Leave your inhibitions at the door when you walk into The House of Red Velvet. Taking place inside the Red Room of Bar Lubitsch, a Russian-inspired lounge in West Hollywood, California, the show transports the audience to a realm where limitations are non-existent, and boundaries are pushed. Here, you will experience dream-like fantasies and even forbidden pleasures.
The dark and sensual production is the brainchild of Olivia Bellafontaine, an accomplished performer who has been involved in burlesque, dancing and acting. She is also the creator of the shows Blue Velvet, Alligator Wine and Pussy Bang Bang Grindhouse. The idea of The House of Red Velvet was initially conceived in 2015 and made its grand debut to a sold-out crowd in early 2016. It is a form of performance art that embraces the surreal, macabre and bizarre. I attended the most recent event and was absolutely enthralled.
The space where the performance takes place is intimate. It is bathed in hues of soft red light and seating is arranged to encircle the stage and open floor. There is strictly no personal photography or video recording allowed; this allows everyone to truly immerse in the atmosphere.
When the show was ready to begin, doors were shut, and all was quiet. Bellafontaine was the opening act. She emerged from the back of the room, veiled. Walking past the audience, she proceeded to the stage, then gradually removed the layers that adorned her. Her moves intensified along with the music and at the climax, she extracted what appeared to be a flower from her mouth as if offering it as a gift to those watching.
The acts that followed were equally as captivating and explored the concept of sensation in provocative ways. One of the performers specialized in the art of Butoh, a form of Japanese dance that is also known as the “Dance of Darkness.” It involves contorted, extreme movements and is an expression of the grotesque and beautiful. As the dancer writhed her body, she stared wide-eyed out into the audience.
Another performer exposed her bare skin across candle flames, then one-by-one inserted blazing batons into her mouth. Also featured was an erotic ballet dancer who presented a fetish-inspired spectacle. Collectively, the performances are powerful, and it is apparent that much energy is demanded from each of the artists.
There is hardly any separation between the performers and spectators. The dancers move fluidly from the stage, into the midst of the onlookers. One can’t help but feel like a voyeur secretly observing these women who lay themselves bare, both symbolically and literally.
I had the privilege of asking Olivia Bellafontaine a few questions for a closer look into The House of Red Velvet.
Q: You have an impressive background in the performing arts and are such a gifted performer. What do you love most about getting on stage?
A: I love feeling the room, and feeling the energy and audience. I love moving my body in the ways I want, and having it interpret the music and my thoughts. I love inspiring people.
Q: When you initially set out to create The House of Red Velvet, how did you want it to stand apart from other performance art theatre?
A: When I first started, I didn’t really know if The House of Red Velvet could actually be a thing. All I wanted to do was something that I loved, and was passionate about it. And, something that challenged me as a performer.
Q: How do you select the performers you want to feature in each production?
A: I have several performers who are a part of the show. I pick who I feel works best with the underlying theme of the show edition. I really trust my gut on it. When we were doing a show about Sacrifice and Rebirth, I felt like there has to be a ballerina. For the show itself, every performer I hire has to have some sort of interesting life experience, and a great understanding of dark art and surrealism. Also, I like people who say yes, and are not afraid to go in deep.
Q: Why Bar Lubitsch as the venue of choice for the show?
A: I have performed in the venue with a band in the past. I always loved the bar, and thought it was a unique spot. It has a great sound system, and I always loved the décor of the Red Room, especially the mirrors. And, of course, the intimacy is perfect for what we are doing.
Q: You mentioned on social media that the next show will be in a few months. Any teasers you’d like to leave with readers?
A: Wait for it.
The House of Red Velvet will resume production later this year, but in the meantime, you can stay in the loop by visiting the official website. There is general admission and VIP, which allows access to a pre-show that offers a more stimulating sensory experience, plus other perks.
Find out more about the mastermind Olivia Bellafontaine at her official website.