Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Boylesque: Male Performers Bring Unique Approach to Age-Old Art of Burlesque

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Boylesque: Male Performers Bring Unique Approach to Age-Old Art of Burlesque

Article excerpt

Boylesque: Men offer unique take on burlesque


TORONTO - Shedding skin took on a whole new meaning as burlesque performer Dew Lily peered through the red curtains.

He emerged on stage as a towering giraffe, complete with a papier-mache head and spotted coat. The high-heel-wearing Lily teetered on all fours, with elongated, fabric-adorned arms serving as makeshift front legs.

As the crowd cheered, he gracefully peeled away the layers to reveal a barely-there zebra-print leotard and leopard-print fingerless gloves.

"We've all seen can-can girls and we've all seen the old western movies with the girls in the corsets dancing onstage, but I didn't really realize what burlesque was until I got involved with it," Lily said before performing at a preview of the Toronto Burlesque Festival, which runs Thursday through Sunday.

For the past decade, Lily (real name: Willard Gillard) has been part of the emerging group of male performers who have embraced the art of striptease under their own distinct moniker: boylesque.

The origins of burlesque stretch back to the 1800s. The theatrical showcase saw a revival in the 1990s, with performers like Dita Von Teese bringing cheekiness, sexuality and body positivity to the forefront.

"I do think that we all should make sure we pay respect and homage to the women who created this art form and trailblazed for us, so to speak; but I do find that when a male is onstage doing burlesque I hope that we're providing a heavier comedic element to it," said Lily, a member of the Toronto-based Boylesque TO troupe.

"I do hope that the males onstage can show respect for the art form and also elevate it to something else. In my opinion, it should always be humour."

Born and raised on an Alberta cattle ranch, Lily moved to New York at age 17 to attend a performing arts school. He underwent intensive training in cultivating stage presence, singing and dancing, but he still found a steep learning curve when he took up burlesque.

"It also, strangely enough, focused on the things that I was really terrible about, which was my self-confidence and also my huge fear of improv. …

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