[Recap] Sister BEAR Burlesque at L’Etage 1/10/18

"eff your beauty standards!"

A few years back, the creative force that is Josh Schoenwolf took the idea of body positivity to a whole new level with a show called Bearlesque. Putting the spotlight on and celebrating men with larger, hairier bodies, Bearlesque defied what mainstream society deems sexy and created a space for burly men in the burly q scene. Almost 5 years later the show is still going strong and has recently added a new edition to the family, Sister Bear Burlesque. Much like its counterpart, Sister Bear refers to a larger body type, albeit a bit less hairy when it comes to the sisters, but no less sexy.

On a relatively warm, winter night, this troupe of thick madames was there to show off their newest recruits at the first of what is to become a monthly showing at L’etage just off of South Street. Kitty Devereaux acts as the pseudo mama bear to this body posi group of plus size performers. Hosting the evening glowing with pride not only of her fabulous jumpsuit, but of the stunning new performers she was clearly excited to see added to the roster. With her voluptuous frame and alluring assets, that she happily attributes to copious amounts of “rice and beans,” she commanded the room with a fierce confidence. I have been lucky enough to see her perform original and creative routines at various events, so I was more than happy to see what she had in store for us on a personal level and as the hostess of the night’s festivities.

First up, on the program for the evening, was Greta Grenade. An award winning performer, producer, and emcee, she is no stranger to the spotlight of the stage. With her milky white skin and a color changing sequins, pink and blue ensemble, she was the living embodiment of a cotton candy treat and every bit as sweet! Her energy and her smile were a delight as she set the tone for an evening that was as much about big fun as it was about big bodies.

After the sugar smacking shimmys provided by Greta, it was time for something a bit more savory. A stand out star of the evening who was greeted by thunderous applause came in the enticing form of Essa Terick. With a reputation that clearly preceded them, Essa became our voodoo idol with a smoldering routine that earned them a standing ovation. There were possibly Facebook rumblings this week about a certain someone being nervous about taking their clothes off. I was looking around the room still trying to find that nervous person but all I could see was an audacious and fearless performer who killed it with their first routine and had the rest of us anxiously awaiting the second half of the show. But before we get ahead of ourselves let’s not overlook the bevvy of full figured fatales yet to come!

The next performer to grace the stage, Queen of Hearts, donned a coy and dignified smile that did nothing to prepare you for the turnup she was about to unleash. The empress of twerk herself, Queen required a chair…<ahem> nay, a throne, with which to show off her royal pedigree. The baby pink tones of her attire combined with her caramel complexion gave off an air of softness that pulled you into a her like a sweet embrace. That warm, cozy feeling would soon give way to a chorus of “Yaaasss Queen!” as she went hard and got low, twerking and nailing splits that did nothing but add to the appeal of her duality.

Along with the variety of body shapes on display this night was a variety of styles. From goth to pop, cheeky to smoldering, the cast was eclectic and adding to this diverse lineup of divas was Robbin Night. Her bright, cherry red braids perfectly spun around the top of her head to hold a Carmen miranda-esque fruit fascinator, were the perfect juxtaposition to her black and white striped halter dress. Channeling the ghost with the most, Robbin treated us to a homage to Beetlejuice with her own version of the calypso classic, Jump In The Line. Complete with an extra full, bright green petticoat, if you doubted this firecrackers abilities, after that number you were left saying “Ok! I believe you!”

The next set of dangerous curves with a cherub face and devilish smile belonged to Coco Peachfield.  Peachfield is what happens when you mix Foxy Brown with Strawberry Shortcake sprinkled with a little Betty Boop sass. Showing love for the infamous ear cutting scene from Reservoir Dogs, her bright smile and deliberate moves made it hard not to cheer her own as she toyed with her would be victim. If big was the theme of the night, she nailed it. Big eyes, smile, hair, laugh, presence, and a big ol’ dose of showmanship, she closed the first half of the show with pasties that sported her pawn’s now missing appendage! Yes, you read that correctly. Coco Peachfield was wearing bloody ear pasties. Just in case Most Original Pasties does not become an actual category in next year’s Golden Tassel Awards, here’s Peachfield’s very honorable mention!

All of this fat bodied fabulousness and that was only the first half of the show! Right before taking a quick break, Josh Schoenwolf delighted the packed house with his Work routine! One of the cutest and most talented artists in the scene, he is clearly a star on the rise. From producer to performer, he knows just how to play to an audience and give them exactly what they came for and in this instance, we came for the cheeks! Both sets! The dimples on his face are second only to the dimples on his butt complete with tear away denim pockets! I’m sorry for all the exclamation points but what can I say, he’s a hell of an entertainer!

As if the first half of this show wasn’t worth the price of admission alone, we went right back to the top of the line up, and shimmied our way through it a second time. These performers may have been new to Sister Bear but not to the stage and it was clear they had more to show you, literally and figuratively!  Greta Grenade was eager to start Philly Bowie week with her Magic Dance. Boasting a Bowie sized bulge and Stardust style pasties, her Labyrinth inspired act was an instant hit with the fans.

Both Essa  and Queen went for simpler, yet no less powerful, second acts.  While Essa started the night with a flowy, feminine send up of the dark arts, they finished it off with a routine that had a bit of a masculine edge to it that was bold and full of bravado. They showed that those traits are not exclusive to any one gender and moved between both fluidly while looking sexy as all get out. Queen kept her round 2 act a bit personal as she performed a “private” dance for her fiance, seated dead center in the front row, that she was kind enough to let us all watch. She exuded love as she performed for us and him and I am just glad I was there and had the good fortune to witness her incredible dance skills.

Robbin Night put in a performance that had her Coming Undone to Korn. Making her way out of a straight jacket and eventually out of her clothes, she turned in an act that was throbbing with metal. Rounding out the evening was Coco Peachfield. Decked out in her cookie slinging, scout’s finest, she gave us an act as adorable and sexy and badass as herself. Not to mention she was rocking the most amazing gold glitter shoes with a sparkle that rivaled Dorothy’s ruby reds. Closing the evening with a high energy yet classic routine was none other than our lovely hostess, Kitty Devereaux. Keeping it simple, sexy, and full of spunk, Kitty is a crowd pleaser and teaser who is fantastic at what she does.

What better way to spend a Wednesday night than enjoying an event full of performances that dare to say “eff your beauty standards!”? The energy in the room that night was unbelievable. I’ve never felt so comfortable or so not self conscious. All around me were people of all kinds of shapes, many that were softer and rounder than others but those are far from being bad qualities. Surrounded by a decent size group of diverse body shapes and seeing fat babes killing it on the stage gave me a feeling I recently experienced while watching Wonder Woman, empowerment. Representation matters. Seeing these bodies absolutely glowing with beauty is one of the most glorious feelings in a society that loves to judge and shame. This was none of that. This was celebration and it has inspired me to sign up for the burlesque classes being offered by the Sister Bear troupe. Stay tuned for the next adventure of foXXXy the fat babe!!   

Heather Fox, is an aspiring cook and artist in her free time. By day she teaches Literacy for the Boys&Girls Club of Philadelphia and by night she dons the role of foXXXy contin, hard hitting blocker for South Jersey Roller Derby. This native Philadelphian and self-proclaimed Geek Girl, resides in Port Richmond where she continues to feed her love of pop culture with all things horror, comic book, and Star Wars related.
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