Cabaret organisers have defended their show after video of scantily-clad drag artists dancing for parents and infants prompted furious viewers to call for the act to be banned.
The footage was taken at a show by CabaBabaRave, so named for being a "cabaret baby rave experience", and shows mums clapping along with their babies as one entertainer in thigh-high boots swings from a harness, and another performs acrobatics and struts around in a g-string.
Viewers have taken issue with the "highly sexualised" nature of the show, with broadcaster Dominique Samuels describing it as "absolutely abhorrent" and kicking off a campaign to shut the company down.
Currently playing as part of the VAULT Festival in south-east London, CabaBabaRave was started by two performers, Lizzie and Gemma, who were seeking entertainment during their maternity leave. The show is branded as a "little slice of afternoon delight" that provides "cabaret interspersed with captivating baby sensory moments" and ends "in a rave".
In the VAULT festival listing for the show, Lizzie and Gemma say they wanted to create an escape for likeminded mums. "There's only so many times you can listen to the f**king Wheels on the Bus," reads the synopsis. "We wanted to give parents the experience of a 'big London night out'.. cabaret, drinks and dancing.. but one you can bring your baby to and still be home for bedtime."
Festival organisers defend show
Ms Samuels tweeted the now-viral footage, prompting thousands of social media users to accuse CabaBabaRave artists of "grooming" children, and slamming parents who take their kids to the shows. "This is child abuse," tweeted one disgusted viewer. "Absolutely sickening. What kind of parent would take their child to that," commented a second.
Responding to the social media outcry, VAULT organisers defended the cabaret, saying in a statement that it's "a fun and welcoming space for parents with young babies". They also called out people for attacking the show's performers. "We stand against the inexcusable threats of violence and assault against our programmed artists, our staff, and directed at the LGBTQIA+ community, and are supporting the affected artists," the statement concluded.
Cabaret company under fire
Hours after the video was posted, CabaBabaRave switched its social media profiles to private, citing a "pretty horrific trolling attack". In their own statement posted to Twitter, the company's founders said their shows are designed for parents and are carefully curated to be appropriate for all attendees.
"As mothers with young toddlers and one of us heavily pregnant this has become more stress than we are able to deal with right now," the statement reads. "These trolls specifically have a problem with drag artists and non binary performers performing for children.. which is exceptionally sad, as those who have been to our event will know how much joy, love and happiness our shows bring."
For reference, this is one of the screen recordings I was sent from this organisation called Caba Baba Rave, that targets BABIES.
Absolutely abhorrent. pic.twitter.com/Fn8Tv9NJGx
— Dominique Samuels (@Dominiquetaegon) March 1, 2023
Footage taken out of context?
The statement goes on to say that the viral footage has been taken out of context, as it was from a show for mothers with babies too young to understand adult themes, comparing the performance to "parent and baby showings" at cinemas. "As it should go without saying, babies of a young age aren't able to grasp the plot of an intricate thought provoking movie.. or comment on the latest exhibition at the national portrait gallery," the statement notes.
CabaBabaRave owners also defended the form of artistic expression they're bringing to families, concluding that "Cabaret is a fantastic medium to showcase a diverse and inclusive array of performance talent - a cabaret without drag, trans and non binary performers is not a true portrayal of the art form and its incredible history."
Drag artists have been the topic of much heated discussion in recent months, as protestors campaign against the performers mixing with children. In December, book reading events hosted by drag queens in the US came under threat, and in November Australian drag queen Courtney Act was accused by Liberal Senator Alex Antic of "grooming" kids by reading a story on ABC's Play School. Hitting back at the accusation on The Project, the TV personality said it's wrong to view her persona as "inherently sexual".
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