By Danielle Kutchel
When Cassandra Maliepaard first saw a burlesque show, she thought it was one of the most beautiful and empowering things she had ever seen. The feathers and sparkles left an impression on the Berwick resident, and it wasn’t long before she too was mesmerising audiences from the stage.
As her alter ego Chastity De Vice, Ms Maliepaard enthrals audiences with story-driven burlesque acts.
“I like taking people on a journey. All of my acts make you feel something,” she says.
On Friday 27 September, Chastity De Vice will star in the Australian Burlesque Festival as part of the Noir Exotique show, alongside neo-burlesque icons from across Australia and the world.
Her act is based on the movie Saw; while Ms De Vice will be dressed in a classic pink burlesque costume, on her head she’ll be wearing the movie’s iconic bear trap.
“This act is a mixture of audience participation as well as kind of a satire or social commentary on the audience, applause and being a performer,” she explains.
“The act is about having to make the audience clap by taking off your clothing, but at the same time perpetuating the cycle because if they don’t clap the trap will go off.”
It’s a gritty, psychological story, and Ms De Vice says she can’t wait to see her audience’s reaction.
She feels privileged to be part of the Australian Burlesque Festival, now in its tenth year, but says she must pay tribute to the woman who got her into burlesque: the first performer she ever watched, and now her business and life partner, Mama Natalia.
A passion for the art of the tease has undoubtedly taken over their lives; together the pair own Wonderground Cabaret and Burlesque Club in Mentone.
Ms De Vice calls Mama Natalia her “number one inspiration”.
“She pushes me, helps me choreograph, watches me rehearse, puts me on stage and believes in me, and she is phenomenal on stage herself as an MC.”
Ms De Vice says one of her favourite things about neo-burlesque is the freedom it offers to be herself and develop new concepts.
“It’s a celebration of any size and body shape, men, women, old and young,” she explains.
“There’s space for anybody in this art form because it’s not about judgement, it’s about expressing yourself in any way that you want while choosing what you’re taking off to reveal just a bit more to your audience as part of the story. It started as the art of tease and it still is.”
Find out more about the Australian Burlesque Festival at https://www.australianburlesquefest.com/festival/melbourne/.