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Pepper Mills on her British burlesque benefit

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Pepper Mills
  • Pepper Mills

Angel Burlesque's weekend of fun at the Columbia Club represents only a fraction of the burlesque action in Indy this week. Also on the docket: An Evening of British Invasion Burlesque, produced and hosted by woman-about-town Pepper Mills, and including performers from the city's major troupes, plus a few independent performers. Everyone involved is donating his or her time, and all proceeds go to benefit Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.

NUVO: Tell us what inspired this theme and what we can expect from the show.

Pepper Mills: I lost my father to cancer three summers ago, and I wanted to honor him with something. I did the Beastie Boys burlesque show last year because he and I were huge fans. And now I'm going through all my dad's favorites, and he really loved British music. We cover everything from the 1960s through the 1990s. The diversity of the show is amazing. We have some Beatles, some George Michael, an Austin Powers throwback, and the opener is amazing and unexpected.

NUVO: This is the sex issue of NUVO, and while burlesque isn't just about sex, it certainly has its sexual overtones, right?

Mills: You're doing something sexy and sex-positive and nearly naked onstage — and that's okay. When you're afraid to be sexy, that's the exact opposite of burlesque. I think burlesque performers are being a bit naïve if they think there's not a lot in common with exotic dance. But burlesque is all about the tease. It's the anticipation of wondering what's going to happen. What are they going to show? What are they not going to show? What are they hiding behind those fans, anyway? It's an outlet for both the performer and the audience.

NUVO: What do both sides get out of it?

Pepper: I don't think girls performing burlesque will ever go out of style. You're asking, what's going to make me happy, and what's going to make the person coming to the theater happy? If you expect people to come to a show, it's your job to entertain them. You're doing a disservice to the burlesque community and the audience if you don't respect the audience and take it seriously. I don't think there's any one right way to do it. It doesn't have to always be campy or always take a sexy pinup direction.

NUVO: Speaking of different ways, you've got a strong cross-section of dancers from quite a few troupes around town.

Pepper: I reached out to all of the troupes and several independent performers. I wanted this to get interest from the entire community and let everybody put their mark on it. It's a really interesting viewing experience for the audience. No two girls are the same. Diversity is very important to me. Whenever I'm watching a show, I don't want to be bored. I want to feel like I'm getting my ticket price's worth. I've traveled to conventions and seen what other cities are doing, the level of seriousness and the professionalism that they show makes me want to be better. The audience deserves it and this community deserves it.

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