I was thrilled to see another local Velvet Hearts performance scheduled. We’ve been supporters of them over the years. Queer burlesque is special. I like the variety in the performances as well as the body positive messaging. You should check out this show Friday evening and take a few moments to read what the founder, Viva Valezz! has to say about this momentous anniversary.
Your Name: Viva Valezz!
Your Pronouns: she/hers
Your Role with the Velvet Hearts: founder
The Velvet Hearts were founded in Columbus, Ohio in 2008 and now include troupes in both Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Tell us about what led you to form the troupe and the early days in Columbus. When I began performing burlesque, there were no other queer burlesque troupes in Columbus (or really anywhere in Ohio or surrounding states). There was a drag troupe in Columbus (the longest drag king troupe in the Midwest, the Royal Renegades) that featured a burlesque performer as a sidekick occasionally. But I wanted to perform more often. I decided to create my own troupe so that I could produce and perform in shows more often.
What is a queer burlesque variety troupe? How is it different from a traditional burlesque performance group? In our troupe, we’re all queer-identified. That’s the primary difference. Aside from burlesque, music, spoken word/comedy and sideshow acts, we also include drag (which is a predominantly art form).
What does burlesque bring to the local queer community? A rated PG form of sexual expression (for the most part).
How have queer people been part of burlesque since the beginning? Queers have ALWAYS been dominated by queers… it just wasn’t a thing people talked about.
How is burlesque ‘body positive’? Nude bodies are a “gift.” If a person is confident, it’s a turn-on. Any confident body can be beautiful and engaging on stage. It’s the reason I got into and performed for so long.
How many performers have been part of the Velvet Hearts? Are any original members still involved? Wow. There have been roughly 100 Velvet Hearts! in the last 10 years. None of the original VHs are still performing in the troupe. Well, only me lol.
Tell us about some of the troupes accomplishments over the years. We performed in festivals like Chicago’s Windy City Burlesque Festival, the Boston Burlesque Expo, and a few others. We have been the ONLY burlesque troupe in both Columbus AND Pittsburgh to be nominated for the best dance troupe of our cities. in 2017 the Velvet Hearts! had a troupe routine that won the Pennsylvania title of best lip sync troupe act, and then went on to compete and WIN the international “Burlypicks” competition – Master of Lip Sync.
Then also several individual Velvet Hearts! have won awards and titles over the years.
What performances over the past ten years stand out in your memory? Our “Dog Catcher” routine, choreographed by former VH Pandora Foxx, has always been one of my favorites.
Where can we find the Velvet Hearts performing regularly? Our former home venue for a few years was James Street Gastropub. However, since they closed their doors, we have struggled to find a consistent home. Recently the Irma Freeman Center has been a place we’ve worked with a lot.
How can we find the Velvet Hearts on social media? Our IG handle is @velvetheartsburlesque, and each of our troupe cities has their own Facebook accounts.
Is there anything else you’d like to add? I don’t really perform much anymore these days. The Velvet Hearts! are all about developing and nurturing talent. But mostly we’re about family.
The 10th Anniversary Performance and Celebration is Friday, October 12 from 9-11 PM at the Irma Freeman Center.
The evenings performances include:
Current and Former Velvet Hearts!
Appearances by Velvet Hearts! –
The Comedy of Arla White
Britsa N’Ass (in her debut performance)
Ms. Lavender Bitters “The Sultry Midwest Siren”
Moon: Variety Artist
Sass L. Fraise
Velvet Hearts! founder – Viva Valezz!
Special Opening Act – E! the Dragnificent
Hosted by Gendeara Faulker
Reserved FIERCE! tables of Six (only 4 available)
$20 general admission at the door