Sizzling Sirens teach Sacramento how to shake it
Silky bustiers, black feather boas, strings of pearls and a random pair of motorcycle handlebars made of PVC pipe are painted silver and lay on the floor. A gold vintage sofa rests near two racks lined with handmade costumes, including bras stitched with imitation cash and coins. Beneath a clutter of buttons, jewelry and a tower of sewing knick-knacks appears to be a desk–a typical day at the office, if you’re a Siren. This is the headquarters of Sacramento’s only active burlesque troupe, the Sizzling Sirens, a team of 10 women ranging in ages 19 to 43 years old, each radiating with a flare that is uniquely her own.
A little vaudeville filled with theatrical satire and brought to life with provocative striptease and choreographed dance numbers defines burlesque entertainment in the simplest terms. But when Jay Siren founded the company in March 2008, she envisioned this classic genre of performance art with a couple modern alterations. Siren started teaching her first round of classes at The Press Club later that year, eventually gaining more students and at the same time finding some of the first members of Sizzling Sirens.
Since its infancy in 2008, the Sirens have built a reputation within the local music scene and around town by performing alongside bands like Agent Ribbons and Goodness Gracious Me in addition to corporate parties and events. What’s more, the gals now have a regular live show each month at Harlow’s centered around a theme, and if they ever need a live band, they turn to the veteran jazz musicians of the Harley White Jr. Orchestra for support.
“I think the greatest misconception about burlesque that we run into all the time is, ‘Where’s the pole?’” explains Jay, her off-the-shoulder black T-shirt revealing tattooed leaves spreading down her right shoulder. “For us, burlesque is burlesque-fusion. The way that we do it is a little bit different than the way that you see most burlesque presented nowadays. We take elements of everything that we love about the culture, genre and history and make it our own, mixing past and future ideas. A striptease is part of it, but in the sense of using your costume as a tool to engage your audience as though it were a prop.”
Since moving the Sizzling Sirens troupe into a gray, Victorian building on J Street last April, an idea to form a Performance Series of classes, catering to those interested in learning the art of burlesque with the opportunity to perform alongside the Sirens, was created.
Indiana Bones, Georgia Fire and Sass Herass are all present during this afternoon’s Burlesque 101 class, a one-hour introduction course into the Sirens’ world of burlesque-fusion open to the public. Each woman planted on the wooden floor of the small dance studio routinely stretches her legs and arms before claiming her space, waiting to warm up with the day’s basics.
“Alright Sass, teach us some class,” says Jay clapping her hands together like an athlete ready for the next play.
Herass, wearing hot pink spanks that read, “Dance all night,” across her bum, complete with black fishnets, tall black boots and a tilted fedora, is the instructor leading the workshop this week.
Ginuwine’s “Pony” blares from the studio’s sound system and the Sirens begin loosening their hips in a circular motion to the music. Each woman follows Herass’ lead as she keeps time out loud through the steps of the warm up. Now with Etta James’ “W.O.M.A.N” changing the mood of the workshop within the small Midtown space, the four slowly bend forward to stroke the frames of their shapely legs with both hands before gracefully lifting their arms in the air like ballerinas. Using one hand, the Sirens trace the outlines of their faces, then across their chests and eventually following the curves of their bodies. Every move the same, yet differently interpreted through the personality of each Siren.
The newest member to the troupe, Fire, watches her moves in the mirror, her limbs naturally following the flow of the lesson as Bones practices pinup faces while dancing, her short red hair ornamented with a big, white bow. Jay’s once straight black locks begin to curl as the warm-up progresses, sweat glistens down her throat as she attacks each move full out. Herass, who has taught dance over five years, emanates hip-hop in each move she teaches.
“One of our biggest things that we try to reiterate is to honor your spirit and your character,” Herass says. “It’s something that I think is really important, especially with women, we are made to feel like we are supposed to fit one cookie cutter mold and burlesque is about taking what you have and accentuating it. We’re not trying to hide, or diminish anything, just being proud of who you are and what your body is and just adoring yourself. And, that’s something that I’d really like to share with everybody else.”
Through the classes Sizzling Sirens hold every week, whether its Burlesque 101, Cardio Burlesque (which is exactly how it sounds), or the Performance Series, the Sirens believe any and everyone, with the right instructor, can learn everything from how to properly shimmy to how to incorporate props into the steps, adding a personal tease to the routine.
“I would like to stress that most people come in with absolutely no theater or dance experience and they have a blast. You seriously do not have to have any dance experience to enjoy the classes. Literally, everything is all-levels. You can walk in, gain an understanding and find a challenge and enjoy it. Truly, you can enjoy this without ever having done it before,” explains Jay, fanning herself at the close of class.
And it’s true according to Fanny Coquette, a 43-year-old Siren joining the cast last August, who took her first class with Sizzling Sirens on a dare from her husband and looks forward to February’s “Good, Clean, Dirty Fun”-themed performance at Harlow’s.
“It’s just fun. It’s fun to step outside of who I am and be 100 percent who I am,” explains Coquette. “When you get older and have a family and have a regular job, there aren’t very many venues to push that line of ‘I don’t care what you think of me.’ So, it’s a great venue to relax and have fun and not worry about what other people think.”
Together Sizzling Sirens witnessed members from the first cast come and go, but have continued to grow in numbers as well as expand their reputation outside of Sacramento, performing at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco during its monthly Hubba Hubba Revue series, named one of the Top 10 Burlesque Shows to see around the world by the Travel Channel.
“I’ve never seen a group of 10 women get along and support each other creatively and emotionally,” says Jay. “Through the process of burlesquing together and learning how to create together, we’ve all become friends.”
Sizzling Sirens Burlesque is located at 2419 1/ 2 J Street. Hour-long Burlesque 101 and Peel and Reveal classes are taught on Sundays (at 1 and 2:30 p.m. respectively). Cardio Burlesque is taught Tuesdays from 5:45 to 6:45 p.m. For more info on their Performance Series Workshop, go to Sizzlingsirensburlesque.com. If you prefer to watch the girls in action, check them out at Harlow’s for their “Good, Clean, Dirty Fun”-themed performance on Feb. 16 at 9 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door. 21-and-over only. You can also catch the Sirens the first Friday of every month for Fishnet Fridays at Dive Bar.