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Rainbow Cabaret debuts for Pride Week

Skye Plowman, as Rex Holmes, is the MC and Director of this weekend's Rainbow Cabaret at the Top Knight. Photo Courtesy of Samantha Stuart

Chelsea Thacker, executive director of Rainbow Coalition, promises “copious amounts of glitter” as Rainbow Cabaret takes the stage for Pride at the Top Knight this weekend.

With a packed roster of veterans and several first-time performers, the acts range from stripteases to satirical comedy routines. The weekend’s performances are slated to represent all bodies, all genders and all walks of life, according to Rainbow’s Coalition’s event announcement — and that may include a few surprise for audience members.

Thacker noted one large group dance number is an early highlight of the performance, in addition to showstopping acts from some innovative soloists.

For newcomers, she said, “prepare to have your literal socks blown off. It’s a really cool experience for someone to come to a show like this. And for someone’s first experience to a come to show that’s (2SLGBTQIA+), to support queer and trans people in our community, and performers.”

Skye Plowman, as Rex Holmes, is the MC and Director of this weekend's Rainbow Cabaret at the Top Knight. Photo Courtesy of Samantha Stuart

“It’s a really different environment that I encourage everyone to experience if they can,” she said. “It’s really cool to see.”

Thacker said the show also created an avenue for first time performers to express themselves and take creative risks in a safe environment. “We don’t have a lot of safe spaces for (2SLGBTQIA+) people to express themselves,” she said. “By having Rainbow Cabaret, we created one of those spaces.”

It’s fundraising aims to go a step further. All the proceeds of the event go back to the Rainbow Coalition, which advocates for queer and trans issues in Yellowknife, acts as a community support and operates the Rainbow Youth Centre. With performances at 9 p.m. on Friday, and 8 p.m. on Saturday, each ticket is $25.

This weekend’s selection will be the result of months of work. Thacker said preparation began in March, as the show began coordinating with other local Pride events to ensure community members wouldn’t be forced to miss the show to attend another event.

Meanwhile, as performers auditioned months ago with individual pieces showcasing their identities, they quickly grew to collaborate and take creative risks with their fellow performers, Thacker said. A lot of that’s due to the environment they worked in.

“What that allows for is not only a safe space for them … to live their own different identities, but also to create performance art pieces in a space where they know they’ll be treated with respect, be valued, and ultimately just feel super safe.”

That freedom to take creative risks means performers will go beyond “stereotypes like overtly risque” performances, or being overladen with heavy themes, she said. Performers do, however, tend to include their identity into their work, though song choices and the movements of their bodies.

On that front, it’s similar to past burlesque shows, with a diverse collection of acts and community members. It creates a fluid experience of different artforms appearing alongside each other on the same stage. It’s a rare opportunity for attendees: Usually, that range would result in separate shows, Thacker said.

For community members, attending performances like this helps them see “the different ways people can be allies and really show support for these performers who are bearing it all.”

“People feel accepted and encouraged to get on stage and tell (their) truth,” she said.