Valentine’s Day is less than a week away, and for those who want to experience a night out that entertains and enthralls, City Winery’s “Velvet Valentine Hearts Burlesque & Torch Songs with Phat Man Dee” is sure to be memorable.
A news release promises a night of “bumps, grinds and titillation that will captivate and delight.” The Velvet Hearts Burlesque Troupe, now in its 15th year, will be performing classic burlesque set to not only Phat Man Dee’s jazz singing but also music from a live jazz band.
“It will be very empowering and sexy,” Man Dee said.
It will be a night of firsts at City Winery in the Strip District. According to Man Dee and Viva Valezz, the dance director of the show and Velvet Hearts, the night will be the first time there’s been a live singer and band for a burlesque performance in the city. It’s a combination that is seen in larger cities like New York and Los Angeles, but a new type of act for Pittsburgh.
“Old-time grandiose shows would have live singing with an orchestra that the burlesque dancers perform to — historically dance and music like this go together. Burlesque … [has] always gone together with jazz,” Man Dee said.
Man Dee will be singing a mix of classic romance jazz songs and original music, all accompanied by standard burlesque, in solo and group routines. The night will most definitely be for adult eyes only, Man Dee said.
Man Dee, voted the No. 1 Best Local Jazz Act in the Best of Pittsburgh City Paper Readers Poll in 2022, has been performing professionally for more than 25 years with jazz musicians, drag queens, circus entertainers and burlesque dancers. Valezz has been a burlesque dancer for 16 years and is an instructor at Thrive On Health in Brookline. Velvet Hearts regularly puts on “date night offerings” around the city, but it will be the first time with a live band and singer, Valezz said.
“It’s a pretty unique offering. I’ve never seen another group here in Pittsburgh do live-band burlesque,” Valezz said. “I don’t know how often we’ll get to do it, so it might be the only time this year to see this.”
Another first is a planned group number in the set list, which will involve 15 dancers, including Man Dee, performing not only on stage but also among guests to make for an immersive, captivating number.
“I’ve always dreamed of bringing a large group of students to this routine in this way. I’m really excited about it,” Valezz said.
Valezz’s daughter, Esai, will also be singing along with Man Dee, her instructor. Esai is the granddaughter of Don Aliquo Sr., a renowned jazz saxophonist who still is performing in his 90s. Valezz said her daughter, who grew up around burlesque, is a jazz singer in her own right and keeping the family tradition alive.
Valentine’s Day may traditionally be a day for lovers, but the show is definitely open to people who are single and want to celebrate themselves. (“And maybe you can find someone there!” Man Dee said.)
The doors at City Winery, 1627 Smallman St., open at 6 p.m. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $30 and can be purchased at citywinery.com.