The 4th Annual Vienna Boylesque Festival will take place on May 25th and 26th, 2017. Last month, I sat down with its founder and producer, Austrian boylesque artist Jacques Patriaque, to talk about the festival, the headliners performing there, and how he chooses which out of the hundreds of international boylesque and burlesque artists that apply to the festival will be accepted for the 2017 event.
We started off our conversation talking about the person Jacques is excited about the most.
“One of the things I am super happy about is that I will bring a burlesque legend to the Vienna Festival stage for the first time.
American burlesque artist Satan’s Angel has agreed to perform and, as she is someone I am completely in love with, I could not be happier. We have been talking for a long time, but the 4th Annual Vienna Boylesque Festival is the first time she could come here.
And she is amazing because she is, of course, Queen of the Fire Tassels, but she is also a dream come true for me especially, because a festival in Helsinki and the Vienna Boylesque Festival will be the last two festivals she ever does. And I feel so honored because of that.
Starting in 2018, though, I would love to be able to bring a legend to the Vienna festival every year. Because it is really important to show our mainly-Austrian audience that this art form is a really serious profession, and those are the ladies that paved the way for all of us.
Not only for burlesque but, I think, for people in general, as these women showed people how to be self-confident, how to not be ashamed of your body, how to accept your body, and how to fight against the advertising industry. How to say a big “Fuck you. I’m beautiful as I am”.
That’s what all those ladies did. And I think they should be remembered and applauded for that.”
How many artists perform at the Vienna Boylesque Festival?
Having just moved to Austria myself, I am always interested in Austrian performers, so I asked Jacques how many Austrian burlesque or boylesque artists would be performing at this year’s Vienna Boylesque Festival.
“Being the only Austrian boylesque performer, I will be the only male artist. But I then always try to have two Austrian burlesque artists every year, and this year will be no different.
Kitty Willenbruch, though, will have her own show soon and she will only have Viennese artists on stage. And she already has 11 performers signed up, which is amazing. Because, 10 years ago when she started, there was only her and two other girls that did this kind of thing in Vienna. So having 11 performers now, excluding herself, is amazing”.
As far as what Jacques is looking for in an artist that he would accept for this year’s Vienna Boylesque Festival?
“You have to bring your A-game, whether you classify yourself as a newcomer or a pro. Because if you are not submitting your A-game video along with your application to the festival, then I don’t care if you are a pro or a newcomer, if you bring your A-game, you will be welcomed to the family. And I don’t like the word ‘newcomer’ because anyone can decide they want to be a burlesque or boylesque performer, and then it’s up to them to do the best job they possibly can”.
Who produces the festival, and is the budget absolutely massive?
As for producing the Vienna Boylesque Festival, does Patriaque have a huge staff of people that creates the budget, chooses the artists, works with sponsors, does promotions and generally runs this extremely high-level and very professional event?
“No. For the most part, I do everything by myself. That’s why it’s frustrating sometimes to hear that people think I have a big staff and a lot of money. I don’t. I do everything myself, and money is a constant struggle. And I’m really proud of what I have achieved so far because of that. And, because I’m Austrian, it took me four years to say that “I’m really proud of what I’ve done”. But I am.
Because it’s only the fourth year, and people forget about that. But what really gets me crying is when my former idols, who are now friends, tell me all the time that they are at some gig, and people always talk about the Vienna Boylesque Festival and say how good and how professional it is. And that’s really nice”.
And how many artists are allowed to perform during the two days of the festival?
“The maximum number is 40. So far (*this interview took place on December 22st), we already have almost 200 submissions. But, starting the end of December and beginning of January, applications really start to fly in.
The application deadline, though, is February 1st, and the decision will be made by and announced on February 12th.”
So does he watch submissions as they come in?
“No. I wait. Because I think it’s unfair if I look at some now and, for example, I’m in a good mood and I like what I see then, when we really watch the videos, I’m remembering in my subconscious “Oh, I really liked this”. And so that person has an advantage over everyone else. So I think it’s more fair to watch everything together, watch each one twice, and then decide who gets accepted.
What I’m really critical about, though, is when performers are using guns in their act, or black face — that’s a total no-go — or imitating a culture they’re not from.
Like all those Asian acts, but you’re not Asian. I mean, it’s not an automatic exclusion, because I look at other things too, but I don’t get where is the connection? It’s more like, “I’m doing it, because everybody does it, there are pretty Asian costumes, and I saw it and so I have to do it as well.” And I don’t get that.
And, in my opinion, that reflects on you as a performer, as you haven’t thought about you and your vision, or your marketing strategy.
Because, let’s face it, even though you are an artist, you still need to have a real P.R. concept. “What’s my brand? How can I build a brand? How do I present myself on social media? How do I create a fan base?” — all of this is really important. And I think that’s what splits the pros (and he laughed) from the not-so-pros.”
How are artists chosen for the Vienna Boylesque Festival?
“Once we have all the applications in, after the deadline, I invite local burlesque performers to get their opinions, and we watch all of the videos. We watch each video from beginning to end, as I think that is only respectful, as the artist puts a lot of time into their application. And we all make notes. Then I look at the notes from the local burlesque performers but, at the end, it’s mostly me that decides.
And we have a scoring system for each category. For instance, walk on, walk off, costumes etc., and then we look at the total points and I make a decision.”
Getting your own personal critique
Interestingly too, the Vienna Boylesque Festival is not like many other festivals where you submit your application, and then never hear anything again unless you are accepted. Because Jacques writes a personal paragraph to every single artist that has applied but wasn’t accepted, giving them advice that hopefully may help them in their application the following year.
“I usually tell them where their highest scores were — for example, costume or entertainment value — and then I say “My advice would be to focus more in this direction or that direction”, with the hope that it helps them improve their overall performance.
Because my goal here is not just to get great performers for the Vienna Boylesque Festival. It is also to give artists advice that I hope helps their careers. And I always think about it as my “humble advice”, because it sometimes makes me nervous to give advice, but my goal here all along is to nurture artists, and to do my bit to help them be the best they can possibly be “.
And for those artists who have applied in previous years but weren’t accepted?
Jacques does keep his eye on past applicants to see if their performances have improved and, if they have, he then considers whether they will be a good fit this year instead.
The three after show parties
Other than the two days of performances, what else does the 4th Annual Vienna Boylesque Festival entail for both performers and audiences?
As Jacques explained, “On the Saturday after all the performances, we will have the big after-show party. Although, this year, we will actually have three after show parties. Two small ones on the festival days themselves, and then one big one on the Saturday.
And the big one, of course, is the Imperial Madness party, which is again hosted by a RuPaul’s Drag Race queen. This year it is going to be Violet Chachki, and she is so great. She will host the after show. She will also be a headliner of the festival.”
Patriaque says he deliberately decided to have the big after show party this year not on one of the two festival days.
“Because it’s fine, if you are a guest, to go to the after show party, but not if you are a performer.
Because from when you arrive in Vienna on Monday you are working and busy, and that goes throughout the whole week. So I wanted the after show party to be just fun for everyone, and at a time where the artists haven’t been rehearsing or performing all day, and at a time when my crew isn’t exhausted from working all week”.
Makes sense to me.
The 4th Annual Vienna Boylesque Festival’s first evening of performances is on May 25th, 2017. The second and final night is on May 26th. You can pick up tickets for a single day, or a pass for both days of the festival here.
And all I can say is I have written about the Vienna Boylesque Festival for the last couple of years, and talked to Jacques Patriaque about it several times in between. But this will be the first year I will actually be in Vienna when the festival is on, and I could not be more excited. Because yes, I will be there. And you should be too.
Meanwhile, to get an idea what you might expect at this year’s Vienna Boylesque Festival, watch the recap video from last year below. Fabulous, eh?