Giving up her pointe shoes for a pair of high heels was a decision New Westminster burlesque dancer Ariel Helvetica had to make to fulfil her career.
Helvetica grew up dancing throughout her life, spending a majority of her dance career focusing on becoming a “serious” dancer by training in traditional dance and ballet.
She performed in 45 different countries on cruise ships and spent a year in France as a can-can dancer before choosing to stop her career as a professional dancer.
After making that decision, however, she said she missed the stage and the feeling of performing, which subsequently lured her into the burlesque scene in 2011.
“I was really drawn to burlesque because of the glamorousness and the glitter and costumes,” Helvetica said.
She said at a young age she found dancing professionally challenging because she was expected to fit a certain type of mould, something not common in the burlesque industry.
“In the burlesque world, I get to choose my own costumes and choose my own concepts. It’s my own art,” Helvetica said.
A member of Sweet Soul Burlesque and an instructor at Vancouver Burlesque Company, Helvetica has now performed on many local and international stages, including at the Vancouver International Burlesque Festival, where she has been performing since 2014 and will perform this year on Friday, April 5 and Saturday, April 6.
Put on every spring since 2006, the Vancouver International Burlesque Festival invites audiences to participate in four days filled with workshops, talks and, of course, burlesque.
The festival’s board president, who goes by her stage name, Sparkle Plenty, said the festival aims to show audiences that burlesque is not limited to one traditional style. The art form is also “satirical, nerdy, dirty and beautiful,” she explained.
“We want to put the best burlesque on the stage,” she said.
In its 14th year, the Vancouver event is Canada’s longest-running burlesque festival and features a mix of local and international talent.
This year’s festival is emphasizing the idea that “every body is a burlesque body,” something that fits into its diversity policy, which ensures the visibility and inclusion of all sizes, genders, races, sexual identities and ages.
The Vancouver International Burlesque Festival runs at the Vancouver Playhouse from Wednesday, April 3 to Saturday, April 6 with tickets available online through www.vibf.ca.