“Welcome to the Bloody Burlesque Freak Show”
Letting American burlesque dancer Tonya Kay perform an interpretive, sensual dance with blood isn’t necessarily the first thing that comes to my mind when thinking about ways to raise public consciousness about donating this crucial fluid, yet here we are. Writer/director Patricia Chica not only thought it, she filmed it as the 4-minute short Crimson Dance—a document of the performance as it is staged with the addition of a surreally aroused crowd bloodthirsty enough to probably lick the substance off Kay’s skin if given the chance. But its blatant sexuality isn’t the goal. It’s instead the vehicle used to put butts in seats so that they may experience the metaphor on display.
That is what Crimson Dance is: a metaphor. The words Leukemia, disease, anguish, pain, infection, cancer, wound, and Hemophilia are all written on Kay’s body. Some are on her arms, others on her legs, and even more on stomach and back. They depict the numerous ailments that clean blood transfusions can help cure. Captions before and after the film provide details explaining the importance of donating blood with statistics, but nothing is better at showing exactly what blood can do than the dance itself. As Kay moves, pouring and brushing blood over her flesh, the words gradually disappear. By the end all remnants of these sicknesses are gone, the audience clapping both for the dance and the cure.
While not for everyone, the film is critical in its message. Chica was inspired after thinking about the volume of blood her mother needed to battle Leukemia. This is her way of honoring that memory and making a stand to educate while entertaining. I’m not sure the Red Cross will be able to find a way to use it in order to help their message spread, but Chica may through whatever avenues are accessible to her in the world of burlesque. There’s a horror aspect to the viewers onscreen watching with licked lips and ecstatic excitement—vampires craving the splash of red atop Kay’s pale skin—but the film is more public service document of performance art. Watch, enjoy, and above all donate.