Queer Communities And Clowning with Artist Ruby Slickeur

Episode 7: Sassy Souls with Cyd Eva and Ruby Slickeur



Burlesque clown Ruby Slickeur is bringing their queer identity to the stage one show at a time. Through bright, bold characters, Ruby presents a playful expose of sensuality and gender exploration. Using storytelling as their tool for expression, Ruby's performances consciously connect with today's thriving queer community.


With a parallel persona as Drag King Carl Kunt, Ruby has spent the past decade touring around Canada becoming known for their raucously messy acts. Whipped cream, fake blood, and outfits that shout Sass, Ruby uses their love of clowning to entertain a new frame of mind. Reflecting on the narratives they wish to share, Ruby talks with Sassy Souls host Cyd Eva about bringing their femme presence to the cabaret arts scene. While reminiscing on the youth programs that shaped their access to theatre, dance, and performance.



Tune into this podcast episode to hear how Ruby's politically aware upbringing shaped their approach to art, making way for conversations about gender and sexuality. As a nonbinary person, Ruby highlights the importance of creating inclusive spaces for people to exist freely. Celebrating the community they have been a part of and the safety it provides for personal growth.


 



Growing up in Vancouver, Ruby's first introduction to Burlesque came when they were 16 years old. Having snuck into a show, they explain how "I was in awe of this space where bodies could just exist on stage, it felt like an empowering space to be as a performer". The stage was a familiar place for Ruby having spent their teenage years taking part in theatre programs learning dance, improv, and sketch comedy. "That was such a big part of my high school years. I feel like the most important connections in my youth came from that program". Continuing their love for performance, Ruby decided to do a two-month-long intensive course in burlesque after University. This was the catalyst for Ruby Slickeur's evolution, leading them to tour with Cabaret groups and expand their skills in writing, producing, and directing shows.


Performing with Man Up - that stage has been one of the most accepting places to explore myself and my identity and process things through performance


There is a particular duality about Ruby Slickeur's approach to life and performance, forever finding a balance between their own identity. This is something that their introduction to drag allowed more space for. After dating someone who was part of a performance group called Man Up, Ruby was invited to be part of the show. Ruby expresses how this invitation led them to find an incredible queer family where ideas and identity were safe to be explored."I got to be a part of [seeing] that show transforming from a straight-up drag king show to a very diverse performing space. It sees all kinds of drag and burlesque and queer performance in there, varying kinds of gender exploration and expression, and I feel very grateful to be a part of that." It was in this space that Ruby started working through different performance concepts and trying out ideas that allowed them to express themself in all manner of ways. Highlighting how important it is to have "a really affirming space to be yourself, whatever that means to you in that moment, even if it's different from month to month."

Having been based in Vancouver, Ruby moved to a small city in the Northwest Territory to help ease the financial pressure of living life as a performer. "I'm sure anyone who lives in a city which is expensive to live in, as an artist, [understands] it can be hard to juggle things". Focusing on not burning out, Ruby explains how in "2019, I was traveling all of the time for work, for performance. I spent a third of the year on the road which is a lot of time to be traveling." Having happily established themself amongst performing communities, Ruby decided to spend 2020 off stage. "I wanted it to be a year of turning the lens inwards and not working towards show goals and career goals - not pushing myself in that capacity". In this sense, Ruby refers to the hustling element of having a career as an artist that can disconnect you from the creative aspect or the thing you love about it, or as Ruby says "in my case, not knowing what I wanted to be putting on the stage".


I know I'm not done making art...what the future will bring is more really gay art


This time away from performing full-time has allowed Ruby to reflect on how the ever-growing community of comics and performers has shaped them. During lockdown, they took online classes with Van Vogue Jam, explaining how it had a fundamental impact on their own queer identity and understanding the history they were connected to. Similarly, being involved in local theatre projects and festivals is something Ruby does "to meet other like-minded people [because] spaces for queer adults up here aren't necessarily abounding". With this in mind, Ruby is focusing on producing more opportunities and events for people to come together and just be.




When talking about the context of building a career in Canada, Ruby explains how their position of privilege as a white person has offered them a lot more opportunities "me as a person, I've been able to explore both my art and my personal identity in relative safety." This is something that Ruby explains started from a young age having been raised by "anarchist hippies", which they describe as "a very specific existence!". Surrounded by a family who embodied creative acceptance, Ruby shares how "My parents were so incredibly encouraging of what me and my brother did.... But I also grew up in a household that was very political. Conversations about politics and identity were very open." This fostered a space for Ruby to feel safe when sharing their queer identity. "I never expected any negative reactions from my family based on my identity and my interests." As a nonbinary person, Ruby feels fortunate to have a supportive community around them which has enabled them to have immediate contact with fellow queer artists and performers. "These all set me on the path to who I am, how I approach art, life, how I'm not afraid to be an inherently political person and push for spaces that are as inclusive as I had access to growing up."


I'm not afraid to be an inherently political person and push for spaces that are as inclusive as I had access to growing up


Similarly, when discussing Ruby's sassy side, they recognise how they have been leaning into extended concepts of what sensuality means. "As someone who grew up doing burlesque and being in these spaces that have inherent sexualisation tide to them, I'm very body neutral. I don't necessarily see bodies, my body, as sexual things." As a performer, being naked in public spaces is something Ruby feels at ease about. It is with this same mindset regarding nudity and physical sexuality that Ruby has been looking for other ways to experience pleasure beyond just sex, such as dancing or preparing a good meal. with love and attention



It is with the same light-hearted, open approach that Ruby closes the conversation, explaining how important performing with flexibility has been for them."Burlesque is so much an exercise of meeting yourself where you're at. Because no performance is going to be the same regardless... I have looked, felt, been able to dance all on entirely different levels when I've done the same act." This reflects Ruby's philosophy to be accepting of their appearance and abilities at every stage, peacefully. This mindset is something that also moves through Ruby's personal relationship with their body. "It's about accepting my body where it's at no matter what, and moving away from setting standards about how I want my body to look... I don't want to force an aesthetic on it". This is an attitude that Ruby hopes will also help people become more accepting, to stop projecting ideas about appearance onto one another. They explain how "just being like 'I have a body, it's great' and letting go of the aesthetic standard means you're going to stop considering other people's bodies as well." This is something we wholeheartedly support, helping prevent the destructive repercussions of comparison culture and toxic beauty standards.


As someone who grew up doing burlesque and being in these spaces that have inherent sexualisation tide to them, I'm very body neutral. I don't necessarily see bodies, my body, as sexual things


Listening to the joy Cyd Eva and Ruby Slickeur have shared through theatre and performance acts as a welcome reminder of how liberating creating your own character can be. With a limitless approach, seeped into authentic, political anarchy, we cannot wait to see what Ruby Slickeur will bring to the stage next.