The truth is that in Toronto, there is always something to do. Whether it’s attending one of our many festivals, a concert at your favorite dive bar, or an infamous production by the Mirvish, we are never short of entertainment to make a memorable evening. The city is abuzz with attractions that take on many shapes and forms but none are more desirable, delicious, and lascivious than Vamps like Us – a burlesque production company founded by Laura Desiree and Megan Oldfield. Together, they are a powerful pair that presents a distinct perspective on classic burlesque entertainment, performing on stages all over the city, as well as at private events. After meeting these awfully charismatic girls, I can’t think of a better way to spend a night out in the city then with the “glitter, glamour, and classic entertainment” that is, The Vamps.
Laura originally moved to New York to study film. “I was ambitious! I wanted to be the first woman to win the Oscar for best director.” After finishing her program, she continued to live in New York and couldn’t help but be seduced by New York’s music and entertainment circles. With a traditional background in dance, the burlesque scene felt within reach. When asked about her experience, she laughs and says it was absolutely terrifying. “A sense of community was lacking in New York. It was about booking the best of the best but it was still a lot of fun!”
Upon moving back to Canada, Laura continued to perform in Toronto where she would later meet her future business partner, and most importantly, a good friend. “We met just a few months ago through a mutual friend, Alex,” Megan tells me, as we watch Laura get painted Flamingo pink for their upcoming PRODUCT photo shoot. When the two first met, Laura was performing at the Cameron House in Toronto, after returning from New York.
Megan has been dancing since she was four years old and started teaching dance at the age of 12, specializing in tap and ballet. After graduating from Guelph University, she landed a job as an accountant. Megan explains, “At one moment, my job started to feel tedious. I didn’t like the routine. I started to miss dance and being creative… later that week I contacted her [Laura] and we met for coffee at Shanghai Cowgirl.” Laura adds, “We met at the perfect time. We are both ‘go-getters’. So, to see that quality in each other was very attractive…it brings an honesty to the relationship.” The two immediately hit it off and got to work creating an image for themselves that would later redefine the burlesque scene within our city “I do more of the business side, while Laura is more creative. But we’re definitely a team,” says Megan.
The two are inspired by traditional burlesque dancing and the anticipation created through movement and clothing. “Back then, clothing had much more buttons. To unbutton twenty buttons one by one can be sexier than quickly unzipping [a garment] …it’s about the journey” The Vamps have taken notes and queues from both the past and present, mentioning iconic names like Liza Minnelli, Eartha Kitt, and Cameron Diaz’s interpretation of Tina Carlyle in The Mask. They also take inspiration from the stage with hit stage and film productions such as Gypsy and Chicago. “Gypsy is such an old musical that continues to be revived. It’s interesting that a story about a burlesque dancer continues to be relevant through the decades.” With an abundance of precedents, Laura and Megan develop modern narratives for their productions that are sexy and daring, yet beautiful and empowering. They use these characteristics as a scheme for hiring new performers. “For each show, we are seeking a certain look. Virgin performers are always necessary. We love seeing people perform for the first time.” They have employed a wide range of performers from various creative backgrounds – from fitness models to arm wrestlers and almost everything in between. Megan states that it’s a mentoring process and that many performers often return to do another show.
When asked where they see the company going within the next few years, a smile lights up the room as I watch them dream lucidly. Laura is the first to say, “Travel. We would love to tour, maybe have celebrity performers, and of course perform on bigger stages.” We also discuss their longevity in Toronto and grapple with the dream of having a residency at the Elgin or the Gladstone. “We really enjoy The Ballroom at the Gladstone. It’s such a creative environment.” The two also list charities in which they would love to get involved, in support of healthy body image. “We are comfortable in our skin. The best part about finishing a show is having an unlikely audience member come up to us at the end and say how liberating and empowering their experience was.” I think that it is these moments that are most admirable: two young women doing what they love for a living, and perhaps, changing a few lives for the better.
With much admiration, PRODUCT can’t wait for The Vamps’s next show, Femme Fatal, which Laura describes as having elements of “Sin, Lust, and Desire,” all set in Grayscale. With such creative concepts, it is obvious that the Vamps are merely skimming the surface of their creative pool. As they continue to grow we look forward to seeing how they rustle the burlesque scene in Toronto and continue to elevate the art form. With their success, sincerity, and dedication to being Toronto’s sweetest fantasy, The Vamps add amazing entertainment to our city. I think it’s safe to say, “Everything’s coming up roses,” for Vamps Like Us.
EDITOR’S LETTER – ISSUE 3