The Dark Side of Dallas Burlesque by Michael Vachmiel June 14, 2021

Dallas Burlesque - Emma D'Lemma
(Emma D’Lemma)

Dallas burlesque scene faces allegations of enabling stalking, sexual harassment, and endangering the lives of their performers.

The Dallas Burlesque scene exploded this weekend under damning allegations of abuse. Serious allegations of deliberately allowing sexual predators and stalkers into their shows, selling the lives and safety of the performers for VIP tickets. Beyond that violation of professionalism, accusations of endangering the lives of performers “as a joke” is disturbing.

Emma D’Lemma, Burlesque Performer, Ariel Performance Artist, speaks out on abuses in the Dallas Burlesque Scene.

Emma D’Lemma is a well known artist and performer in the Houston, Dallas burlesque subculture. A circus artist, burlesque performer, dancer, & choreographer, Emma has been delighting audiences for years on the stage and in the air with her high risk aerial work.

On Sunday, June 13, Emma posted the following on her Facebook.

“So, if you know me, you know I’m not the kind of person to be dramatic or cause a rift. The last thing I want is that kind of attention drawn to me. However, it’s post covid, and I have no more tolerance for wolves in sheep’s clothing in my communities. The stage demands a safe space, for performers of all kinds to grace it. A note as you read this post, DM me if you need specifics. I will not be putting them here.—There is a venue in Dallas that employs two known abusers. One of them is mine.

It has caused me great anxiety to perform at/ patronize this venue knowing that there is a chance he could be working there. I’ve laid out my issues to 2 of the owners (I’ll call them O1 & O2 for this post), and they have mostly been ignored. We tried to get this abuser removed from his position (for at least the night) before our show last night, and this request was declined heavily by O2.—Not only do they employ abusers, but they also allow a known sexual predator to attend shows. Myself and many others included have been harassed by this man, yet he is still allowed to sit front row and view marginalized bodies during shows.

This man was apparently okayed by O1 (after O1 personally called myself and other victims to talk to them about their issues with said sexual predator) to continue coming to shows. This man has been banned from almost every other produced event in town except for theirs.—They’ve made it abundantly clear this past year that they have zero regard for performer safety and comfort as long as it benefits them. Per the issue with the sexual predator, he buys VIP tickets for the year and that’s why he is allowed to stay. —And last but not least, I take a lot of care in my work to ensure that I don’t fall on the job again (I fell from silks during a show in 2015).

After a lot of hustle and bustle before yesterday’s show, I needed my music to be played a little quieter so that I could communicate with my rigger/ belayer during my act (calls to be pulled up and down). I was informed that someone witnessed O2 purposefully turn the volume up during my act. When I told O2 I could have died due to this, it was mocked back at me. I understand that I take a risk every day with my life to do what I do, but if they want to keep hiring aerialists at this venue- take note that your life is worth less than their money at this venue.

They might tell you otherwise, but as a professional in this business for 10yrs now I have never been so disrespected by anybody else who tries to hire me. I have worked with this venue/ these people since 2013. This post is not a new development, but years of observation.

I know I am not the only one affected by the decisions of these two”

The Burlesque Community quickly responded to the abuse allegations in Dallas.

Dallas Burlesque

What can we take away from all this?

The lack of respect Emma was shown is systematic of the abuse sex workers face. While venues love the money they make off performers, little it seams is done to ensure their physical and mental health. At some time, at some point, venues, epically producers who are responsible for creating the shows, MUST TAKE RESPONSIBILITY THAT THE WELLFARE AND SAFETY OF THE PERFORMERS MUST COME BEFORE THE PROFITS OF TICKET SALES!

Collectively as a community, we MUST ensure that venues and producers realize that we will not tolerate this behavior. Anything less is only enabling abuse.

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