Weekly Burlesque: Strummin’ and Strippin’ Across Canada

Alistair / TanyaTake one guitar wonder kid and one international burlesque star, throw the two together, and you get a rock-out road show hitting a Canadian city near you. Real-life couple Alistair Christl and Tanya Cheex have put together a winning combination of tunes and tease.

Touring to promote his new CD release, Unmarked Grave, Alistair is a one-man show in the tradition of Hank Williams and Hasil Adkins. Tanya has just finished a two-month stint with the world famous sold-out “Spiegel Show” in Toronto.

When I received a show announcement from Tanya, I knew it had to be good. She’s a fierce and fabulous performer with a lovely bit of edge, and is always full of good ideas. She and Alistair were good enough to do a quick interview.

Tanya CheexHow did you get interested in burlesque?
Tanya: My grandmother was into old movies like Gilda that might have a little scene of striptease in them — at least that’s what stuck out in my mind. She was a catalogue model and she had a whole closet dedicated to her peignoir sets! We’d get dressed up in these glamorous outfits and watch movies.

She had a huge impact on me. When I was eight, I organized a strip show in a neighbours backyard with my girlfriends, choreographed a routine, and charged admission. It was my first sold-out show! It got busted by my parents. My perplexed parents asked how in the hell did I come up with an idea like that and I told them — my Grandma! My Dad’s porn collection also influenced me a lot too.

Alistair ChristlAlistair Christl: I’ve been doing music in one form or another since I was a kid. I’ve always been into older forms of music, i.e. jazz, blues, swing, early country, rock and roll, and of course roackabilly. I think it was doing this type of music that enabled me to fit into the burlesque scene. I started going to Tanya’s shows just to give support, not realizing that I would have much of a part in it. Immediately, though, I was drawn to the energy of the performances, and soon they were booking me and my band to perform.

What does burlesque mean to you? This can be a definition of burlesque, a description of the effect burlesque has on your life, or both.
TC: Burlesque is my job, but fortunately, it is one I love. Everyday is devoted to it and it shapes who I am. I can suffer from burn-out once in a while, but then I’m right back cooking up a new act. I am naturally a quiet obsever but ‘Tanya Cheex‘ lets me exercise an inclination to over-the-top extravaganza. I also was most happy on a stage whether as a stripper or a performing dominatrix. And the fabulous community and diversity are very important to me.

Who inspires you most and why?
TC: The idea of the larger-than-life blonde bombshell like Marilyn [Monroe] and Mamie Van Doren, etc. Bambi [the Mermaid] inspires me a lot because we share a sideshow sensibility. I do a tap-dancing parasitical twin act and I think of her when I do it. I was influenced by an old photograph of sideshow sweetheart Myrtle Corbin. It was those little legs with their matching striped stockings. I find that stuff so sexy. I like women with tails too!

AC: I’m strongly inspired by the honesty and emotion of people like Hank Williams. Django Reinhardt is always inspiring for plain musical ability. I watch a lot of footage of the greats like Elvis [Presley]. Any performer can learn a lot from him.

What is your favorite aspect of burlesque as it is now?
TC: The fact that it growing, and that for good or bad, the mainstream is taking notice. I never thought I could partially support myself by burlesque and that I now can is definitely a result of the general populace taking notice. I don’t think it will ever truly die down now. With that being said, there is nothing worse than bad burlesque. New performers — take classes, watch movies, practice, and do not wear cheap, store-bought underwear!

Jo Weldon

Jo Weldon is Headmistress of the award-winning New York School of Burlesque and is a regular burlesque performer. Visit burlesquedaily.blogspot.com to read her daily blog.

Photo credits: David Hawe (Alistair and Tanya), Art Litwell (Tanya)

Tour Dates:
August 3 – Halifax, Nova Scotia @ Speakeasy Pub
August 4 – Halifax, NS @ The Seahorse w/Pink Velvet Burlesque
August 11 – Winnipeg, Manitoba @ Toad In The Hole
August 17 – Calgary, Alberta @ Palominos Bar and Grill
August 24 – Victoria, British Columbia @ Logan’s Pub
August 25 – Vancouver, British Columbia @ Dollhouse Studios w/Sweet Soul Burlesque