hit their stride, graduating up from their launching pad at the Jewelbox to the historic Columbia City Theater. Just five years later the local burlesque landscape has changed immeasurably, with scads of troupes and a proliferation of “neo” niches as well as the rise of a little thing called nerdlesque. Seattle circa 2014 certainly has it all.
As for BHoF, Violet is unspeakably excited, slightly nervous, but above all, hugely honored. Though she’s attended three times, this will be Violet’s first as a performer. Some of her fondest BHoF memories include being blown away by Anita Cookie’s humming of “The Stripper” (with drum kit!) at the very same “Movers, Shakers, and Innovators” showcase she will now perform in alongside talents like Darlinda Just Darlinda, Bella Blue, and Seattle’s Ernie Von Schmaltz.
Violet refers to her BHoF number as her ‘Raven’ act. “It’s an act I’m really passionate about,” she said, explaining that as much as she loves it, the act doesn’t fit into the general rotation of Stripped Screw shows. “The first time I ever did it, the wrong music was queued,” she laughed. “It was a Tori Amos song from another act”. She was able to capture quality video of the act during the Burlesque Marathon (the invaluable local showcase tasked with capturing professional video for participants), and lo and behold, her epic creation was chosen for BHoF. “I tend to go for the darker stuff, that’s just the aesthetic that I personally enjoy,” Violet confesses.
Back home, we always knew that Violet was one to watch. Now the rest of the world will know it too.