Femme Fatale: the here and now

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.

Tina Joslin (photo credit Shane Collins)

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.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6Ctk6ERMqs[/embedyt]

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The Okanagan’s been my home since I was born. Life has taken me across the planet several times and through that transient lifestyle I developed a journalistic style to my photography and to my writing. My influences would be that of James Nachtwey, Annie Lebovitz, Ashley Maile, Hunter S Thompson, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Tom Robbins, Wes Anderson and Charles Bukowski. The world outside this incredible valley, its cultures and its mystery is what’s kept me working and trying to save my money, so I can keep getting back into the world. That’s the way it used to be. Covid has opened my eyes to the land I call my home and there are so many tales to tell right here in BC. From tales of the impoverished to the neglected to those who overcome adversity, to the spirit to overcome fear, the power of storytelling has never been more relevant. I’ve always been a storyteller. There’s a tale worth telling in every neighborhood. I just happen to write about what happens to me along the way and I’ve kept them close to my heart, hoping one day I’ll have an outlet so I can tell those stories the best way I know how; by writing them down. From adventures of long ago, both here or maybe far away, future interviews with musicians, artists of all kinds, the coverage of events, the people I meet along the way, whatever I get up to I intend to have you as my guest as I go back in time and dig up the bones of those old adventures or chase down new ones. Through the alchemy of storytelling, you can come along with me if you like. Before Covid-19 I was really coming into my own photographing live shows; punk rock bands, hip hop showcases, tattoo portraits, rock climbing adventures, Femme Fatale burlesque performances you name it, the phone was finally beginning to ring. Then Covid showed up like a hurricane and I guess it wiped us all out in one way or another. I have a real bone to pick with Covid-19 and if I can share some stories for our readers to enjoy, I’ll do that and when we can return to live music and to foreign travel and we can safely get to working on mending what’s been damaged I tell you I want to be ringside like Joe Rogan commentating on Covid getting its ass whooped. I want to see it tap out and watch us overcome this hardship, raise our collective hands triumphantly and move on into whatever new normal is waiting for us. I’ll be there and through my eyes, just like the boss man, Hunter himself, I’ll do it in Gonzo fashion and bring you kicking and screaming along with me. So hold on tight and dig in. It might not always be pretty but I won’t call it all ugly, neither. That’s for you to decide. My name is Shane Collins and I hope you’ll read along with me and our team here at Gonzookanagan.com

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