Brazen Belles Hit the Road for Vermont Burlesque Festival

The Brazen Belles with reigning Burlesque king Ray Gunn at the Vermont Burlesque Festival held last month in Burlington.
- The Brazen Belles with reigning Burlesque king Ray Gunn at the Vermont Burlesque Festival held last month in Burlington.

Fishermen have monster shark tournaments, comic book geeks have Comic Com, rug hookers have hooking conventions, and burlesque troops now have the Vermont Burlesque Festival.

The inaugural festival was held at the end of January in Burlington, Vermont, and in attendance were five out of seven members of the Brazen Belles, who were lucky enough to perform as well as to meet some of the famous names in the industry while there. “Meeting those talents made it totally worth it,” Belles founder Aanjes Hershfield of Falmouth said.

Burlesque is a sexy art form but it’s usually represented inaccurately on television said Ms. Hershfield, who goes by the stage name Pepper Grinds. “It’s more about celebrating women.” The word burlesque comes from the Italian word burlesco, which means to make fun or to mock, explained Ms. Hershfield. “Burlesque is about the exaggeration of the female form,” she said.

Whatever its origins, burlesque is on the rise across the country with one website reporting that 2013 saw inaugural festivals also held in Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Madison, Wisconsin, just to name a few.


Because of Burlington’s proximity to the border Ms. Hershfield said the festival included many Canadian as well as US dancers.

While many festivals include a competition, as this was the Vermont festival’s first year, the performances were more of a show-what-you’ve-got type of event. It was hard to choose which number to perform, said Ms. Hershfield. “We wanted something that would showcase our staging, dancing and comedic elements.”

In addition to performing at the festival, Ms. Hershfield said she and the other Belles got to meet some of the headliners and gather resources and recommendations.

Overall Ms. Hershfield hailed the Belles’ first festival foray as “amazing learning, and a good bonding experience.”

Formed in late fall 2011, Ms. Hershfield estimates the Belles have performed more than 30 shows since their first performance in spring 2012. Ms. Hershfield said the Belles practice between six to eight hours per week and on top of that they are always looking for new ideas and trying to see what else is out there. “We’re always trying to keep it unique,” said Ms. Hershfield, who explained that many burlesque routines contain the same classic elements. “There’s always a fan dance, there’s always a balloon dance, there’s always puppetry,” so the challenge is to present these elements and to use the props in different ways.

Some of what the Belles picked up in Burlington may be on display next week when the group presents their Valentease Extravaganza, February 14 and 15 at The Beach House in North Falmouth beginning at 8 PM.

The show will play to all aspects of love, the good, the bad, the amazing, and the sweet, Ms. Hershfield said. “It’s not specifically for couples, or singles, or girls, or guys,” she said.

Tickets for Valentease are $30 and include a pre-cocktail party from 6 to 7:30 PM with complimentary hors d’oeuvres. Purchase tickets in advance via or at Eight Cousins Books in Falmouth.


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