Ever since Gatsby’s, Atlanta’s Roaring ’20s themed night club opened this spring in Midtown, it seems like there’s a cool Retro event happening there almost every week. This Saturday June 29, it’s Volstead Nights – A Speakeasy Review presented by Fat Cat Cabaret. The ’20s themed night will feature lots of our favorite things – burlesque, cabaret, comedy, aerial silks, magic, hooping and more performed byFat Cat Cabaret troupe members and special guest artists from Atlanta and Nashville, followed by a dance. These include Nashville-based magician John Pyka “Big Daddy Cool,” Atlanta aerial silks performer extraordinaire Persephone Phoenix, and Rebecca “HoopEssence” DeShon, hula hoop mistress who also has been an ATLRetro Kool Kat of the Week. Tickets are $15, and the show starts at 8.
ATLRetro managed to tease out a scandalous sneak preview from Ruby Le Chatte, Fat Cat Cabaret’s troupe manager and co-founder with Jacqueline Trade. While relatively new the burlesque scene, Ruby has been practicing Egyptian Cabaret style belly dance for over 10 years in both Texas and Georgia. Ruby’s name is derived from her favorite things, her shining red birthstone and her favorite color, as well as “le Chatte” the female feline.. As she says: “Don’t mistake her for a common house cat, the only thing domestic about her is that she lives indoors.”
ATLRetro: As Ruby le Chatte, you take inspiration from your birthstone and the female feline. Did you have a special cat or is it more the long tradition of sexy, mysterious feline-inspired characters/performers from Catwoman to the lethal beauties in Russ Meyer’s FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!?
Ruby Le Chatte: Yes, it’s more the history of the feline. Even in Egyptian times the feline was a symbol of grace and poise.
Do you have a favorite feline-inspired character/performer? If yes, why?
As a child I loved watching reruns of the BATMAN TV show with Julie Newmar as Catwoman. She was always sexy and mysterious.
You came to burlesque via Egyptian Cabaret style belly dance. For those less familiar with bellydancing, how does this differ from more traditional belly dance and what drew you to this performance art form?
Egyptian Cabaret is the style of bellydancing that most Americans are used to seeing in Mediterranean restaurants. The performances can be quite sensual, and the costumes are often covered in rhinestones. Around Atlanta, at faires and festivals, it is more likely that you will see a style of belly dance called American Tribal Style dance. The costumes consist of more earthy colors, cowrie shells and large hair flower headdresses. ATS is an amazing style of dance, usually done in group numbers where one dancer takes the lead and her movement dictates the next series of moves that she and the other performers will do. Egyptian Cabaret is more commonly a solo performance, and many props – veils, swords, candles, fans – can be used. I admit, I was first drawn to the style of dance because I am a terrible flirt. *wink*
Is there a vibrant Egyptian Cabaret style belly dance scene in Atlanta? In the Southeast?
There is a vibrant belly dance scene in Atlanta and the Southeast, though there are more ATS performers than Egyptian Cabaret it seems. There’s also a large burlesque community, and the two different groups often work together in Atlanta to put on fabulous shows throughout the year.
Is there a story behind your passage from belly dance to burlesque? And how does your belly dance experience inform/influence your burlesque acts?
I admit, when I moved to Texas from Georgia in 2007 and tried to find Egyptian Cabaret classes to attend – it’s always important to continue your education – I was unable to find classes in that style near my home. I did take a few ATS classes, and while beautiful and challenging, I was not drawn to that style of dance as I was to Egyptian Cabaret. In December 2010, I attended my first burlesque show with a friend and a light bulb went off in my head. Burlesque can include humor, sensuality, drama, tease. It can tell a story; it can make your heart skip a beat. I enrolled in classes with Syrens of the South shortly thereafter and have not had a second thought since.
How did Fat Cat Cabaret get started?
My good friend Jacqueline Trade and I had performed together on a couple of occasions, during which we’d spoken about the things we love about burlesque. She and I sat down over diner and drinks and hashed out what we’d like to see, who we wanted to include and our roles. She is our Creative Director, ensuring that our shows go off without a hitch, and I am our Manger, here to make sure that all the ducks are in a row.
Can you talk a little bit about what a Fat Cat Cabaret show is like and how it fits in and/or differs from the Atlanta burlesque revival scene?
Jackie and I felt there was a place in Atlanta for a vaudeville style troop of performers and crew who wanted to create classy shows with a nod to history. Fat Cat Cabaret shows include 1920-1950s style performances, and while not everything we do is historically accurate, we create our numbers with those shows in mind. The burlesque performers of that time are praised even today for their style, creativity, femininity and flair. Our shows have a storyteller who acts as our MC; the audience is fully immersed in the show with us. It’s similar to attending the Renaissance Festival. Sure you can go as a patron and enjoy the food and watching the performers, but isn’t it a little more fun when you let your hair down and interact with them a little? Don’t be surprised if you get a wink from Sally Strumpet or if Dante Roberto takes you out on the dance floor for a spin.
Why the name “Volstead Nights”? Without giving away all the surprises, what can you tease us about Saturday’s performance?
Ah, well, The Volstead Act was enacted to carry out the 18th amendment to the U.S. constitution on January 17, 1920. The 18th amendment is better known as Prohibition. Under the laws of the time, the sale of alcohol was forbidden, and anyone who wanted a taste of “giggle water” had to find a way to get it in secret, like in a speakeasy. In our show, Benjamin Gravitt – our MC for the night – is the owner of one of those speakeasys, and he named it the Volstead as a humorous jab at the law.
Do you have anything special personally planned for your own act Saturday?
I do! You will be the first audience to see me perform with a beautiful pair of “Isis Wings.” They are like a veil or a fan, however they’re made from pleated fabric and look like the wings on images of the goddess Isis. Who knows what may, or may not, be visible when I twirl them around my body as I dance.
I’m so glad to hear that you’re excited. We are too! Gatsby’s is a lovely venue for many reasons. It has a beautiful art deco style, huge dance floor, expertly crafted and reasonably priced drinks (they even have specialty coffees before 10 p.m.), desserts, tons of free parking. They allow 18 and up and are a nonsmoking venue. What more does one need?
What’s next for Ruby le Chatte and Fat Cat Cabaret?
We always have something in the works. The nature of our shows involve a lot of planning and many long nights rehearsing. I believe I speak for everyone involved in Fat Cat Cabaret when I say that we are very passionate about our art. We’ve discussed our next show being 1950s in theme and maybe doing some video performances that are campy versions of the “educational/informational” old films on how to be a responsible housewife or how young ladies should dress to be respected. Whatever we do next, I can assure you that you will be teased, tempted, amused and entertained!