By Cody Herron-Webb
How many years have you been involved in Burlesque?
My first experience in Burlesque was in 2011 with a group in Santa Cruz, Calif. called Bad Apple Burlesque. So, that was about 8 years ago. That group inspired me to begin our own group up here in Anchorage.
You are also a dance instructor and health professional, is that coincidence?
I do not think it is a coincidence. While I have not always been successful, I have always tried to follow my heart in all of my actions. My heart has always led me to health through body movement or body care. Dance can be an essential part of a person’s wellbeing, just like receiving massage and bodywork. It’s incredible and beautiful and accesses the same type of creative energy in the body. I do not think it’s a coincidence that I teach dance, perform dance, create dance opportunities, and am also a health care professional (Licensed Massage Therapist), in fact, I think they all dovetail beautifully.
What was appealing about burlesque that attracted you to being involved with it?
I’m not completely sure I can put a finger on any one thing that made it appealing to me. Before doing cabaret, I was a go-go dancer and I really loved how it helped me become comfortable in my body and in the power of sensuality. I have always been attracted to things that are slightly wild and boundary pushing. I am comfortable living in the paradox of the shy introvert who loves sensuality.
I distinctly remember a comment was made to another performer in my first year of burlesque on Bad Apple; “Hun, you’re almost too skinny for burlesque!” I thought how great it was that there was an art form that celebrated beauty in all forms, rather than pushing a super skinny “norm”. Since that time, we have really tried to make Sweet Cheeks a space for all body sizes, shapes, and styles. Beauty comes from being familiar with your truth and expressing it in a way that is uniquely yours...and that’s what burlesque is about.
I often hear the terms “Cabaret” & “Burlesque” used interchangeably. Is there a difference between the two?
The definitions of both are quite fluid and are ever changing. They are sisters, but not twins. What you tend to see is that burlesque will focus slightly more on bawdy humor and cabaret will focus slightly more on choreographed dance, live vocals, and sometimes a live band. Some people will distinguish between the two by venue, saying that burlesque is in a theater, with theater style seating, while cabaret is in a more intimate bar setting...however, in Anchorage that distinction is not made. Both burlesque and cabaret have elements of sensuality, stripping, humor, glamour, and lots of fun!
What sort of traits are needed for someone who wants to be a burlesque or cabaret dancer?
First and foremost, you must have a willingness to grow and become a better version of yourself. Our group is incredibly growth-focused, and we give our performers all of the resources that we can to help them grow in the arts. Whether it’s voice lessons, mentorship with hosts or acrobats, costume design, choreography...we want everyone on Sweet Cheeks to embody excellence. Of course, In cabaret and burlesque, there is always an element of exhibitionism and vulnerability when it comes to stripping on stage, and so someone wanting to be a dancer with Sweet Cheeks would need to be willing to step into that space, which is incredibly liberating and empowering. Finally, a supportive home life is absolutely essential. Your family, friends, and job must be able to accept your burlesque lifestyle, otherwise it can create a lot of stress in this adventurous journey that is supposed to be about joy and power and growth.
Were/are you a part of any of the other burlesque troupes in town What was it that made you want to start your own group up here?
I have never been a part of the burlesque groups in town, however I have had the opportunity to guest perform with both Frostease and Viva-Voom. Not only was I was inspired by my experience in California with Bad Apple Burlesque and their unique dance-focused style (they also sometimes used a band which I was absolutely infatuated with), but I was growing tired of being performer looking for work. Being reliant on others to get gigs that paid well or give you performance opportunities was not how I wanted to spend my free/hobby time. So, I developed a vision and decided to create my own opportunities, and opportunities for others.
Was there one moment that made you think we can no longer be a hobby I want to do this as a career?
The dream of turning Sweet Cheeks from a hobby into a career has kind of always been on the back burner, but it has taken some time for us to figure out exactly how to do that. When you create a business, you may think it will go one direction, but it tends to take a life of its own and sometimes you cannot control the exact direction, only the general trajectory. That’s part of the adventure and the fun! At a certain point, Sweet Cheeks grew enough that I saw the impact it had on our performers lives and how we were all growing as a family and thriving on the creative opportunities we were making....and I realized that quitting wasn’t an option, and stagnating wasn’t an option, which means that expansion is the only option. We reached a point where Sweet Cheeks wasn’t about Dorthy and myself doing something fun, it was about creating real creative outlets for people in our community who badly need and want it. It was about creating entertainment and ambience in our community for a group of people who are very underserved. It was essentially, bigger than us.
What exactly is Sweet Cheeks Cabaret?
The simple answer is, Sweet Cheeks Cabaret is an entertainment group specializing in live burlesque, cabaret, music, and acrobatics. However, truly Sweet Cheeks Cabaret is a family of ever growing and evolving performers that uses burlesque, cabaret, music, and all aspects of performance art to share sensuality, joy, humor, and body positivity with the world. Sweet Cheeks Cabaret is a way to shed the social limitations on expression of sensuality and challenge the social “norms” that have developed in any variety of situations. We focus on true and vulnerable expression of ourselves, and in that, we are able to push boundaries in unexpected ways.
Each month is a different show, correct? What can you tell us about the next one?
Our shows will run for 3-6 weeks depending on the time of year and theme! Dec 13-28th is Panty Clause In Wonderland, then we have Champagne After Dark on New Years Eve and all of January. After that we get into some Valentine’s Day theme...and of course we are bringing back the men in March. The best way to stay up to date is to follow us on Facebook and Instagram! Or you can pop onto our website anytime, or join our mailing list.
Sweet Cheeks Cabaret: Panty Clause In Wonderland
The Cheeky Room at Matanuska Brewing Company Downtown
Every Friday & Saturday at 6:30pm from Dec 13-28th
Tickets can be purchased at Centertix.com or by calling 907-263-2787 (263-ARTS).
$30 General $40 for VIP