Stilettos on a mission

Dancers for Cancer challenge stigmas of exotic entertainment and disease

Veronica (above) and other Dancers for Cancer will be strutting their stuff for a cause Sunday.

Veronica (above) and other Dancers for Cancer will be strutting their stuff for a cause Sunday.

In 2004, an exotic dancer named Jocelyn died from breast cancer. While it isn’t news that strippers get cancer, too, her death marked the change that would become a group of dedicated women, willing to take their clothes off for charity.

This Sunday, June 12, from noon to 1 a.m., Dancers for Cancer and the Fox Showroom Pub are hosting “Hot Rods ‘n’ Hot Bods,” an all-day community fundraiser dedicated to improving the lives of people impacted by cancer.

While the event itself is waxed with good intentions, it hasn’t always been so easy. In the past, donations have gone to individuals when no cancer agency would come forward to collect the money, due to how it was raised. This year, the Prostate Centre — which remains a largely under-funded cancer research group — is thrilled to be accepting.

“I think it’s a sign that the times are changing,” says Nicole Soos, organizer for the Dancers for Cancer campaign in Victoria. “Stigmas are starting to ease up when it comes to what we’re doing here, but it takes time. Just as recognition is starting to come around, but slowly, for places like the Prostate Centre.”

Soos doesn’t want to call out the organizations that rejected the dancers’ funds for fear that it could cause a backlash for those groups. However, while she says it was devastating to watch funds be rejected from organizations in need, the women were just “too stubborn” to give up easily.

“It is heartbreaking that money seems to have a different value based on where it comes from,” she says. “The women donating are just regular people who work and pay their taxes, too. Deep down, I think all people want to give and everyone has different morals and belief systems. Everyone is just trying to do the best they can the way they know how.”

Leanne Kopp, executive director of the Prostate Centre, says accepting the partnership was a “no-brainer” for the centre, which relies on individual donors and does not receive any government funding.

“The event is a really good fit, as we’re able to attach our message to a male-dominated audience … From our perspective, this is such a selfless act on the part of the women involved. To have people in the community willing to go out of their way to raise funds is what keeps our doors open.”

Kopp sees this as a fun event and a good chance to really challenge what we all believe.

“The whole point is that we are trying to raise funds to battle cancer and, just as the event motto says, ‘cancer doesn’t discriminate’, so neither should we,’” she says.

Last year, the women raised about $5,000, though Soos hopes to see numbers closer to $10,000 this year. The group has also since created a scholarship fund called the “Rose Lemonade Hope Foundation,” a financial aid for cancer survivors seeking post-secondary education.

But don’t be tricked into thinking the event is one big strip-a-thon. There will be women from the Cheesecake Burlesque Review, as well as pole and belly dancers, even a west coast swing group — all who won’t be getting naked. While admission is by donation, all dancers will be donating their tips, and there will be raffles, auction items, food and concessions to help raise funds.

“The day is really meant as a fun, good time for everyone, and it’s a great time to be open minded, both for the event and for learning more about this disease,” Soos says. “We’re all there for different reasons, and it’s hard to judge someone else until you’re in her stilettos.” M

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