Valentine’s Day is less than a week away, and for those who want to experience a night that entertains and enchants, City Winery’s Velvet Valentine Hearts Burlesque & Torch Songs with Phat Man Dee is sure to be unforgettable.
A press release promises a night of “bumps, scrapes and swings that will fascinate and delight”. The Velvet Hearts Burlesque Troupe, now in its 15th year, will perform the classic burlesque set not only to the jazzy singing of Phat Man Dee, but also music from a live jazz band.
“It’s going to be very empowering and sexy,” Man Dee said.
It will be a first night at City Winery in the Strip District. According to Man Dee and Viva Valezz, the show’s dance directors and Velvet Hearts, the night will be the first time there will be a live singer and band for a burlesque performance in the city. It’s a combination seen in bigger cities like New York and Los Angeles, but a new kind of act for Pittsburgh.
“The grand shows of the old days would have live singing with an orchestra played by burlesque dancers – historically dance and music like this go together. Burlesque… [has] it’s always gone along with jazz,” Man Dee said.
Man Dee will sing a mix of romantic classic jazz songs and original music, all accompanied by burlesque standards, in solo and group routines. The night will surely be for adults only, said Man Dee.
Man Dee, voted No. 1 Best Local Jazz Act in the 2022 City of Pittsburgh Best Paper Readers Poll, has been performing professionally for over 25 years with jazz musicians, drag queens, circus entertainers and burlesque dancers. Valezz has been a burlesque dancer for 16 years and is an instructor at Thrive On Health in Brookline. Velvet Hearts regularly puts on “date night specials” around town, but it will be the first time with a live band and singer, Valezz said.
“It is a very unique offer. I’ve never seen another group here in Pittsburgh do live-band burlesque,” Valezz said. “I don’t know how often we’ll get to do that, so it might be the only time this year to see that.”
Another first is a group number planned in the set list, which will include 15 dancers, including Man Dee, who will perform not only on stage but also among the guests to create an immersive and catchy number .
“I’ve always dreamed of bringing a large group of students into this routine in this way. I’m very excited about it,” Valezz said.
Valezz’s daughter Esai will also sing along with Man Dee, her instructor. Esai is the granddaughter of Don Aliquo Sr., a renowned jazz saxophonist who is still performing in his 90s. Valezz said her daughter, who grew up around burlesque, is a jazz singer in her own right and is keeping the family tradition alive.
Valentine’s Day may traditionally be a day for lovers, but the show is definitely open to people who are single and want to celebrate themselves (“And maybe you can find someone there!” Man Dee said.)
Doors at City Winery, 1627 Smallman St., open at 6 p.m. Show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $30 and can be purchased at citywinery.com.
Natalie Duleba is a stylist at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but she’s currently on strike.