Tits! Tassels! And… moustaches? Burlesque takes an unexpected but fabulous turn with The Cinnamon Hearts, an irreverent and irresistible troupe of Toronto gals out to tickle both your funny bone and your… well, any other bone you may own or strap on.
Burlesque has gained a sort of naughty legitimacy as of late, with sultry sirens like Sonya Cote and Wetspots maven Cass King heating up cabaret stages. Sure, Toronto may not be the Moulin Rouge, but the artform has steadily progressed from tipsy amateurs popping a tit onstage to some seriously choreographed and beautifully costumed troupes. Cinnamon Heart member Ginger Marquee (aka Connie Crompton) calls these picture-perfect groups “pinup burlesque” and, while she admires their work, points out The Cinnamon Hearts take a slightly different tack in their shows.
“It’s making sexy funny instead of making it dead serious,” says Crompton. “There’s no crawling across the stage making ‘mreow’ noises.”
Crompton and co loved what they were seeing in the burgeoning burlesque scene, but felt there was still a niche to be filled.
“We were the only ones interested in doing something goofy and comic,” she says. “If you lose a pastie in pinup burlesque then it’s awful, but I’ve lost a pastie while wearing a giant moustache and the audience just laughs with you.”
Her kinky compadres agree. Troupe member Betty LaBomba (Xtra’s outgoing associate editor Julia Garro) joined the gals last year after seeing a performance at a benefit for Camp Ten Oaks, a summer getaway for gay kids. Garro had already put in time with cancan troupe The Saucy Tarts, but was looking for something a little easier on the knees and heavier on the laughs.
“It’s very much comedy burlesque,” she says. “We’re really quite silly, and that’s why it’s so much fun.”
Fabulous costumes play an important part in any burlesque show, and The Cinnamon Hearts are going full-out for their next performance playing homage to classic fairytales. I won’t spoil the fun, but let’s just say that the Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf are imagined in a whole new way, with skirts made of hay and a prodigious amount of blowing.
“It’s titillating,” says Garro, “but without the sleaze factor.”
The third member of this sexy trio is Rani Rhinestone (aka Jaigris Hodson), a west-coast veteran of burlesque in hometown Victoria. She remembers being a little nervous the first time she doffed her bra in the name of sexy art. “Oh, I was terrified,” Hodson laughs, “but afterward I was on cloud nine. You get this great energy from the audience that lets you take charge and leave your insecurities behind.”
That liberation from body self-consciousness is a common theme when talking with many burlesque artists. In a world full of emaciated supermodels and starlets it’s refreshing to see real women comfortable in their own skin — and just as comfortable showing off that skin.
“We’re not going to be young forever,” says Crompton, “and let me tell you at a healthy size 16, we’re not all going to be Britney Spears.”
Lip-synching pop disasters aside, the Hearts each have their own take on why burlesque continues to grow in popularity, but perhaps Garro has the most succinct take on their success.
“It’s the everlasting appeal of boobies.”