Drag, Drinks, and Dare (de LaFemme)

Circus artist and double-below-knee amputee Erin Ball. Photo by Kemi King.

If you’re like me, you’ve never been to a variety show, but what I’ve learned is that they’re really just talent shows for grownups. But unlike the ones from grade school, these acts are polished, professional, and perhaps… a little promiscuous. 

I was able to catch drag artist Dare de LaFemme’s third and most recent show in Gananoque at the Royal Theatre Thousand Islands on July 2nd. The evening was filled with circus, flow arts, and drag, all executed by an engaging team of Dare, Erin Ball and Deborah Schuurmans, Luna Naughty, and Anje Coxx

The audience is seated throughout the theatre at individual tables, each lit by either a small lamp or candlelight, with piano playing in the background. The custom of tipping artists at a drag performance was adapted into tip boxes with each performer’s name written on, which sat at the back of the theatre. I found that this was a really seamless way to allow for the audience to show this kind of appreciation to the artists without interrupting the show. 

Anje Coxx starts the evening with a dangerously sexy performance, up in the air on aerial silks. Dropping from a portable rig, she was both fascinating and terrifying to watch. The audience watches with full confidence that the artist knows what they are doing, but that shaky frame would make just about anyone hold their breath. After her first performance, Cox returned to the stage—with high fire energy, dancing to hit songs in some of the most gorgeous outfits I have seen. Anje, if you’re reading this: you’ve got a new admirer. 

Our lovely host Dare de LaFemme does a fantastic job at storytelling during their lip sync performances. Through musical theater show tunes and Disney songs, they were able to build each character created for the specific number. Committed to every second, they even wrapped plastic wrap  around themselves during their lip-sync of Mr. Cellophane. Dare did not take themselves too seriously, which allowed audiences to respond back, in what may typically be understood as heckling but as a drag performance it was business as usual.  

Anje Coxx’s aerial silk rig. Photo by Kemi King.

Circus artist and double-below-knee amputee Erin Ball and pianist Deborarh Schuurmans gave us a performance that tugged at your heart, and another that was quite cheeky. Erin’s performances incorporate the fact that she is an amputee, often switching out her legs with stilts and different prostheses. At Dare’s Royal Variety Show, Schuumans plays live alongside Ball, underscoring her improvisational circus act. Their final number ended with a literal BANG! Ball switched out her legs for a prosthesis that had confetti cannons. Leaving us hooting, the two then rolled off the stage. 

As I mentioned at the beginning, the show was a bit promiscuous. Throughout the show, there was a bit of skin, but Luna Naughty’s entrance in a black leather dress commanded the audience’s attention the way a dominatrix would. Naughty had some of the best entrances, each outfit extravagantly telling a story of its own. Naughty’s act is one of spinning lights and prop work, each of the props making beautiful shapes it was mesmerizing to watch. Although the only prop I can actually name is the hula hoop, I can assure you every one of these pieces had such a whimsical way of moving. 

The show itself was done in three acts, broken up by 10-15 minute intermissions. It may have been the costume changes or the sheer variety of talent, but I was shocked at curtain call to be reminded there were only five performers! They truly did a fantastic job in making the time fly, and filling the space. 

Check out Dare de LaFemme’s Instagram page for more information on upcoming events.