Burlesque performers often don’t get the time in the spotlight that drag does in the queer community, but they really should. They’re fierce; they’re often femme, and they’re not afraid to take it all off. In anticipation of Aurora Pride, we spoke to Denver burlesque dancer Betsy Bootknocker about her Aurora Pride performance show and how the burlesque community has influenced her life.
What was your inspiration for becoming a burlesque performer?
I’ve always wanted to be a performer in some capacity. My introduction to Burlesque happened in high school when we put on a production of Gypsy, and I instantly fell in love. When I finally became of age to attend an actual show, I found Ooh La La Presents at 3 Kings Tavern. The more I attended shows, the more I wanted to be a part of that world. It took a friend, Olivia Longtime, getting involved in it for me to gain the confidence to audition, and the rest is history.
Did you meet with any resistance when you first started out? How about now?
There were people in my life that didn’t understand it. If there was resistance, no one said anything directly to me. At the end of the day, I do Burlesque because I never liked who I was before. Burlesque allowed me to finally find my beautiful and most authentic self. There will always be resistance. If someone has an issue with my artform, they are entitled to that opinion, but I’ve never felt more like myself than I do when I am on the stage.
How would you describe your performance style?
My performance style is a melting pot of genres. It ranges from storytelling and nerdlesque to a good, old fashioned bump ‘n’ grind. I don’t like being in a box. I enjoy having a variety of acts for any and all of the shows I could be a part of.
What do you feel is the most rewarding thing about burlesque?
If I had to choose one, it would be seeing other performers shine bright on stage and finding inspiration through their confidence, beauty, and the incredible creativity that flows through each and every one of them. These are the people who lift me up and keep me going. Their success is my reward.
How has the burlesque community supported your dreams and individuality?
The community has given me platforms to share my art. They have provided opportunities for me I couldn’t dream of. I get to be on stage, and for those five minutes, I feel invincible. I wouldn’t have found my creative happy place if it weren’t for my burlesque community. Every day, they encourage me to be myself and follow my creative dreams. These are the humans who helped me become a producer of the Colorado Burlesque Festival. The ones who helped me make Queeriosity a reality. They’re not just my community; they are my family.
How did you hear about Aurora Pride?
I originally heard about Aurora Pride from friends who had attended in the past. They spoke very highly of it, and I decided that there’s no time like the present to try something new and meet more like-minded people. I was put in contact with the entertainment booker, and now I get to perform and attend! I’m so excited!
What made you say yes to the gig?
Pride is important to me. Celebrating the people who paved the way for us to have Pride festivals in the first place. Honoring those who fought for our rights. Getting to spend time with our queer community and allies in one safe space. Not to mention, the opportunity to get to perform with some incredible performers.
What can we expect from your Aurora Pride performance?
I chose my act because it was the first act I’ve ever performed at a Pride fest. This act has a lot of movement and power. One might say it’s dripping in gold…
How does your burlesque relate to queer rights?
Burlesque and drag aren’t so different. It’s not just about the strip-tease. It can be a powerful tool to show vulnerability, take a political stance, and give you the ability to own your sexuality and body. I perform to be visible and own my femininity and queerness.
Performing allows me to express myself, but my first love is my wife.
She encourages me to go for things I wouldn’t normally try. She’s there to support me at every show she possibly can attend. She has her own “Mrs. Bootknocker” hat. I perform because she is my number-one fan, and I will always fight for her. Our queer rights deserve to be fought for, and I will continue to perform in the name of love!
What advice can you offer an aspiring burlesque performer?
I would tell them to stay true to themselves! Don’t let others dictate your art. You are valid and wonderful in every way. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. We all started somewhere, and we didn’t do it alone. The burlesque community has its ups and downs like every other community out there, but we always come through when you need us most!
Photo courtesy of Starlight Images