Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Vixens of vaudeville

Sin Sisters twirl tassels and 'assels'

The Sin Sisters aren’t above showing up dressed as a giant present for your birthday — gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans or straight, it doesn’t matter.

“We absolutely love everyone,” says troupe founder Headmistress Holly. “The world is a beautiful sexy place.”

The Sin Sisters are a more punk-rock version of your typical burlesque troupe, but they’re also committed to the original vaudeville approach. Think emcees telling jokes and doing cheesy magic tricks between acts, throw in some fire-juggling acrobatics, and it’s clear these ladies are one of a kind.

The troupe came together in 2008, when the Sisters would hang out at Headmistress Holly’s apartment drinking and dressing up in burlesque outfits to go to the bars.

In 2009, Headmistress Holly booked their first show at the Elmdale House Tavern. Since then the troupe, eight women and three men, has been booked every weekend, and they’ve just completed a mini tour that included Montreal and Cornwall.

A quick scan through their YouTube channel demonstrates the group’s diversity. From Pink Panther stripteases to zombified cannibal vixens, there’s no denying these women love to entertain.

“We want people to come away from a Sin Sisters show going, ‘I remember this’ rather than, ‘Oh yeah — girls with their tops off,’” says Ella-Mae.

Not to worry: they do come through with the classic tassel spinning, but they up the ante with bum tassels.

“We call them assels,” laughs Ella-Mae. “We’re not a usual burlesque group, where everyone is doing a little striptease.”

Coming up with creative routines and dance numbers can, admittedly, become a challenge, with about 20 acts included in each show. “Obviously Betty Paige, but we get our inspiration everywhere,” says Ella-Mae. “We love April Smith and Elvis.”

The alternative music community has embraced the Sin Sisters. They count local punk bands Lefty McRighty and Ninety Pounds of Ugly as friends and have plans to add live band performances to their show in the future.

The women clearly share a strong female bond.

“We get so close doing this. I’ve never really had female friends. It’s a new support network,” says Ella-Mae. “To be a Sin Sister you have to love nudity and the body. You have to be really proud of and happy with your sexuality. You can’t fit into a mould.”

“We’re basically copying drag queens,” says Headmistress Holly, who showed up to the interview in glamorous purple makeup, feather mauve boa, black corset, and stockings topped with dark purple-tinted locks “because it’s fabulous.”

You’d be hard-pressed to find a drag queen who would disagree.