The Santa Cruz Sirens are set to cast a spell over the Fringe Festival
Greek mythology has painted the Sirens as seductive female creatures who lured unsuspecting sailors to shipwrecks and death at a rocky shore by captivating them with the sweetness of their song. Taking inspiration and a moniker from those commanding femmes fatales, artistic director Laina Copley formed the Santa Cruz Sirens Neo-burlesque troupe in April. “Our interpretation of the Sirens doesn’t intend to destroy the audience,” assures Copley, “but our goal is to expose them to different expressions of sexuality.”
The seven-member dance troupe will unveil its first production, entitled “Deep Waters,” as part of the Santa Cruz Fringe Festival on July 14, 19, 21, and 22 at The 418 Project.
“Burlesque is an important genre to be represented, as it embodies the fun and edginess that a Fringe Festival typically is,” says Dixie FunLee Shulman, director of the Fringe Festival. “The Sirens were the strongest burlesque applicants [and] we were pleased the burlesque slot could be filled with local talent.”
Staying true to the objectives of the Fringe Festival—to present audiences with unconventional forms of performance—the Sirens put a unique spin on classic burlesque. “I want folks to understand that we are offering something different,” explains Copley. “Almost as a disclaimer—if you’re expecting traditional burlesque, you’ll leave disappointed.” In an area with a number of burlesque troupes, the Sirens set themselves apart by performing a fusion of dance styles that explores sexuality, relationships, and the interplay between the masculine and the feminine.
“Deep Waters” features five solo and seven group pieces set to contemporary music. Each performance features a different type of dance—from modern, to hip-hop, to cancan, to Jamaican dance hall, to a Broadway-style piece.
“My favorite thing about being in this group is that it [gives] me a chance to work with my own choreography in a way that is comfortable,” says dancer Rachael Hawkins, a.k.a. Coco Rouge. “In the past, as a dancer in other genres, [I] have felt worried about being judged by others. This group of women is uniquely accepting in a way that I don’t believe would be possible in another context.”
The Sirens are big advocates for embracing all body types in their dance and creating a safe space for women to connect around sensitive issues involving sexuality and body image. “It’s more than just sexy ladies dancing in lingerie,” says Copley. “It has a lot of substance because it is so intentional and empowered and tells a story from the dancer’s perspective, rather than just showing somebody something they would like to see.” Copley intends to provide a versatile show for audiences; one that’s perfect for those who simply want to be entertained, but with enough substance to interest those who have their own questions about sexuality.
The Sirens have maintained the character element of classic burlesque, in which each dancer has the opportunity to create her own unique persona. Madame Honey Divine (Copley) is the ringleader, spanking along her seven counterparts: Coco Rouge, Rose Wilde, Roxy DaBout, Valentina, Dylan, Sherione Shaw and their personal “kitten,” Sweet Tea Sassafras. “I would love for the audience members to feel connected [to] the different characters, and for each person to have their favorites,” says Wilde. “I hope we are endearing to people.”
The troupe says it is always looking for new talent—male and female—and intends to hold auditions in September. Copley has also expressed an interest in holding workshops for those interested in burlesque-type modes of sexual expression, but don’t have the time to dedicate to a troupe.
Those who can’t make it to the Fringe Festival can see the Sirens live at The Reef in Downtown Santa Cruz and at San Francisco’s Exotic Erotic Ball in the near future. A documentary about the Sirens is also in the works, under the direction of UC Santa Cruz student, Eric Hernandez.
“We get to dance around in lingerie,”
Copley says with a laugh. “What could be better than that?” Photo: Kaydin Carlsen
The Sirens will hold a meet and greet in Abbott Square at 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 12. “Deep Waters” runs from July 14-22 at The 418 Project, 418 Front St., Santa Cruz. $10. For tickets, visit scfringe.com.