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Tease, please

Sweet Soul Burlesque brings the sass

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What: Vegas Extravaganza

Who: Sweet Soul Burlesque and Donovan Atreides

Where: MY Millennium Place

When: Saturday, April 30

Tickets: $22

Burlesque is back in town, baby, and this time around it’s gonna be gangbusters.

Make way for Miss Cara Milk, Miss Crystal Precious, Miss Babalicious and Miss Cherry OnTop – also known as the sassy, sultry goddess-gals of Vancouver’s Sweet Soul Burlesque troupe – who will be flaunting what they’ve got at MY Place this Saturday evening as part of Higher Ground Entertainment’s Vegas Extravaganza event.

After all, it wouldn’t be Vegas without a little skin. But if that’s all you want, save your gawks for the weekly Boot Ballet nights.

It’s true, burlesque involves comely lasses doffing various items of clothing, but that is but one element, and not the be-all-end-all of the sexy spectacle.

"Burlesque is the art of tease, traditionally," Cara says. "We never reveal it all. There’s a lot of wit and sass and costumes. It’s more theatrical. It goes beyond just the stripping."

Cara’s obsession with costumes goes beyond the Sweet Soul dressing room. She’s also the force behind Sweet Soul Designs – a cheeky lingerie and burlesque/vintage-inspired fashion house formed in the spring of 2002, and currently operating out of a funky studio space in the heart of Gastown. The line’s mainstays of frilly bloomers and "bosom cupcakes" (a.k.a. pasties) are riding a wave of popularity brought on by fashion’s current return to flirty femininity and can be found in stores across Canada and throughout the Western U.S.A.

The cupcakes actually came before the burlesque. Inspired by the style, Cara joined with Crystal Precious, an accomplished dancer and full figured model, to form the Sweet Soul Burlesque troupe in 2003. Sweet Soul Designs co-founder Babs Lucas came on board as the sultry Babalicious and the cherry on top was, well, Miss Cherry OnTop, another well-known cabaret dancer on the underground West Coast burlesque scene.

Together the Sweet Soul gals are a force to be reckoned with, one of only a handful of burlesque troupes in the fair VanCity. The tight-knit group is the sum of fiercely individual parts. Cara is the 1940s pin-up who can remove a bustier while gyrating inside two hula hoops. Crystal is the "undebated queen of sass" with a flair for 1980s-style party glam. Babs is the sharp-tongued politico known for her high couture costumes. And Miss Cherry, an accomplished Capoeista, gets into the world music groove.

But in a world where Internet porn is just a mouse-click away and strip club-lite sexuality is a mainstay of every hip-hop music video, why would anyone care about gals who pride themselves in what they keep on?

"Intrigue," Cara says decisively. "It’s more of an art form, a creative form rather than simply a way to showcase sexuality.

"The most important thing is that burlesque incorporates aspects of theatre like the wit and the glitz and the glam of the costumes, and that’s what the focus is on, rather than the reveal."

Cara notes that a neo-burlesque movement has flaunted the convention by going for new levels of bare.

To each her own, she adds. It’s not the Sweet Soul style. "There’s no rules in burlesque other than the fact that it’s more the art of the tease rather than the reveal and that traditionally burlesque dancers never bare it all."

In their case, it’s the spectacle and not the skin that keeps ’em wanting more.

"It’s all about having fun and it’s all about sass," says she of the lip-smacking candy bar moniker. "Sass. That’s our favourite word. It’s contagious. Girls and guys who watch the show just love it. Stripping is for a male audience, burlesque is for everybody."

Sweet Soul Burlesque and Vancouver magician Donovan Atreides perform in Whistler this Saturday, April 30, for the Vegas Extravaganza event at MY Millennium Place. The show starts at 8 p.m. The evening includes a casino, beginning at 7 p.m. Tickets for the event are $22 available at the venue and through TicketMaster. For more information call 604-935-8410.

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