Holly Von Sinn prepares a story-driven performance for festival
With the renaissance in modern burlesque close to a decade ago, Edmonton’s burlesque community has been flourishing each year since. This is due to many different factors, but one that stands out is Edmonton’s annual Burlesque Festival.
Initially starting five years ago after a conversation between a few of Edmonton’s vaudeville leaders, the Burlesque Festival continues to mark Edmonton on the entertainment map of the world.
One of those leaders was Holly Von Sinn, a performer who helped usher in the modern era of solo burlesque shows in Edmonton.
“Both locally and globally, burlesque has grown by leaps and bounds,” Von Sinn says. “Even though Edmonton is geographically isolated, we have a big community here. Performers do their own thing, but kind of cross-pollinate on each others projects.”
Alberta’s burlesque community had a huge win two years ago when the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) changed its definition of nude entertainment to allow burlesque dancers to expose breasts while performing. But, this didn’t happen overnight; the battle to update the restrictions lasted almost six years.
“For awhile, in Alberta, you had to wear a mesh bra. Pasties didn’t cut it. You had to have the sides, bottom and nipples of the breasts covered while doing burlesque,” Von Sinn says. “It was only for women and was super repressive and sex negative.”
It was thanks to Calgary’s Arielle Rombough—who performs as Raven Virginia—and her decision to present the AGLC law to the Alberta Human Rights Commission, citing it as a form of discrimination against women as well as a censorship of art.
After a long litigation, the Human Rights Commission ruled that Rombough was correct and the AGLC updated the law, allowing female performers to be topless.
“We technically don’t have to wear pasties now, but we do because of the aesthetic of the art form we are following,” Von Sinn explains. “Before, if I was wearing pasties and tassel-twirling and one of those bad boys flew off, I was breaking the law.”
Much of modern burlesque is narrative-based and for Von Sinn’s performance, this is an absolute must. She has a background in clowning and relies on a story-driven show.
“Burlesque is story for me,” she says. “Some people use a classical burlesque style and rely on the costumes, movement beauty and the sensuality of the strip. They’re saying ‘Hey, my story is that I’m really feeling myself and I’m going to try to seduce you,’ which is narrative in itself. ”
Along with a plethora of other performers—such as Dirty Martini, Tifa Tittlywinks, Judith Stein, Ernie Von Schmaltz—Von Sinn will be performing at this year’s Burlesque Festival under two different character names.
One is Howard Van Zandt, a gender queer hobo, and the other is Holly Von Sinn, a showgirl clown. Von Sinn has realized that her characters trickle into her real life, especially with her showgirl clown.
“I think Holly Von Sinn is more of a persona than a character,” she explains. “She is an exaggeration of who I am as a human being. I have exes who have kept me in their phone as Holly Von Sinn and my parents call me Holly Von Sinn.”
The Burlesque Festival may be few months away, but it is presenting its ‘3 Ring Cabaret’ on May 6, which promises to be a taste of what this year’s Burlesque Festival will be.
“It’s going to be a vintage circus theme, so it’s something to not be missed,” Von Sinn says. “Burlesque is in its own little world. It’s like no other theatre.”
Thur., Aug. 31 to Sat., Sept. 2
Edmonton Burlesque Festival