Femme Fatale: the here and now
Photo credit and copyrights to Shane Collins & Gonzo Okanagan
Who knows what live performance will look like as we round the corner in this pandemic. Back, only a few years ago, you could go for dinner, meet your friends, head to a show and maybe catch Femme Fatale all in the same night before hitting the clubs. The options for entertainment were abundant.
My, how times have changed.
Not only has the pandemic put a stranglehold on all performances, globally, it has also broken the backs of many venues right here in the Okanagan. I can’t help but wonder where performers go from here.
It would eventually be a question I put to Tina Joslin, the founder of Femme Fatale Dance.
I’ve known Tina for the past few years, being front and center to photograph her shows and rehearsals. I asked Tina back then, when we first met, if I could photograph her performances and she gave me a shot. Now, at the beginning of my writing career, I’ve asked her for this interview, so I can practice and develop my style of conducting such a thing.
To my delight, she agreed.
It is a cold October afternoon when I walk in through the doors of Oranj; her fitness, dance and yoga studio in downtown Kelowna. She sits behind the front counter on both her computer and phone. Tina’s hair is an electric mix of silver and purple. It shimmers as her head turns to see me walk in. She gives me a smile as I arrive, finishes her phone call and invites me to sit down in a separate room so we can chat.
I thank her for her time and right away, I get into it.
So, Tina, what was the genesis for Femme Fatale Dance? What inspired you to begin?
“In the beginning, it was a vision to give women the confidence to learn to dance and express themselves, but really, it started as a selfish act,” she confesses. “Back then, I was dancing with another company, doing little performances here and there but I wasn’t feeling inspired by the dancing I was doing. I wanted to do something different.”
Tina smiles and looks out the window behind me, caught in revery.
“As a group of friends just dancing more for fun than anything, I proposed we do our own show.” She tells me, “we hit the ground running, having no idea what it would become, we realized a big stage wasn’t necessary with this sexy, jazzy style of dance.”
Inspired by artists like Beyoncé and the flare of burlesque, a fusion of dance was born. She shrugs her shoulders.
“Sex sells and after a few seasons soon behind us, tickets were hot and shows were selling out.”
“Was that a flashpoint?” I ask her.
She nods her head. “Yeah. Our first show was in March of 2014. That was seven, almost eight years ago.”
What do you get from going through all the training and working towards making what Femme Fatale has become?
Just then, the door opens and a brown dog walks in with its owner and some young children have arrived as well. Oranj is busy and that makes me smile.
Tina gives the dog a big shake of the ears. “Hello buddy.” The dog leaves and she says, “seeing women be empowered, sometimes, totally transformed by week two of class. A woman who has had children and isn’t comfortable in her new body after the birth comes in and wants to learn to dance or return to it. Seeing that transformation is powerful. Expressing myself, doing what I love and being around that energy. It’s intoxicating.”
Have you seen yourself transform through dance?
She nods her head. “I used to somehow wedge myself into these fishnet stockings. They were painful to wear, let alone dance in, but they made my ass look great and they didn’t make me jiggle.” Tina lays back in her chair, smiling up at the ceiling, shaking her head. “Now I love everything that jiggles. I want that realness in my performances. I would never even consider performing in leggings like that ever again.”
I take notes and sip my water.
It feels like we’re rounding a corner in this pandemic. What’s around this corner I have no idea… How have you adapted through COVID?
Still leaning back, looking up at the ceiling her smile fades and her lips tighten. “We did what we could.” Her eyebrows lift. “ I couldn’t let six years of hard work be thrown away. We had to adapt. From figuring out online ZOOM classes to creating dance videos, we even made back alley dance classes because if all we could do is hold small classes in our back alley, then guess what, we’re holding class in the back alley. I’m sad in a way because we’re getting ready for the stage again. All that time to work solely on the craft is nearing its end. It’s time to get back to performing.”
What’s the biggest hurdle for that to happen?
“Besides COVID?” Her eyebrows raise and she adjusts in her chair.
Silly question I guess, considering all the uncertainty. I nod.
“Venue space. It’s the biggest problem for entertainment in Kelowna right now.”
With COVID-19 safety measures still being strictly enforced, venues who have survived the pandemic are forced to limit capacity, show proof of vaccination all the while trying to earn a profit. We may be rounding a corner, yeah. I never said the road was paved, the car was sound nor the driver behind the wheel, sober.
So, what’s next? I’ve run out of questions, dear reader. What have I missed? Lots I suppose, but that’s all I have for this one.
“Well, we just did a performance up at Crown and Thieves, (a local winery in West Kelowna) in the speakeasy they have downstairs. We have also been talking to a few venues for a show in January 2022. We have dance classes beginning here, so ya, we’re still making it happen.”
The brown dog has returned and drops his head into my lap. I pet his ears. Tina and I stand and have a good hug. “Thank you for this, Tina. I’m happy you’re doing well,” I look down at the dog who stares up at me, pawing my leg for more petting. “And I’m happy you’re making new friends and staying busy.” I’m out the door as Tina returns to her computer.
After some time to process my first interview, I came away with speaking to someone driven to continue in her pursuit to teach, to empower others, to express herself through her art. It feels good to be inspired.
I also notice a common theme. The loss of so many important spaces is a real concern to performers across the board. Yes, I’m used to my punk rock and heavy metal shows, but to be witness to the energy, grace, finess and beauty of the Femme Fatale Dance group, I too want to witness life return to the stage, regardless of genre, so long as it is passion and dedication that comes through the performance I want to feel that energy in the crowd again.
I’ll be at the first show, whenever it comes. Wherever it’s hosted. I don’t know what’s around this corner but I’m ready to embrace whatever light is left to hope for in this time of a pandemic, where dance may for now be forbidden, but there are those out there practicing for when that day arrives and it’s those folks sacrificing, diversifying and continuing to push on ahead so it can happen; it’s those people I want to talk to and write about.
All words and photos are protected by copyright law © to Shane Collins.