Va Va Boombah
Melbourne is known for its progressive burlesque scene, but its latest addition has arrived solely with the intention to shake things up. ‘Fat burlesque’ show Va Va Boombah is making history as Melbourne’s first burlesque night to feature only plus-sized performers. Self-proclaimed empire builder and co-producer Aimee Nichols speaks about how about her political motivations behind the show, and why “no one shakes it quite like a semi-naked fatty”.
Nichols says that she “was motivated to create a space for plus-sized performers to express themselves in a safe environment. Some may not necessarily get that many performance opportunities and they may not feel all that confident in joining an established show.” All of the performers on the night identify with the political idea of being ‘fat’.
The nature of Va Va Boombah stems from the size-acceptance movement that is said to be spreading across Melbourne. “We’ve already received a lot of love and encouragement across Australia,” explains Nichols. “People have said that what we’re doing is absolutely fantastic”. The show hopes to inspire other plus-sized people who perhaps have always wanted to perform but haven’t had the confidence. “We’re also hoping to pass on the message that you can be a size 18, 20 or 22 and still be sexy,” says Nichols, “and that’s just a really positive message.”
In addition to this positive message, Nichols has ambitions of what Va Va Boombah will inspire. “I’m hoping that by doing this we can open up a conversation about what a performer is and who can be considered sexy,” she says enthusiastically. All of the performers in Va Va Boombah have at times felt prejudiced against for their body size. “Obviously when you're a larger person you notice that there’s idea about who you are based on your body and there’s places that you feel more welcome in than others.”
The show has also received a lot of support through the more established burlesque community in Melbourne, with some performers volunteering their expertise. Muffy Manhattan, founder of Melbourne’s original burlesque troupe, Hi ball Burlesque, has played a big part in developing the show. “She’s taught our performers stage craft and costumes,” Nichols says excitedly, “and she’s been incredibly generous with her time and a huge part of the show from the word go.”
The concept for Va Va Boombah came about via Twitter. “I was at a burlesque show late last year,” Nichols says, “and during the intermission I was tweeting about how great it was and said: I wish there was a plus-sized performance night out there.” Her friend Lisa-Skye Goodes, responded with extreme enthusiasm. “She introduced me to Jackie Wykes and it all kinda came about from there.”
Being an emerging burlesque performer herself, it was natural for Nichols to start the idea of Va Va Boombah in this field, but she has hopes to broaden the show to cabaret and circus performance. Co-producer Goodes is a stand-up comedian and will be MC-ing the night (with a few surprises up her sleeve, we’re told). Despite nearing completion of her PhD, Jackie Wykes has assumed the role of third co-producer and will also be taking part on the night.
Whilst her background is in acting and physical theatre, Nichol’s motivation for being a performer is “making people laugh”. Although she’ll be involved in a few acts on the night, her solo performance pays homage the computer game Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? “By dressing up as Carmen I get to fulfil a childhood dream,” she giggles. Nichols describes own performance style as ‘neo-burlesque’, which she says is “taking burlesque-style conventions and use them to do something which is quite funny.”
While the night aims to attract a fairly general audience who are open to receiving the political message the show delivers, Nichols is adamant that the plus-sized concept is not a gimmick. “We’ve tried to establish from the word go that we’re not trying to be a novelty act. We are a group of plus-sized performers and that might be challenging for some people, I mean you're [probably] not used to seeing a plus-sized girl up on stage getting her kit off.
“We’re not just doing it for other plus-sized people, or people engaged in the burlesque community. We’re making the appeal as broad as possible and I think the range and variety in entertainment reflects this. We’ve got a performer who does ‘50s-style burlesque and fan dancing, a few other neo-burlesque performers and one girl is planning on doing a reverse strip-tease. Her motivation behind this was her love for performing and burlesque, but the one thing that scares her is the idea of being pretty much naked in front of an audience.” The show will also feature an opera singer and go-go dancers.
Nichols is hoping that the show can continue on a semi-regular basis. A lot of the performers are making their debut on the night, and Nichols has already begun to use Va Va Boombah to foster new talent. “I was hoping our performers could use this opportunity to springboard themselves into other opportunities,” she admits. “But that has already started to happen and the show hasn’t happened yet!”
The night promises to be “super entertaining”. Nichols that stresses that the performers are about a lot more than their body size. “If you come along, you’re gonna laugh, you're gonna be entertained, possibly slightly aroused and you may have some ideas that you have challenged and some confirmed. It’s just gonna be a really good night out”.
BY MEGAN HANSON
Va Va Boombah will debut on Friday June 1 at Revolt Melbourne in Kensington for one night only. For show information please visit vavaboombah.com