Down the Rabbit Hole With Avant Glam

Darkly dreaming with Sassy Delure about her newest show

"I knew I wanted to make a darker themed show. ... Moody numbers with visceral subjects, like death and grief, but not so heavy. The more I worked with that theme, the more these magical creatures emerged." Sassy Delure on the latest Avant Glam show, "Dark Dreams and Magical Creatures." (Photo by John Leach)

The stage is lovely, dark, and deep, but Sassy Delure and the performers of Avant Glam Cabaret have promises to keep, and miles to go before they sleep. This weekend, they prowl Spiderhouse Ballroom with their new show, Dark Dreams and Magical Creatures.

Delure founded Avant Glam last year with her longtime producing partner Roxie Moxie. Unlike many of the performers in Austin's more traditional burlesque companies, Seattle native Delure comes from a more neo-burlesque, cabaret, and alternative theatre background, and that drifts like mist into Avant Glam. "There's a lot of dance, but there's still the burlesque element, there's some comedy, there's some singing."

However, after a series of collaborative shows, Dark Dream and Magical Creatures is her vision, ably assisted on the creative side by Roxie, Lita Luck and Matilda Love. "I knew I wanted to make a darker-themed show – moody numbers with visceral subjects like death and grief, but not so heavy," she says. "The more I worked with that theme, the more these magical creatures emerged. Rabbits and electric eels, then it got a little more mythological with Medusa and sorcerers."

Delure works hard to make each show a cohesive, narrative whole, rather than a series of individual acts. "We're known for our no-host tactics," she says, "and this time I wove some characters throughout." At the heart of the show are two mystical rabbits hunting for each other: The one-horned Al-mi'raj – think an Arabic Jackalope – and a white rabbit, "which always leads to some kind of dream because of Alice," said Delure.

That means the performers could not just depend on silks and lace, but really had to push their designs. Delure says, "Theatrically, the costumes made the show. There's a lot of electrical elements and secrets. We really went over the top"

Most of the troupe are local performers, and that's important for Delure's quest to create a meaningful dream logic through creative collaboration. However, one blithe spirit is flying in for the show: Seattle-based boylesque performer Luminous Pariah, who performed with Delure in London in 2011 in the critically acclaimed Electric Burlesque. While just about everything else in the show is cut from fresh cloth, he will be bringing his bird of paradise routine. Delure says, "I picked this particular guest because of his ability to fit this theme, but it was a lot of trial and error, looking at the acts, listening to the music."

Delure describes Austin's scene as "booming.… There's a lot more burlesque happening than when I got here. A lot of it is still very classical, but it's grown, and there's a lot bigger names coming in." It's not just that there are more people onstage. "The whole community's voice is growing and getting more defined, and what we want to do is affecting the arts community in general." Most importantly, the audiences are getting bigger. Last month, Delure took part in the Hotter than Hell show at the Stateside (a venue that Austin's burlesque performers could not even have dreamed about filling five years ago), and there were audience members who had traveled from Florida for the show. "I am finding there's a lot more people who haven't been to any burlesque who are coming out," she says. "They're getting word somehow, and saying, 'I haven't seen anything like this.'"

Avant Glam Cabaret Presents: Dark Dreams and Magical Creatures, Friday & Saturday, Aug. 1-2, 8 & 10:30pm. Spiderhouse Ballroom, 2908 Fruth.

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Burlesque, Avant Glam Cabaret, Spider House Ballroom, Sassy Delure, Dark Dreams and Magical Creatures, Luminous Pariah

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