Seattle’s Simone Pin, led by powerhouse duo Shay Simone and Annya Pin, have been dazzling audiences on stage since 2018. Recently, I had the privilege to video chat with them before settling into my couch to partake in their 420 & Earth Day themed $6 Holler. The company is known for their particular brand of burlesque which features highly technical choreography and showcases the stories of women of color. We discussed the innovative solutions they’ve found to bring their shows online without sacrificing the incredible production quality of their in-person shows.
The pair, along with a rotating group of local performers including Adra Boo, TAQUEET$!, Android Allure and others craft each performance with the intent to bring joy, build community, and inspire confidence. Their work shines with a unique combination of highly skilled precision and a strong ethos of acceptance and community. With a wide smile, Simone recalls a moment after a show when an audience member came up to deliver a glowing face-to-face review. The audience member expressed her own desire to perform, explaining that the diversity of body types on stage made her feel like she had what it takes. Interactions like this one have only reinforced the team’s commitment to their vision as they transition to a virtual platform during the era of COVID-19. Fortunately, the most important elements of their live shows all remain, including technique-heavy group sequences, thematic details that pull the show together, and lively commentary from emcee Adra Boo.
Simone’s choreography employs the grid format of the Zoom platform in clever ways that recreate elements of a live show, allowing the dancers to interact with one another in virtual space. Instead of a curtain, webcams are covered and uncovered to direct attention to the next performer. With perfect coordination, the performers interact from square to square, at one point even passing a joint around the group as if they were in the same room. In a duet between Simone and Android Allure the two writhe and shake their asses in perfect unison. At the end of their section, they each turn their heads to look toward one another, smile and laugh. It’s easy for the audience to forget that these performers are miles away from one another.
The emphasis on a theme for the evening is, smartly, a bit looser than normal. In-person shows are organized around highly specific and evocative imagery, with the costumes, choreography and set design all connected. It isn’t possible to achieve that level of detail online, but centering the evening around the holidays of 420 and Earth Day brings cohesion to the works while leaving room for the adjustments needed for each performer to work out of their own home. Everyone expertly uses what’s available to them to create a look that lives up to the Simone Pin level of fabulous.
For example, TAQUEET$! uses lighting in an especially vivid way. Her stage is an empty room filled only by rotating, multicolored streams of lights. In one solo, wearing gloves that glow from the tip of each knit finger, she twirls her hands around the screen, creating a trippy, undulating field of color. Audience members chime in through the chat feature to confirm that the effect is enchanting, especially for those who have been indulging in 420-related activities.
Android Allure, on the other hand, creates intrigue by keeping her lights low. She wears a black crop top that highlights her stomach as she begins her solo with a series of deep, slow body rolls. She winds and spins slowly as she continues the movement for a few minutes, allowing it to travel its way up her spine and down through her hips. As she moves, she coyly makes eye contact with the camera, before turning around to inch the waistline of her pants lower and lower without ever stopping the pathway of her movement.
The night wraps with a dance party DJ’d by DJ Big Ugly and a Q&A with the group. It’s a novel experience to listen as the crew unpacks how the show went. They laugh about moments where their video froze, discuss their plans for satisfying after show munchies and catch up with each other. This casual time isn’t something audience members usually get to see and it’s an unexpected highlight of the evening to get a glimpse into their close-knit dynamic.
The Simone Pin team has found a way to use available technology to maintain their presence as one of the best burlesque companies in the city, even through the restrictions that come with social distancing. Their unique perspective, professionalism and creativity shines through the screen.
Find out more information about Simone Pin and their upcoming shows here.