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The ennui of performing the same 1920s-Great-Gatsby-Speakeasy-style of burlesque show after show set in for Alexia Nile, so she positioned herself to craft a new project. Joining forces once again with her partner vanilladisco, Alexia conceived Grindhaüs as a gritty, underground, 1970s-disco-culture-themed art collective, with aspirations for a quarterly cabaret spectacle.

February 11, 2017 marked the inaugural event of Grindhaüs, featuring the Calgarian Afro Beat live band, Freak Motif, and one of Calgary’s favourite House DJs, Rusty Meeks. Hosted at the Nite Owl—a nightclub that recognizes the beauty of diversity in Calgary’s musical setting—the stage was set for multiple performers to display their craft: to get a little “weird.”

“I’m not saying [the artists] can’t come in and do the pretty, I’m just saying it’s not expected,” claimed Alexia Nile a few weeks before the show. And it’s not to say that the show wasn’t pretty—it was!—but there was just so much more to it than that. The collective aspired to get the audience to think—to question—in addition to just being entertained.

Guests who arrived early caught a slinky intro show featuring Nicky Markin and Megan Kargard in foxy garb, dancing to the psychedelic surf-rock of Doctor Agon. A live painting gallery led by Harold John Pendergast—complete with glow lighting—foreshadowed the style of the performances ahead. Erik “Made X Forever” Peiluck and Ben Moon also contributed their works.

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Under a sardonic narrative by emcee Roxie Floggings, Act One was all about triumph. Warming the crowd, we started with the WOLFFLOW and Soleil LED hula girls. Next we saw a tragic scene of apocalyptic love with Scarlet Disdain and Anita Vice that would “Never Tear Us Apart” and then a catty performance by Leslie Ayuneye on stand-up bass.

Freak Motif lit the stage next. Their smooth reggae and afro beats invited the crowd to dance and relax. This was the part of the show that required no work from the audience, except you couldn’t help but dance.. Their performance was all about pure enjoyment for the crowd.

But did you think you could get away with relaxing for the rest of the night? This show was about evoking emotion.

Act Two was all about sexiness. Opening with burlesque dance was Axis D’Evil to The Spy by The Doors, followed by Katra Corbeau, dancing to Surfer Go Go. Then we saw Natalia almost literally turned into a beautiful desert tree as she gave us a Modern Flamenco display to the Disturbed cover of Sounds of Silence. To wrap up, we welcomed Scarlet Disdain back to the stage with a burlesque dance to Flesh for Fantasy by Billy Idol.

The crowd went wild at every moment. Connection to the audience came without reason. There was a beautiful element of stage minimalism throughout the show—an unrehearsed, unpolished quality that proved integral to the style this collective aimed to exude. Their narrative was about a mosaic of artists who chose their own method and nothing was going to sell them short. Sometimes, when we’re forced to watch elements of theatre for which we are not prepared, we gain so much self-knowledge from them. And this show aimed for exactly that form of self-growth.

And after the acts were over, vanilladisco smoothed it all out again with his groove before Rusty Meeks took over the deck to bring the night to an epic close.

We’re excited for what this collective will bring us in the future. Stay tuned!

Words: Kasia Gorski

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