A moment with Dainty Box

Writer/producer/performer Dainty Smith under stage lights

Dainty Smith by Day, Dainty Box by night: I sat down with this badass writer, dancer, & producer of local gender-performance showcase Colour Me DRAGG. She talked about her own experiences making burlesque, and why she experiences it as a political, empowering act.

“I started burlesque just a few years ago…my inspiration [comes] from Josephine Baker, a fabulous 1930s performer in Paris, France. I’ve been in love with glamour and beauty my whole life, and when I discovered her, and I learned glamour could look like that, it was a really powerful moment in my life… I became a burlesque performer because of her. My stage performer is Dainty Box, and (her motto is “you don’t fuck her, she fucks you”)…the whole idea of Dainty Box is just to be a person of colour on a platform where I have ownership over my body and my sexuality.

This just happened to me  yesterday, but I was walking down the street and I was wearing a yellow dress and, you know, feeling pretty good about myself, I was totally lost in my own world … when I heard someone like run up beside me and …he was this tall guy, and he was like, ‘excuse me, can I speak to you for a minute’? And I was like, ‘uh…’, and he said, ‘I saw you from my car.’ He got out of his car!? (laughs nervously)

It occurred to me that if this had been later, I wouldn’t have been able to feel safe. There’s something about it being broad daylight that I could think ‘ok maybe I can just talk to him politely, and it will be ok’ but… I had to talk to him and be a nice person talking to a [stranger] for about five minutes until my friend Nat came along and saved me [and] pretended to be my girlfriend.

I feel like that’s kind of the experience of a lot of women. Like, [if] you’re a beautiful woman, and you’re pretty , you go out in the world and you’re expected to be available. Like standing in line at a coffee shop, someone will reach over and just touch you—touch the small of your back, reach over you—and that happens all the time. All the time. It’s the feeling of being undermined or underestimated constantly, and you’re constantly touched—always touched. That, for me has always brought an emotion for me, because it’s always made me feel like, ‘well maybe I should take it as a compliment,’ but… there are no boundaries.

This character allowed me to set my own boundaries. I didn’t have to play nice, I didn’t have to pretend to be interested if I wasn’t, this was a way for me to say what I wanted, to take off what I wanted to take off, not take off what I didn’t want to take off. It just gave me back control. I guess I really needed that.”

photo by Sammy Snapshot.

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