‘Silhouette’ brings burlesque and beyond to the Peninsula

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On the first Wednesday of every month, Redwood City bar The Hub comes to life with one of the Peninsula’s only burlesque shows, Silhouette. Drag queens strut the stage, burlesque dancers artfully remove articles of clothing and comedians entertain a vibrant local crowd.

The next Silhouette, on Aug. 2, will be no different; the show’s diverse lineup includes burlesque dancers, a drag artist and a clown and Chinese yo-yo performer, all set to bring a perhaps much-needed dose of sensuality and playfulness to Silicon Valley.

“I live here in Redwood City, but most shows like this are primarily in the larger cities like San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland,” Silhouette producer Dorian Dietrich said. “I really wanted to have something in my backyard. … And so I approached The Hub about a year-and-a-half ago and said, ‘Hey, I was just wondering if you might be interested in having a burlesque show.’ The owner was very receptive to that idea, so in May of last year, we did our first show. And surprise, surprise, Redwood City was actually kind of into it.”

While Silhouette is primarily a burlesque show, its monthly lineups often feature a wide variety of artists. The show’s name itself is an homage to one of Berlin’s only queer clubs of the 1920s, according to Dietrich, and references the open-minded environment and accepting space Dietrich hopes to create while presenting this monthly show, an environment cultivated in part with a wide variety of performing acts.

“We will have some of those striptease-forward burlesque performances, but we also feature drag and comedians and try to mix it up and present something a little different,” Dietrich said. “Also, I have tried to be really intentional in my casting and make sure I’m not just having a bunch of skinny white girls on stage. There are a lot of different ways to do burlesque and other types of performance art and a lot of people in different kinds of bodies doing that. And so, I personally think … having that diversity just makes for a better show.”

One of this month’s performers is Jackie Layshun, a drag queen set to perform two pieces as a part of the show.

“The first one, I’m performing ‘Bleeding Love’ by Leona Lewis,” Layshun said. “It’s elegant and beautiful but still spooky. My second number is to ‘Your Disco Needs You’ by Kylie Minogue. I was thinking before about trying to fit into the burlesque show style, but I realized … it was important for me in this show specifically to kind of stick to myself and what I do authentically, and not try and fit myself into a different mold.”

Another one of this month’s performers, Oscar Velarde, is set to bring a diverse set of talents to the stage.

“I’ll be doing a clown number that I’ve been working on, and I’m also gonna be doing my diavolo (Chinese Yo-Yo) act as well,” Velarde said. “In my clown act, I am playing on the big tropes of burlesque, and poking fun at them.”

Dietrich said that by showcasing a diverse range of acts at their show, they hope to promote self expression and destigmatize frequently taboo-burdened art forms like burlesque and drag.

“The first show I had listed on The Patch, someone left a comment that was like, ‘Why is this being promoted here?’” Dietrich said. “The idea of stripping is so taboo. People immediately think of burlesque as this dark forbidden thing. But I think burlesque is really important because it gives people the outlet and the opportunity to reach inside themselves and express whatever it is that they need to express. It’s a really great way to just get in touch with your body and with your sexuality.”

Dietrich also mentioned that by showcasing sexually empowered and body-positive performances, they aim to help audience members feel comfortable about self-expression as well.

“I think that it is also important because presenting burlesque creates these performance spaces that both serve as a safe space for the performers to express themselves but also can be an example for the audience, to find some comfort in their bodies too,” Dietrich said. “A big part of what I love about being a performer is that connection that you make with your audience. It might just be that little split second, but maybe you made a little difference in somebody’s life that day.”

Layshun also mentioned the need for shows of this sort, especially considering the current political climate.

““I think that there’s this message being pushed around in our country right now, particularly around drag, that everything about our existence as drag artists is sexual in nature,” Layshun said. “And at the end of the day we’re just onstage and we’re giving a performance. It is important for us to show up and perform authentically as we are to fight these misconceptions about drag and about our communities.”

Velarde also emphasized the importance of finding joy and celebration with his audience while performing in shows like these.

“What I always want to leave my audiences with is a sense of joy,” Velarde said. “That’s the power of performance, and that’s the importance of what we do.”

Silhouette takes place Wednesday, Aug. 2, and every first Wednesday of the month, 7:30-9:30 p.m. at The Hub RWC, 2650 Broadway, Redwood City. Tickets are $20-$25. eventbrite.com/e/silhouette.

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