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Va Va Vixens create an inclusive environment for audience and cast members alike

Fourteen people dressed in different styles of black and white outfit pose under a spotlight. Behind them Va Va Vixens is projected on a screen in gold lettering with a black background.
Kevin Spalding
Fourteen people dressed in different styles of black and white outfits pose under a spotlight. Behind them Va Va Vixens is projected on a screen in gold lettering with a black background.

Lights illuminate the stage at Art Sanctuary revealing performers broken up into three tableaus.

Each group moves in sync with to “Unholy” by Sam Smith and Kim Petras. As the opening number wraps all the performers come together at the front of the stage to a round of applause.

“Thank you so much for coming out tonight and welcome to Art Sanctuary's production of Va Va Vixens: XXX OOO,” said the show’s host Lany Stardust.

Va Va Vixens produce live shows three times a year at Art Sanctuary. They include a variety of performances like burlesque, singing and aerials.

The show’s content is largely determined by what the performers want to bring to the audience.

“It’s just this beautiful creative vision comes to life, and we get to see everybody at their best,” Va Va Vixens producer Lisa Frye said. “They come up with their ideas. I put it all together and organize it and manage it, but it’s them. They’re incredible.”

Tony Smith, a singer with Va Va Vixens, believes that range in performance is part of the draw for audiences.

“It’s not just stripping, it’s not just sexy things, we also have some silly things, we also have some acrobatic things, I’d say there’s something for everybody,” Smith said.

The diversity seen on stage doesn’t stop at the types of performances. Va Va Vixens don’t have one look. The troupe spans ages, gender spectrums, body types and many other identities.

Frye, who is also the founder of Art Sanctuary, said the mix of backgrounds happens organically.

“The people that are involved are the people that are involved, and for whatever reason, they were drawn to be part of us,” Frye said. “I think it just works and we’re lucky to have such a diverse group of people.”

Members of the Vixens say it was seeing the diversity and stage presence of performers that pulled them in.

Queerella Jazelle said she fell in love with what she saw at her first Vixens show.

“I was like ‘Oh my god, everybody is so so sexy and confident! How do they do that?” Jazelle said.

She was inspired to find out the answer and began volunteering with Vixens as a bunny, someone who greets people and hands out candy at the shows. She said even when she was a bunny, she began to have space to understand her sexuality in ways that previously felt inaccessible.

“It just felt so freeing and safe because everyone there was doing the same,” Jazelle said.

From there, she became an aerial performer with Vixens.

“It’s really helped me to come into my being and feel like a goddess and to own it and to be okay with that and sometimes it’s really hard for people to come into that space,” Jazelle said.

Watching performers grow on stage in their confidence and with themselves is a high point for Frye.

“It’s my favorite thing to do, watching them grow as people and performers. Some people have never even been on stage before,” Frye said.

She said part of what allows the performers to be confident in front of crowds is the trust and support they’ve built amongst themselves.

“We’ve just cultivated a community within this to where it's a family and everyone is really comfortable with each other and you can tell on stage everyone is really close,” Frye said.

Performer Slim Jim Dandee also joined Vixens after seeing a performance.

“It creates that safety and freedom to express a little more,” Dandee said. “It inspires you, I guess, in ways that you never thought.”

Dandee said the spirit, trust and community felt between performers comes through on stage and transfers to the audience.

“And you see it, it’s almost a change, somebody walks in, they see the show and by the end of it, they’re smiling ear to ear because they felt something from that allowed them to maybe feel a little bit more free about exploring who they are,” Dandee said.

He said shows create a safe space to be “wild with it.”

“It kind of coaxes it out of you once you’re in the crowd and you’re like ‘Oh, I can be myself, myself. Not just the buttoned up, 9 to 5 self,’” Dandee said.

The audience-members-turned-performers said watching a spectrum of people be so self-assured on stage stoked their own confidence.

They hope spectators can walk away from their Valentine's show feeling a little self-love.

Va Va Vixens: XXX OOO runs at Art Sanutary the first three Fridays and Saturdays of February.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.

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