Burlesque for women, by women. That's what burlesque show The Lalas is all about. Next week, the show returns to the Suquamish Clearwater Casino for the sixth time.
The Lalas creator Erin Lamont said she knew after taking her first dance class at age 7 what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. Originally from Michigan, she moved to LA after college where she worked as a dancer and choreographer for film, TV, commercials and events. But it was an unassuming trip with her husband (then boyfriend) to Manhattan Beach, Calif., for happy hour that led to the germ of the idea that would blossom into the Lalas.
“One day we went to a happy hour and they had a burlesque show,” Lamont recalled. “And I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if I could just walk from my apartment, do a show with some of my friends, make 100 bucks, and call it a day, get some free drinks? That’s where the Lalas kind of got started.”
She put together a local show that performed once a month for a couple years. “It wasn’t serious, but it was so much fun,” she said. “And so I continued to improve the costumes, choreograph the acts, and do all that kind of stuff.”
When they secured their first casino booking, the reality of how much the show had grown sunk in, Lamont said.
“I went, ‘Wow, this is a real show,’” she said. “And 800 people showed up, and I went, ‘OK, this is amazing.’”
Lamont said she realized over the course of her career that she was more comfortable choreographing performances than being center stage. “I know that I love creating, but I don’t want to be seen; I love the behind the scenes,” she said.
She’s embraced every aspect of putting the show together: choreographing dances, putting costumes together, casting, and more — all of which entails a lot of work for each show.
“Every time we perform at a casino, it’s not the same show,” Lamont said. “I’m always creating and I’m always making new acts.” That includes the upcoming show at Clearwater Casino. “I’m always finding ways to improve. It’s so great because we’re continually coming back to Suquamish and nobody sees the same show twice."
Burlesque has a sultry reputation, but the emphasis in burlesque shows can be just as much on the humor as the sex appeal, Lamont said. And, at least for the Lalas, the show is meant to lift females up, not objectify them.
“It’s all about female empowerment,” she said. “It’s about celebrating the individuality of each woman on stage and it’s proving to everyone that women can be funny, sexy, hilarious — you know, just silly. They can be all-encompassing and it can be as funny as it is sexy. … It’s not just sultry, sexy for 75 minutes. We are truly making people crack up.”
Although the roots of burlesque trace back to Victorian vaudeville acts, the Lalas has a contemporary classic rock and blues theme, Lamont said.
“There’s six women on stage, and there’s an MC who’s going to talk you through the show, beginning, middle and end,” she said when asked to describe the show. “There’s group acts, there’s solo acts … classic rock music, some are bluesy. I have an angry, aggressive dancer, and then I have one who’s as smooth and liquid as butter. These women come from all different backgrounds, all styles of dance, completely different styles, and you put them together and it just works.”
The show also includes audience interaction. “The host introduces the show, she talks about the Lalas, she talks about burlesque audiences and being a proper burlesque audience and [how] it’s not just a spectator sport — we want the fans to cheer. We compare it sometimes to a football game: The louder the fans cheer, the better the team does.”
Like most entertainment acts over the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the Lalas' ability to perform.
“I basically wanted to take my entire storage unit full of costumes, and my office, and the whole other side of my house and burn it down right when COVID hit,” Lamont said. It was supposed to be the show’s busiest year yet: “We’re doing nothing but going up, tripling our bookings every year, tripling our revenue, everyone’s busy, everyone’s making money, everyone’s doing what they love, and it was great,” she said.
The last time the Lalas performed after the onset of the pandemic was Feb. 14, 2020; they didn’t perform again until Nov. 19 of this year.
It was a long wait, but Lamont expressed joy at being able to return to the work she loves — and that her dancers love.
“What I saw last month in Ohio when we performed at our first casino back — the locker room morale, the energy on stage … this is what they’re born to do, apart from all their other millions of dance jobs that they do," she said. "But for the Lalas, this is where they’re meant to be and they’re supposed to be a part of the show and they’re supposed to be on stage doing what they love. And it was literally like Disney magic on stage. It was so amazing. So it’s good to be back, and I didn’t burn down my entire costume collection, which is good news.”
The Lalas perform Jan. 7 at Suquamish Clearwater Casino's Clearwater Event Center.
Doors open at 6 p.m. Show starts at 8 p.m.
Clearwater Casino currently requires proof of vaccination and photo ID to enter any event. Click here for more info on the casino's safety guidelines.