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Scarlett James
Photograph: Scarlett James | Montreal Burlesque Festival

Montreal Burlesque Festival is coming back to Montreal

Pushing seduction to the extreme, this naughty, sensual show combines music, dance, song and glamour—promising a rediscovery of the art of the tease. Bonus: Festival founder Scarlett James is sharing her favourite spots in the city.

Written by
Richard "Bugs" Burnett

The world’s finest burlesque artists headline the Montreal Burlesque Festival each year alongside Montreal’s own international burlesque legend and festival founder Scarlett James, and this year will be no different.

Montreal Burlesque Festival
Photograph: Frank Lam | Montreal Burlesque Festival

In addition to James, performers at this year’s edition at Club Soda—a 13-minute walk from Time Out Market Montréal—on October 15 are Chris Oh!, Kiki La Chanteuse, Audrey Ivory, Kitty Kin Evil, Emma Vauxdevil, Aza Lia, Cat Zaddy and Whiskey Jules.

Chris Oh!
Photograph: Chris Oh!

“Montreal was the entertainment capital of North America long before Las Vegas,” says James who spearheaded the local burlesque revival when she founded her festival in 2009. “Burlesque was very popular in the 30s, 40s and 50s, but today few people really know burlesque. I want to change that. My shows are a celebration. I’m here to offer beauty, dreams, fantasy and fancy.”

Time Out Montreal spoke with James about burlesque, Fetish Weekend and her favourite Montreal watering hole.

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Why did you start the Montreal Burlesque Festival?

Montreal was missing a place where I could dress up ultra-feminine and enjoy being a woman. There aren’t many events in Montreal where we can dress up unless you buy a ticket for a fundraiser. I wanted to create an event where people can dress up to go out.

Scarlett James
Photograph: Scarlett James | Montreal Burlesque Festival

Why do you love burlesque?

It’s glamourous, celebrates femininity and beauty, and women of all colours, shapes and sizes.

Scarlett James
Photograph: Scarlett James

How do you feel about Montreal’s fabled burlesque history?

I feel sad that it was shoved under the carpet for so many years. It takes courage to become an artist and a lot of guts to become a burlesque artist. We really put ourselves out there and should be celebrated more. I’m humbled and honoured that I am part of this movement and I do feel like I am also a caretaker.

Scarlett James
Photograph: Scarlett James | Montreal Burlesque Festival

Montreal has so many different neighbourhoods. Which is your favourite?

I enjoy ice cream while walking in the Old Port in summertime.

Loïc RomerOld Port Montreal

What activity do you love to do in the city?

When I am not working on the festival or running my online store, I like to go to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

Musée des Beaux Arts
Photograph: Eva Blue

Where is your go-to watering hole?

Honestly, I’m not a big drinker but I like I like to explore and find new places all the time. Next on my list is The Cloakroom, a cocktail bar in the Golden Square Mile.

Cloakroom Bar
Photograph: Courtesy Cloakroom Bar

What’s your favourite local restaurant?

My current favourite Montreal restaurant is the Mediterranean-inspired Bazart on Wellington Street in Griffintown.

Photograph: Patricia Brochu

What are your favourite Montreal festivals?

Other than the Montreal Burlesque Festival, I enjoy the Fetish Weekend because it’s sexy and so much fun!

Scarlett James
Photograph: Chris Hutcheson | The Grand Burlesque 2013The Grand Burlesque 2013

What do you love most about Montreal?

What I love about Montreal is its diversity. That is what made me fall in love with the city, it is what makes Montreal so beautiful and colourful. I prize the variety of people and cultures in Montreal. We are spoiled here. 

For more programming information about The Montreal Burlesque Festival at Club Soda on October 15, click here.

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