Cirque de Boudoir is a Montreal-based event-production company, founded by DJ Davidé and Empress Bunnyguts. They came together to fill a void, combining elements of circus, burlesque, fetish and dance. Cirque de Boudoir’s exciting parties are based on fantasy themes and open to everyone as they pursue their mission of desire.
Q: How did you develop the idea of combining the movement of circus arts with boudoir forms?
Davidé: From the beginning we wanted to create unique events with inspiration from more deviant forms of artistic expression. We wanted to attract and encourage creativity, diversity and sexual rebellion. As we are based in Montreal, a hot bed of circus arts and talented performers, Cirque came as a natural way of describing that variety of physical performance and creativity and Boudoir has a sexual connotation that expresses the kinkiness of our productions, hence Cirque de Boudoir was born.
Q: Montreal is applauded for its amazing night life. You’d worked as a DJ and event organizer, what did you think was missing in Montreal’s club scenes that you wanted to explore?
Davidé: There is no shortage of entertainment options in Montreal, especially when it comes to the club scene and night life. We go out often to electro DJ nights, fetish nights, concerts, to burlesque, theatre and circus shows and we enjoy it all. We couldn’t find a place or event that captured what was great from all these forms of entertainment and presented them all at once, including the aspect of sexual freedom and kinkiness which is a big plus. Fetish nights have the kinkiness and fashion but tend to repeat themselves in the themes, aesthetics and music. Electro DJ nights are interesting and energetic. There’s new music we enjoy and some interesting fashion, but not much of the kinkiness or performances. Burlesque, theatre and circus have great performances, but it’s not a party, you are restricted to being a spectator. At a CDB event, we combine all these elements and everyone can participate by dressing up in the theme – dancing, performing, and expressing their sexuality and kinkiness with other like-minded and like-spirited people present. Cirque de Boudoir is a kinky circus with emphasis on creativity and sexual expression and its relation to music, fashion and performance.
Q: Would you describe some of Cirque de Boudoir’s events in terms of how it embraces circus, fetish and other alternative elements?
Davidé: Each CDB event is centred round a theme, and each theme is inspired by a fetish or a fantasy. For example, we recently had our event Peep Show, where we explored a common fetish, voyeurism and its flipside, exhibitionism. At this event we recreated Amsterdam’s red-light district and had male and female go-go dancers throughout the venue, and in the windows facing the busy downtown street, so people outside the party and inside could get a glimpse of our scantily clad dancers. We used security video cameras to capture burlesque peep shows happening on the third floor of the mansion-style club, and projected them on walls on the other floors. At Purr*vert we explored the furry fetish, with everyone dressed up as furry animals, getting wild while expressing their primal instincts and yiffing each other on the dance floor. At our Robots & Dolls Ball, we explored the robot fetish and doll fetish. This can be a purely aesthetic fetish.... It is also a domination fetish (as in having the control over a robot or a doll to do what you like with them or to them), or vice versa, a submission fetish (to give up control and have someone do as they wish with you). We explored this theme with various visuals inspired by film and Japanese animation, as well as performances including bondage/suspension and marionette acts. Our next event is Necromantik (January 31, 2009), our anti-Valentine party, inspired by the Day of the Dead celebration, where we will explore the darker side of romance, the fascination with the dead and necrophilia, while keeping a sense of humour about the subject.
Q: How do you see elements of circus arts, like contortion, aerialists, and how they relate to different club dynamics like fashion, dancing or socializing?
Bunnyguts: The circus arts create an element of intrigue in the events. They bring a special touch that isn’t usually included in other parties. Also, people are always really impressed by aerialism, contortion and other circus arts, even in a city such as Montreal, with its well known circus culture. It adds a wow factor and gives people something very interesting to take away as a memory, which is really important to us. As far as how the circus elements relate to different club dynamics, depending on the venue, we have to scale down some of the elements that require rigging. This means that we have to use more interactive, in-audience or side-show styles of performances. Also, having the circus element as a component in our events liberates us in our costuming, allowing us to explore a wide variety of styles and ideas. With Cirque de Boudoir we have the artistic freedom to create something both sexy and extraordinary. Plus everyone secretly wants to run away and join the circus, and that’s why people love coming to our events!
Q: What array of costumes do you see at your events that differ from conventional clubwear?
Bunnyguts: Most of the costumes that we see at our events are homemade and very DIY (do it yourself). We really support this aspect of our events because it’s really important to us to get people involved in the theme and to inspire them to make it their own. When people create their own outfits, they bring extra energy to the events because they want to show off their hard work. What is most distinguishable from regular clubwear fashion is that we do have a strict dress code and we don’t let people with jeans and T-shirts in. The majority of our guests make a tremendous effort and come up with some amazing outfits. Along with the recommended dress code, we really encourage people to dress a little more scandalous, sexy, wild and weird. You see a lot more PVC, latex and fetish wear at our events then you would at a regular club night, but you also see more crazy colours and unique styles than you would at a regular fetish night. The fact that most people make their own outfits for our events means that they can never be like conventional clubwear because it has the person’s creative spirit put into it – it’s not just a generic piece or a store-bought outfit. Also the outfits better express the wearer’s own vision of their sexuality.
Q: Empress Bunnyguts likes to make her own costumes, and it seems your events encourage eccentricity of dress. You take lots of pictures at your events. Do you find the events involve various sorts of sexualized modelling?
Bunnyguts: Maybe to a certain extent. In the fetish scene, and even in the club scene, this is an element – people dress up to impress others, to have people look at them, to have their pictures taken. It could be considered a bit more involved in our events, since many of the looks involve less clothing than what you would see people wear at a regular club, and the dressing up aspect is a very large element of our events. As far as the photos, it’s not really about modelling in any way, but more about capturing these moments in time to keep them as mementos. It helps us say, “Oh yeah! That was a great party! Look at all those amazing costumes and how much fun people are having.” Also it’s nice for the people who did put a lot of effort into their outfit to see it in action at the event – they can show it off, and it’s a little boost for people to go to the website and see themselves in their costumes in the gallery.
Q: Do you find both the girls and guys in your events are involved with costuming for your events? What other elements of kink are you exploring in these nights?
Bunnyguts: Women generally are more involved with the costuming aspect. They are the ones wearing the more daring, sexy, eccentric and more costume-like outfits for the most part. There are a few guys who dress up, but many of them really are not sure what to wear or how to interpret the theme, or aren’t totally comfortable with an externalization of their sexuality yet, so they just keep it simple.
Since our crowd is such a mix of sexual orientations, the fantasy element of the costuming helps bring everyone together. When you are in a room of people wearing creative, sexy outfits and wild makeup, it makes it very difficult to be too serious or too judgmental. It becomes easier to meet people who have similar interests as you, and it also helps open the door for people to experiment, not only with their dress, but also with their sexuality, in a safe and non-judgmental space. CDB performances are where we go into further exploration of the fetish element or theme for the event. Performances can include things like bondage, striptease and domination, but we do it in a way that is not so much BDSM, but more an extraction of these elements incorporated into the performance. For instance, I did a performance for our event Invasion that involved an alien abduction, and subsequent bondage-like scenes where I was placed in a spandex casing to transform into a playmate for the alien. People at our events also explore elements of kink on their own, whether through their costumes or in meeting new people to play with. We try to create a fun and playful atmosphere where we are all exploring and trying new things together.
Q: What do you think of the concept of alternative sexual communities and how Cirque de Boudoir encourages mixing? Toronto has the club Wicked that’s open to the exploration of fantasy but, generally, there seems to be a lack of spaces effectively encouraging straight clubgoers to explore sexual fantasy.
Davidé: One of our goals with Cirque de Boudoir is to mix various subcultures, countercultures or alternative cultures together along with people of all sexual orientations or identities. We love the dynamic that is created at our events and we strongly encourage diversity and acceptance. The common denominator for all present at a CDB event is respect. A CDB event is not a place to judge or be judged. There is no segregation and no one "target market" when it comes to who we want at our events. If you are open-minded and respectful of others and you like to have a good time and like to dress up, you are welcome at our events. Many clubs or events cater to a specific kind of crowd. That’s not what we do because we believe that is boring and doesn’t encourage diversity and acceptance. We don’t want to place any limits to the amazing vibe, people and experiences that can happen at any of our events.
Q: I’ve always been curious about mixed social contexts. A straight guy friend once asked why he would want to go where there’s, say, queer, fetish figures – people he doesn’t want to get with. I told him that it’d be interesting to see different individuals, social vectors. Do you find different sexual cultures can learn from each other?
Davidé: Yes, definitely. Most people go out to a club or party for the same reasons; to be entertained, to hear good music, to be stimulated by social interaction, to potentially meet someone to get physical with, to be part of something in the moment. The most stimulating situations, at least in my opinion, are ones where you meet people who are uncommon, who are interesting because of their differences, where you explore uncharted territories of your own comfort zone. If we become complacent with doing the same thing, or relating only to people we can identify with then we are not really pushing our boundaries and there is little to be learned.
Q: What sort of themes has the Cirque de Boudoir explored? Some people find it hard to approach others, meet others in conventional club contexts. How do you think constructing themes encourages people to enjoy the experience more?
Davidé: Some Cirque de Boudoir themes were: Circus Maximus, where everyone was encouraged to come as a circus character (i.e., lion tamer, circus animal, clown, circus freak, aerial performer, contortionist, etc.); Robots & Dolls, which I already described; Flasher, where everyone was encouraged to wear a trench coat and anything goes underneath; Purr*vert, our furry-themed party; Pretty in Kink, our kinky ’80s prom party. INVASION, our sci-fi theme; Peep Show, also described earlier and our next event; Necromantik, where we explore necrophilia as a theme. We have so many theme ideas that will keep us exploring for years to come. What we love about themes is that it gives everyone present something in common to share. By dressing up in the theme, you are putting thought and effort into the process, which automatically makes you more involved with your experience. When dressed up, you also have a sense of freedom that comes from playing a role. It tends to strip away inhibitions and encourages interaction. All the common fashion reference points that we use to evaluate others in our day-to-day lives are irrelevant when everyone is dressed in a theme. You simply cannot compare a party where everyone comes wearing regular clothes to a CDB party where everyone is dressed in the theme.
Q: Do you find the openness of the Cirque de Boudoir appeals to mostly younger populations?
Davidé: Although a large portion of CDB participants are between 18 and 25 years of age, we do get a nice cross-section of people between 25 to 50 years of age. Of the 25-plus-years people attending CDB parties, these are people that are more selective in the club nights or events they choose to attend, and those who have "been there, done that." They come to Cirque de Boudoir nights because our events our unique, and are not limited to younger people. Everyone who does come is young in spirit and in their attitude towards life.
Q: You were recently in Toronto, performing at the Tokyo Cybermonster Masque Rave. What was that like? Is Cirque de Boudoir influenced by club cultures from other areas of the world?
Davidé: We had a great time in Toronto performing at Tokyo Cybermonster’s party. The organizers, two members of the band Bizune, Zeus and Michelle, remind us of ourselves. We are coming from different places and have different influences but we share many common points when it comes to throwing a party. We’re both influenced by the Japanese party scene, with the fashion and crazy performances. We want to see more support for these kinds of events in Toronto and would like to come back often to perform and collaborate on events. We also recently performed in London with Torture Garden and in Amsterdam with the producers of Wasteland, the largest fetish event in Holland. We are definitely inspired from the nightlife, fetish scene and various club culture found internationally. One of our goals with CDB is to perform in as many places as possible to gain from the experience and to share our own style/culture.
Q: As you’ve experienced different club contexts – would you tell us a bit about your own experiences with Cirque de Boudoir – how it’s affected your own understandings of sexuality.
Davidé: Our experiences with Cirque de Boudoir have definitely helped us explore more of our own sexuality and ways of expressing ourselves. The events are as much of an exploration for us of the particular theme as they are for the people attending the events – maybe even more so, because of all the research and ephemera
collection that happens during the planning of a theme. We have been very fortunate with CDB to get the chance to go out on a limb and pull off some really strange ideas and fun themes. We’ve also met many amazing people because of CDB, and have the opportunity to work with many talented performers. We feel very lucky to be able to create fun and diverse experiences, to inspire people, and to engender a welcoming environment that focuses on sexuality and creative sexual expression.
Empress Bunnyguts will be performing at Cirque de Boudoir’s Necromantik event on January 31 at Club Coda in Montreal. Check out www.cirquedeboudoir.com for more details.
Louise Bak is a poet, with books including Tulpa and Gingko Kitchen. She co-hosts Sex City, Toronto’s only radio show focused on relations between sexuality and culture (CIUT 89.5 FM). Her performance work has appeared in numerous spaces and in video collaborations such as Partial Selves and Crimes of the Heart.