We had the good fortune of connecting with Katya Peepin and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Katya, how does your business help the community?
I run Badass Burlesque LLC, which is a burlesque production company and school. There is a big debate, of course, about whether or not burlesque is helpful to the individual. It’s been talked about and played out hundreds of times. I, having heard first-hand accounts of how burlesque and my classes helped students gain confidence, take back their sexuality, and take back how they feel in their bodies, am going to say that yes, burlesque is absolutely helpful on an individual level.

But how does my business help the community or the world?

I can’t help but think that more empowered community members make for a stronger community all around. The passion, drive, and even hope that gets sparked in a burlesque class or at a show ripples out to create this network of people supporting each other and being proud of each other, and themselves. If you’ve been to a burlesque show, you know that it’s almost impossible not to have fun. Basically – we raise community morale!

But there’s more to it than that as well. It’s no secret that prices in Denver keep rising and many areas are becoming gentrified and unlivable for many of us. As part of the local art scene, we are so happy to be able to work with local venues and vendors to keep money in our community, to strengthen bonds between local business owners, and to preserve and continue the fringe culture that lends to the uniqueness of Denver.

As for Badass Burlesque specifically, as our school programming kicks off and we get more long-term students, we hope to implement at least a quarterly volunteer opportunity for student troupe members, to strengthen both our Badass Burlesque community as well as the Denver community at large. Our first project is volunteering at this year’s PRIDE festivities together, which benefits the Center – a nonprofit that provides services to Denver’s LGBTQ+ community. We’ve not yet picked our second opportunity, but keep an eye out for us and you’ll see us around!

Burlesque isn’t for everybody, and that’s ok. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have a solid place in the local art scene and in Denver. I am so proud of what Badass Burlesque has become over the last 5 years, and I am excited to become even more rooted in the Denver community and part of what makes Denver so badass.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
When I started I had no idea that all of my experiences could accumulate into this amazing career that I love. When I entered university, I seemed on track to have a pretty “normal” job afterwards. But it was at university that I started jazz and belly dance. It was during my next job at MU that I spent 5-7 hours in the belly dance studio, performed at more than just student recitals, and dipped my toe into teaching a belly dance class. It was also there that I took my first burlesque workshop. Over the following years I continued dancing and became really into fitness and did kickboxing and weight lifting. I got my yoga teacher and personal training certifications. So when I moved to Colorado and wanted to get back to doing more dance performance, I felt like I had this wealth of knowledge that I was ready to use and to share.

I think you can see all of that in my burlesque performance style too. The jazz dancers will recognize the jazz, the belly dancers will recognize the belly dance, and now that I have also become a professional contortionist, you can certainly see how it has infiltrated my style. I love that I have a varied background so that I can dance in a style that is really all my own.

There are all kinds of challenges to starting a small business like this, especially the way I did – from scratch and with no investors. I literally just had to let the business money accumulate without withdrawing any while my husband at the time and I worked regular jobs. I think one of the biggest hindrances to making that transition to full time artistry (or possibly any small business) is how incredibly exhausted you are when you get home from your “9-5.” You put in a full day and then hope you can push through and get enough work done on your business for that day. Even if you’re incredibly driven, sometimes the energy just isn’t there, and that makes it so tough. Honestly, I got lucky that I had some money saved up when the pandemic hit and I wasn’t working my regular job anymore. It gave me the space I needed to really throw some hard efforts into building my business up and making it as successful as it is today.

I’m so very excited that everything has come together in a way that I can now make dance and circus my professional career. Now I’m running this whole burlesque school and producing a monthly show at Denver’s Dangerous Theatre, besides doing other performing. It makes me feel capable and strong as a person. To be honest, it’s how the name Badass Burlesque came about, and my mission is to help others realize and strengthen the badass inside of them.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
As a member of the local burlesque community, I would of course want to take them to a show! You can usually find a Saturday burlesque show at HQ, but the Dangerous Theatre, Broadway Roxy, and Blush & Blu are just a couple of the other venues that have shows sometimes. If burlesque isn’t their thing, there are a lot of great circus, comedy, and live music shows in the area as well. Red Rocks is always a great concert destination if you can swing it on your trip. Comedy Works is great for comedy, but there is also open mic comedy on any given night, like the Molecule Effect if you want an earlier show with a classier wine bar feel, or you can go real dive bar and hit up something like Scruffy Murphy’s. For visual art, it’s hard to beat a trip to Meow Wolf.

Local breweries are also a must if a drinking friend comes to visit. Personally I like to hit Stem for their dry ciders, or there are lots of taprooms downtown, like Great Divide, Rock Bottom, or Wynkoop. From there, it’s just a hop over to Coors Field for my baseball-loving friends, though personally I would prefer an Avs game myself. Other fun Denver places to drink include 1Up for arcade games and lots of local bars do Nerds That Know trivia.

I also like to try to take friends out of the city to experience the mountains. There is a lot of nice hiking just past Golden for a quick morning or afternoon hike, or you can take a drive out that way for your less exercise-inclined (or more altitude-affected) friends.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Hemlock LaRue, a fellow performer. They are a former student of mine turned co-producer and right-hand-person. They’ve always been very supportive and ready to help with advice. It can be tough for me to trust a person enough to delegate to them, but I know I can count on Hemlock.

Website: www.katyapeepinsbadassburlesque.com

Instagram: @KatyaPeepin

Facebook: www.facebook.com/badassburlesquellc

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSrmyY4MQOz0byRH3prsb6A

Image Credits
@ohheyitshthr Katya Peepin Anthony Earl

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