Baring Witness

This Dance Variety Show Is Fun, Flirty, and Changing the Scene in Seattle

C.C. Presents features performers from across Seattle’s diverse erotic performance art community.

By Nathalie Graham May 21, 2024

Luna DeLyte at Spring Fever, Tractor Tavern.

Wearing only effervescent teal panties, a white seashell bra held together with a dainty chain, and a long, swishing belt of shells slung low around her hips, Chantilly Tempo, 35, sauntered onstage at the Tractor Tavern in towering, silver heels. 

When the lyrics to TLC’s “Waterfalls” began, Tempo hoisted herself onto a stripper pole, the ribbons in her hair cascading like the song’s namesake, the tail of her seashell belt coiling around the pole as she twisted and twirled, holding herself aloft perpendicular to the floor in a performance at once delicate and powerful. The audience, loud and supportive, rained praise and dollar bills—some crumpled and tossed, some folded into planes and thrown, and still others flicked like footballs—onto her. Welcome to a “C.C. Presents” show.

Chantilly Tempo (her stage name) is a mother of two, a Roller Derby player, cancer survivor, and a former competitive Irish dancer.

The series of quarterly shows started by local pole dance instructor, Caitlin Colman, or, C.C, are loosely themed (Age of Astrology, Pride, Thankstripping, etc.) and feature performers from across Seattle’s diverse erotic performance art scene who take to the stage by flexing their skills (pole, burlesque, comedy, dance) and their personalities for frequently sold out crowds. 

The shows are fun, flirty, and impactful for audiences and performers alike. By giving new and established performers across disciplines a space to come together, Colman is both uniting a community typically siloed in its own specialties and bolstering historically discriminated art forms. 

Though not directly related, Colman’s shows are gaining momentum simultaneous to the Strippers Are Workers (SAW) movement, which aims to improve working conditions in Washington strip clubs while also amending long-standing restrictive rules around drinking alcohol. 

Last November’s “C.C. Presents: Thankstripping” show featured performances entirely by strippers. At the show, Colman boosted awareness for SAW’s legislative campaign for a bill which would eliminate the predatory house fees which strippers, who are essentially independent contractors, have to pay clubs to dance; provide sexual harassment training in clubs; install panic buttons in private rooms; and allow alcohol in Washington clubs. Gov. Jay Inslee passed the bill into law in April. 

Historically, Washington’s Liquor Control Board restricted any mixture of alcohol and “lewd conduct.” These rules impacted strip clubs and, recently, LGBTQ+ bars. The “C.C. Presents” shows are emblematic of how ridiculous they were.

“Here we are stripping down to just pasties and a thong in a bar, and nothing terrible has happened,” Colman says. “This positive, supportive, fun, community experience could really be had at a club if we were to have safe clubs and support strippers and sex workers.”

The shows also destigmatize strip clubs for people who have never been, or who have only gone on special occasions, according to Molly B., a massage therapist and pole dancer.

“You can see performance art like this whenever you want at strip clubs,” Molly B. says. 

“C.C. Presents” started as a last-minute New Year’s Eve event for the now-shuttered Hotel Albatross in the middle of 2021’s Omicron variant surge. Colman, whose husband worked at the Ballard venue, invited friends from teaching pole to perform. Together, with one burlesque dancer, they took the stage and danced. Everyone wore masks. The performance went better than she imagined. 

“It ended up being so much fun,” Colman says. “I remember running up and down the stairs with the other performers being like, “I want to do this every day!”

Onyx Wolf at Spring Fever held at Tractor Tavern.

So, in between her day job (then, a preschool teacher; now, an office manager) and her other job teaching pole, Colman planned more shows. They’ve evolved into something wholly original. 

“It’s a cool place to get your feet wet and get the bug for performing,” Molly B., says. “It lets more seasoned performers be less rigid, and try out new concepts, or freestyle. People can explore without the pressure of having to live up to expectations.”

This creative freedom breeds shows where people will perform live vocals while they pole dance, or where a dancer will read from her middle school diary in-between sets. At one show, a woman performed after being in a catastrophic car accident—it was the supportive space she needed to get back into the world. 

“There are a lot of really beautiful, cool moments of reclamation and celebration that we get to bear witness to [at these shows],” Molly B. says.

The shows blend art forms, too. 

According to Molly B., there’s typically “not a lot of cross-pollination” in the sensual dance world. By bringing together different niches and a variety of performers, “it makes you as a dancer and consumer of this art much more open-minded,” she says.

Additionally, Colman intentionally makes the cast of every show diverse; the performers have different races, ethnicities, gender identities, body types, and performance styles. 

Show host by night and school counselor by day, Dahlia Rouge says audiences gush to her all the time.

“They say, ‘I’ve never seen myself represented in a show like this, it makes me feel like I can be that sexy,” Rouge says.

The goal, according to Colman, is to celebrate the art and to give these artists a platform. And, a paycheck. Performers earn a flat rate, but they also earn tips—the dollars thrown on stage.

Molly B. works every C.C. show as the “dollar dame.” She accepts all forms of payment from audience members and hands them singles to toss in return. 

Though she isn’t a stripper, the de-stigmatization of erotic dance and dancing for money is particularly important to Chantilly Tempo, the mermaid-esque performer at the “C.C. Presents Spring Fever” show in April. Members of her family have not always supported her pole dancing.

Tempo, which is her stage name, is a mother of two, a Roller Derby player, cancer survivor, and a former competitive Irish dancer. She took a pole dance class with her derby teammates as a joke, but then she fell in love with it.

Performers gather on stage at C.C. presents Spring Fever.

“I found pole right after I had a baby and went through chemotherapy and had several surgeries for breast cancer,” Tempo says. “I was feeling really disconnected from my body and really down.”

Her Southern upbringing taught Tempo to hide her sexuality. Furthermore, as an Irish dancer, she learned to dance rigidly, keeping her arms still and only performing highly-choreographed numbers. Pole was different, freeing.

Yet, some members of her family resisted Tempo’s new hobby. Though they begrudgingly accepted her dancing in a pole studio—for her family, dancing for money was a no-go. Tempo crossed that line for the first time at the Spring Fever show. Her family did not attend. In the lead up to the show, she felt emotional.

But, the emotions melted away when she walked on stage. 

Then, people started throwing money. 

“It was like people were blowing kisses,” Tempo says of the bills landing on the stage during her act, which was entirely freestyled. “It was like they were saying, I love what you’re doing. I’m proud of you, and you’re amazing. I’d been hearing the opposite for so long. It was so full circle.”

Being up there on stage confirmed for Tempo all the things she’d been telling herself. That it was okay to be sexy and to embrace this side of herself, that a community had her back, she says. 

“To have a room full of people saying nice things about you and your body and your sexuality, as a woman, is kind of rare,” Tempo says. “It’s so healing.”

The next “C.C. Presents” show is June 2 at the Tractor Tavern. 

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