Catherine Muxworthy gets up, close and personal with Dominus Von Vexo, the Birmingham-based, award-winning burlesque and drag performer whose House of Allure is stomping all over the West Midlands
Dominus Von Vexo’s (they/them) work “aims to entertain, inspire and empower those around me enforcing the empowering agenda: You Walk With Thunder”. They also work as a choreographer, producer, creative director, and instructor, but took some time out to talk to Scene about their work and plans for the future after being awarded funding from Arts Council England.
Over the years of their career in drag and burlesque, Dominus has worked at countless events and festivals, including Birmingham Pride Festival, Worcestershire Pride Festival, Cherries On A Cloud in Gloucester, Elsker in Oslo, and Glitterbug Burlesque in Leicester.
They have also received critical acclaim through various awards, including Wicked Wonderland winner – June 2020, Midlands Zone LGBT Outstanding Contribution 2020, and Birmingham Live’s 30Under30.
This year, they also débuted an act inspired by the film The Emperor’s New Groove (much parodied in the drag community), made up as the film’s villain Yzma, at Yshee Black’s Church of Yshee lip-syncing contest which is held on Sundays at The Village in Birmingham. At the time of writing, Dominus has progressed to the finals, bypassing the semi-finals all together.
Dominus found their love of performance as a teenager and began dancing at the age of 16. “I watched the movie Step Up and knew I wanted to start dancing. So, I went to a ballroom and Latin class…. not sure where the join is between a street dance film and then a ballroom class,” they joke, “But that is where I started!
“As the years rolled on I went to uni and immersed myself in the queer community more and it was here that I started doing burlesque and drag. I immediately fell in love with the rich culture and history of these two art forms, and loved the power it gave me and others to feel strong and expressive.”
While at university, Dominus also co-founded a burlesque society that included classes and group trips out to see other burlesque shows. It was as a result of this experience that Dominus decided they wanted to produce and creatively direct productions in Birmingham’s LGBTQ+ village.
“I always like to push myself and try new things. I aim to produce quality shows that showcase a diversity of performers, opening the public’s eyes to different styles of burlesque and drag”
Dominus soon founded a group of performers called House of Allure, a Birmingham-based burlesque and cabaret group.
“We are a diverse group that puts on cabaret, drag, and burlesque shows,” Dominus explains. “I felt there was a lack of diversity in the entertainment scene, one that celebrated a variety of bodies, a variety of art forms, different sexualities, races, abilities, neuro abilities, genders. So, I made it my mission to build that space. We have gone on to be nominated for different awards and winning some, selling out all of our shows and becoming a celebrated collective in the local community.”
In the future, Dominus would love “to see House of Allure travel outside of the city more and continue producing the stellar shows that we do”.
In 2021, Dominus applied for funding from Arts Council England for the very first time. They say that “it was a real mix of stress and excitement. I hadn’t really considered funding as an option before. But it allowed me to dream bigger and reach further as an artist. So, I definitely encourage any artists to try and apply. Even if you don’t get the funding, it is a great way to think outside the box”.
They were successful and were awarded funding for Developing Your Creative Practice, from Arts Council England. “This [is] mainly focusing on developing yourself as an
artist, so conducting research, mentoring, creating new work, exploring. It is a fantastic funding opportunity. I will be focusing on performance and choreography and using this time and funding to explore that, refine it and launch it to new heights,” Dominus says.
“I felt there was a lack of diversity in the entertainment scene, one that celebrated a variety of bodies, a variety of art forms, different sexualities, races, abilities, neuro abilities, genders. So, I made it my mission to build that space”
When asked what we can expect to see from Dominus and how they will use the funding to further their career, they reply: “I always like to push myself and try new things. I aim to produce quality shows that showcase a diversity of performers, opening the public’s eyes to different styles of burlesque and drag. Creating a space that is both entertaining and educational. It is paramount to me to continue fighting for queer issues… so I aim to keep pushing that.”
Dominus shares with us some of their biggest aspirations in drag and burlesque performance. They say: “To inspire and positively impact those around me. I aim and aspire for my shows and classes to help people feel more empowered to make their own decisions and feel confident to express themselves in all they do.
“As a queer performer I believe I have a responsibility to continue contributing to the legacy of queer entertainment,” they continue, “producing quality work and helping support those that come next. On a practical level, I am unsure how this will unfold… but I am excited to see what happens.”
Dominus Von Vexo wantss to remind readers to “Stay sexy,” and find them on Instagram: www.instagram.com/dominus_von_vexo and Facebook: www.facebook.com/ dominusvonvexo where you will be able to find out more details and book tickets for their upcoming gigs, and, of course, follow their creative journey over the coming months and years.