Vault Dance Studio offers classes for all ages | Photo Credit Jessica Waffles
By Andrew Orozco
In the basement of the Wells Fargo tower on the downtown Denton square, the retired bank vault has been converted into a dance studio. Vault Dance Studio offers classes for children from three years of age to adults, including ballet, tap dance, jazz, hip hop, contemporary, musical theatre, and aerial fitness.
Vault Dance Company owner Morgan Leigh found the location while looking for an unconventional space to relocate to. “We moved from our original location [known as the Center for Ballet Arts] at Loop 288 when our lease was up,” said Morgan, “and I was trying to get closer to downtown, closer to the community. That vault, when I looked at it the first couple of times, still had the safety deposit boxes, so it was hard to imagine taking it all out and changing the space. But I took a leap of faith and renovated it to meet the dynamic of the square and the artistic community around Denton.”
Late in 2017, that renovation attracted a unique group of performers. Local dancer Scarlett Frenzy met Morgan through the Denton Main Street Association. Morgan says the Academy’s mission to offer “fun, progressive, body positive burlesque and drag classes” meshes perfectly with the ability of dance training to promote fitness, coordination and self-esteem. “I don’t know anything about the burlesque or drag field at all, so I needed insight from them. They gave me the roadmap of how it would work, then we put our brains together and developed the program.”
The entrance to the Vault creates a dramatic vibe, with metal ceiling tiles and a massive antique bank vault door hanging open. Past the gears, cylinders, and bars is a traditional dance studio, with mirrored walls and ballet barres. Gentle lavender paint and soft jazz covers of Prince (“Nothing Compares 2 U”) and Madonna (“Like a Virgin”) completed the smooth, luxuriant atmosphere. Denton Drag & Burlesque Academy founder and performer Scarlett Frenzy admits her musical tastes are a throwback to the ‘90s. Artists like Salt-N-Pepa, NSYNC, and the Backstreet Boys make frequent appearances on her playlists.
Scarlett fell in love with burlesque performance two years ago when she first visited the Tuesday Tease at Sue Ellen’s in Dallas. “It’s really open and free to do pretty much whatever you want. What burlesque has generally been in history is the glamour and the saloon girls with big corsets and rhinestones and everything. I love that and it’s all great, but it’s not really me, so I love the way with queerlesque and neo-burlesque you can take a character and turn it into an act, and it can be whatever you want it to be. My first act was Superstar, y’know [she sticks her fingers in her armpits, then smells them] and I fell in love with that from the first time I stepped on stage and smelled my own armpits and had everyone rolling in laughter.”
After receiving an invitation from Glitterbomb producer Lilith Grey, Scarlett found a natural fit in Denton. “Glitterbomb is like a family and I would almost equate it to being like church for queers [laughs]. It’s a place where we can go and be safe, and be around people that care about us, and love us, and see art from other queer performers, and just be inspired and filled with love and pride.”
“We had been at Mable Peabody’s for years, and then Mable’s had to close down so they moved to Andy’s, and Andy’s has opened their doors to us.”
Scarlet and fellow Academy dance teacher Mina Paramour met at the Dallas School of Burlesque. Born in Puerto Rico, Mina has lived in several locations across the Caribbean, where she attended her first burlesque show in Panama in 2012. She moved to the United States in 2015, and met Scarlett at the Dallas School of Burlesque.
Scarlett is proud to teach the only drag and burlesque classes in Denton. “This is it. For a while I’ve noticed that we really haven’t had any classes or a studio to go to… I’ve just heard so many people that want to take classes but don’t want to drive all the way to Dallas, and it’s just something that I feel like we really need here. So I contacted the director of this studio through a friend and we just kinda collaborated.”
Weekly drag & burlesque workshops began May 26. To sign up, visit facebook.com/dentonburlesque. For more information on the Vault Dance Company, visit vaultdancedenton.com.