All-Indigenous burlesque in the TSF

Cara McKenna at Metro Vancouver

A politically charged Indigenous burlesque troupe will soon make its debut in Vancouver, as the 16th annual Talking Stick Festival begins in venues around the city.

It’s the first time that the diverse Indigenous performance and arts festival has featured the art of striptease — but one of its founding members says it’s about much more than just entertainment.

Ruth Ordare says when Virago Nation started out last year, they wanted to break harmful stereotypes and reclaim their sexuality as Indigenous women.

The group consists of six members, with diverse Aboriginal backgrounds and stage names like “Sparkle Plenty” and “Manda Stroyer.”

“(There are) few representations of Aboriginal women’s sexuality and they’re very limiting,” said Ordare, who is Mohawk.

“We wanted to show the funny side, the political side, the seductive side and let women own what they want to be.”

She said Indigenous women are often harmfully viewed in extremes: either hyper-sexualized or seen as not sexual beings at all. As a result of damaging stereotypes, it’s a community that has suffered disproportionately from sexual violence.

“There’s been a lot of trauma in our community,” Ordare said.

“For women to have that own reconciliation with their own bodies is really important.”

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