Photo credit: Ireva Photography
The first time I saw today’s muse perform it was still sunny out, and I was eating eggs, and she was cozy in her PJs, getting ready to sleep in the quiet jungle. Since then I haven’t seen much of her, cuz she lives far away in the land of Ottawa. Our affections though long distance have remained. She’s a sweet blonde baby, and I love her kitty. No, literally, Tyson is a face batting feline without a mean claw in his body. Please help me welcome my first Ottawa-muse: Bella Barecatt
Gracie: Thank you for taking the time to share yourself with us. First up: How did you get your name?
Bella: Sitting in a pub day drinking with a few burly ladies, my burlesque name previously when I first started burlesque 10 years ago was Diamond Scratch but I didn’t really feel it suited me so I wanted to come up with something new. Lila Livewire had been researching 1920’s slang and she mention the word Bearcat, which I felt suited me perfectly, being a lover of animals and being sort of a wild child. Bella came from loving the actor Bela Lugosi as well as it was already a nickname my girlfriends and I shared, so it was something i was used to being called already. I decided to update Bearcat to Barecatt to make it more my own. It was only after that I found out that burlesque legend Jennie Lee had started the burlesque softball team the Bearcats and how much history that term has with burlesque makes me feel that I made the right decision.
Gracie: When did you start performing?
Bella: I started performing burlesque 10 years ago, co-founding Ottawa’s first troupe the Devil Dolls. We were very young and green and performed mostly to a live band in choreo’ed group numbers. We performed for a few years with the roster changing here and there until finally most of the girls moved on and grew up so to speak. I took a hiatus for a couple of years and came back full force in 2010 and haven’t looked back since.
Gracie: Do you have a signature colour?
Bella: My signature colour is probably leopard print. I know it’s a little cliche for a burlesque performer, but come on… Barecatt! lol Also it has been said that i invented the colour purple. I will neither confirm nor deny this. I also love blue…all kinds of blue.
Gracie: Who is your showgirl inspiration?
Bella: There’s a couple, Koston Kreme locally has been my hero. She’s a true star and being able to work alongside her and learn from her is incredible. Also locally my sisters from different misters Lana Lovecakes, Lila Livewire, Headmistress Holly Sin and Meena Jatrois really inspire me to keep performing and embracing all things completely ridiculous. Indigo Blue, Amber Ray, Lola Frost and Khandie Khisses are the burlesque stars I have been paying close attention to lately. I love their creativeness, beauty, movement and costuming.
Gracie: What was your burlesque A-HA moment?
Bella: When I saw my first burlesque show here in Ottawa at Barrymore’s back in 2002 by the touring group the Fluff Girls. I got on stage for the shimmy contest and lost. I caught the fever at that point and said to myself “someday I will make this my reality” and then I did.
Gracie: Do you tassel? Both ways?
Bella: Yes, tassel and assel. And yes both directions. And individually. I try to practice tassling as much as possible. Once i get them on i can’t stop
Gracie: Do you have a favourite peel and reveal?
Bella: My favourite peel and reveal on stage to perform is the stockings. I love how many different ways you can do it. With your hand, teeth, someone else’s hand, in front, behind, fast, slow, upside down, standing. It’s a lot of fun. Oh also, I just love spinning tassels. Love it!
Gracie: How would you describe your style of movement?
Bella: I’m more of a comedic performer, I do have rhythm and can dance, but I don’t see myself as a sensual performer. I’m more high energy get the audience to laugh with me, kind of performer. If that makes any sense. I also do a lot of improv on stage depending on what kind of reaction I’m getting from the audience.
Gracie: When building an act, where do you start?
Bella: Song comes first always for me. I will hear something and want to dance to it, then the concept comes after. I get inspired for my concepts through everyday things I have at home. For instance for my signature act the Lion Sleeps tonight; I have always loved the song and for about a year whenever I heard the song I knew I had to do something to it. Then one day I saw my leopard print house coat and pink leopard print jammies and then the act just came together.
It has definitely grown and improved since I started performing it. I like to change it up at least a little bit, each time I do it so the audience won’t know exactly what’s coming if they’ve seen it before.
Gracie: What is the most important part of your act?
Bella: Connection with the audience for me is so important. They came there to see you perform (whether they know it or not). I try and make sure I engage them as much as possible and make them feel that I am including them in on my act in some way. You can have the most put together act, costume and dance, but if you don’t connect with the audience it’s not a complete act. It’s live theatre and you only have them for your 3 to 6 minutes you’re on stage. It’s so important to be able to connect with them somehow.
Gracie: What’s the strangest thing you’ve had happen backstage?
Bella: After performing on a wrestling ring in the middle of a forest at Shazamfest Lana Lovecakes had a gang of tweenaged boys and girls following her around. They even snuck backstage (which was a yurt) and hung out with us while we were getting our things together. It was hilarious and quite surreal. They didn’t care about the nudity, they were more interested in the feathers and the glitter. Gotta love hippytype festivals!
Gracie: What’s the most unique show you’ve been a part of?
Bella: I can’t decide which one because they’re all so unique. My favourite one that I produce is Strip Cheese. This year will be the third annual Strip Cheese and it’s an homage to power ballads, rock anthems and love songs. There was also the Dirty Dancing and Dr Seuss tours which were incredible and I’m so lucky to have been a part of. As well as most recently the Ottawa Burlesque Expo which was the first of it’s kind here in Ottawa and it was amazing. Also I can’t forget Shazamfest it’s such a crazy experience, I can’t wait to go back this year. And of course the Great Canadian Tease Burlesque Brunch – it’s bacon and legs! So much fun!
Gracie: Where is your favourite venue at home and on the road?
Bella: Favourite venue in Ottawa – there’s a few for different reasons.
Barrymore’s – that stage and venue is incredible
Maxwell’s – they treat us so well and are so accomodating. It’s like family.
The Rainbow – again treat us so well and the stage is pretty fantastic to perform on.
on the road my favourite place was probably the Hudson Theatre in Hudson Quebec or the Pearl Theatre in Hamilton or Shazamfest
Gracie: Do you think you’ll ever retire?
Bella: I hope not.
Gracie: Is there any showgirl words of wisdom you’d like to share?
Bella: Don’t take yourself too seriously, have a sense of humour, an audience will always forgive a mistake as long as you let them in. But they won’t necessarily be so forgiving if you’re not forgiving on yourself. Don’t cry in public if your act goes wrong. Take it backstage or outside. Eyes up, look at that audience even if you can’t see them because of lights etc. If you’re eyes are down it means you’re not performing for the people who paid to see you on that stage. If you want to dance and strip for yourself do it at home, don’t waste the audience’s time. It sounds harsh but it’s true. Also your pictures will turn out much better Also Enjoy yourself and smile – this is probably the best advice I can give.
Gracie: Thank you Bella, for taking the time to introduce yourself to us, and for letting us get to know a more about you! Catch Bella Live, Sunday, Sept 13th: Great Canadian Tease Burlesque Brunch Bring Back the Classics at Maxwells Bistro Ottawa, then the Ottawa 21st of Sept Burlesque Festival Sinner’s Brunch. She will also be producing the third Annual Strip Cheese in the fall, details TBA. Follow her at the links below
Great Canadian Tease Burlesque Brunch (Co-producer)
Ottawa Burlesque Playground (Creative Director and co-founder)
Burlesque Starz Page