Organizers of Minden Pride Week’s Burlesque Ball are promising an inclusive end-of-summer dance party with “fantastic costuming fantastic performance art world class music world class DJing” – and some of Toronto’s top drag queen performers.
“It’s a huge dance party. I think some people have the impression it’s going to be a sit-down drag show. It’s going to be a dance club for the night with sets of entertainment interspersed” said Dan Manley who is organizing the event through Red Events which he operates with his partner Collin Burke.
“Basically it’s a party dancing DJing and there’ll be three half-hour to 40-minute sets of entertainment” Burke said.
The ball planned for Friday Aug. 23 at Pinestone Resort will feature performers Scarlett BoBo Devine Darlin Ivory Towers DJ Chiclet and special guest Michelle Ross who Burke described as “a legend.”
“She’s a performer who's been in the Church Street scene [for decades]” Burke said. Ross’s name is a play on Diana Ross and over the years she has toured the world performing.
Bringing drag performers to the Haliburton Highlands for Minden Pride is like a final coming out said Manley.
“When I first came up here I was locally still in the closet. I was totally out in Toronto. I didn’t know what to expect up here. I didn’t tell anybody. I kept pronouns [like] ‘my other half’ and you know very neutral wordings of things. I didn’t tell people how my weekend was … I would avoid [those conversations] to not expose something” he said.
Over time people came to know more about Manley’s life and his partner Burke.
“If there was a closet I still had to come out of I guess I’m coming out now.”
For Burke the Burlesque Ball is a return to a previous era in his life when he worked in Toronto organizing large dance productions and night club events in the mid-'90s through to the mid-2000s.
“I grew up in this town. I was gay. I left. There wasn’t a lot as in almost none no support. I found a world in Toronto that was completely inclusive of a lot of people who had left their communities and found a new community” Burke said. “For me I worked in the bar and entertainment industry my whole time there. Drag was certainly a part of that. At that time it was like drag queens were … a political force. They were activism and fighting for causes that were desperately needed.”
He said the Haliburton Highlands of today almost 20 years later feels much more welcoming.
“I’m surprised and of course extremely happy but surprised [by] the amount of support youth have at the high school growing up now in this community. I think it’s amazing. It’s much easier for parents to reach out and get support for issues they may not understand.”
The time seemed right to bring drag performers for Pride with the huge success of RuPaul’s Drag Race a reality show where queens compete for the crown becoming America’s next drag superstar. The Emmy-award-winning program has completed its 11th season in the U.S. with spin-offs set to launch in the U.K. and Canada.
For those who have never been to a drag show before Burke and Manley said to come dressed however you’d like.
“If you want to come in a huge rainbow feathered boa if you want to colour your hair show up in anything you want” Manley said.
“Absolutely express yourself” added Burke.
The Burlesque Ball is Friday Aug. 23 from 8 p.m. to close at Pinestone Resort in Haliburton. It is an inclusive event open to everyone. Tickets are $25 and are available at Russell Red Records in Haliburton Up River Trading Co. in Minden or online at russellredrecords.ca .