Montreal dancer Kamee Abrahamian went from dancing with Russian Bolshoi ballerinas in Cairo to headlining one of the trashiest dives in Montreal, just to kickstart her lifelong dream to be a burlesque performer.
“My first ever burlesque show I did was at Barfly in Montreal,” Abrahamian recalls. “That night I literally changed in a keg room that was the size of an airport toilet stall. I had only seen live burlesque once before in my life, so I hit the ground running.
“It didn’t feel like an official show because the place is such a dive and was full of friends. But we did well enough that three weeks later we scored a monthly residency at [Montreal nightclub] Le Belmont [on The Main].”
Abrahamian – whose stage name is Ms Bloody Mary Anne – later founded the Blood Ballet Cabaret (BBC) in May 2010 just as the burlesque scene was taking off in Montreal. Blue Light Burlesque has been wowing Montreal audiences with regular shows since 2004, giving rise to the current monthly Candyass Cabaret at legendary show-bar and strip joint Cleopatra’s, not to mention Montreal burlesque queen Scarlett James’ annual Grand Burlesque Show, the Montreal Burlesque Festival
and the new monthly Candybox Revue, which debuts Jan 17 at KoKo Lounge.
The BBC ended their residency at Le Belmont after a year to take their cabaret show on the road. Now fresh from their “best-of” two-week run at Montreal’s 2012 Juste Pour Rire Festival, the BBC’s new tour pitstops in Montreal (Jan 6), Ottawa (Jan 9), Kingston (Jan 10), Toronto (Jan 11) and New York City (Jan 13).
That’s a long way from Egypt, where Abrahamian grew up.
“I spent a few years as a child in Cairo, where I was trained by Russian Bolshoi ballerinas at Cairo’s Higher Institute of Ballet, and I ended up in Montreal to study film and political science at Concordia University,” says the 25-year-old dancer. “Montreal’s a small city when it comes to the alternative-culture scene, so I just asked around looking for other burlesque dancers.”
Abrahamian and her BBC troupe – their new tour co-stars The Lady Josephine, Esmerelda Nadeau-Jasso, St Stella and host Sherwin Tija (the Montreal-based queer impresario whom Maclean’s once called “a modern-day PT Barnum”), as well as guest performances by Fuhrious Nina, Belles Jumelles and Johnny B Goode – call their new show Illuminatease.
The cabaret combines burlesque, circus and musical performers acting out a conspiracy theme – “stories of moon landings, religious conspiracies and celebrity assassinations,” Abrahamian says.
Along the way, few fans have been more loyal to the BBC than gay and lesbian audiences. “They love the BBC for the same reason everybody else does – our cabarets feature a strong narrative, they’re very theatrical and very sexy,” says Abrahamian, pointing out that a previous BBC cabaret show was about an alien who falls in love with a girl on Earth.
“We’ve always played up sex and different sexual orientations. Audiences like that our acts can get pretty edgy. We’re not afraid to push boundaries and lots of people come up to us after our shows to say how much we inspire and empower them.”
Illuminatease: The Blood Ballet Cabaret 2013 East Coast Tour from Kamee Abrahamian on Vimeo.