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Inside dominatrix Joyen Santos’ world of ropes, latex, leather, tease

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Inside dominatrix Joyen Santos’ world of ropes, latex, leather, tease

Joyen Santos in action. CONTRBUTED

She walked on stage looking sultry and ready. There, at the Highline Ballroom, dominatrix Joyen Santos did her thing: a suspension act bridging burlesque and bondage. The audience was silent at first, erupting in wild applause when it was all over.

At the recent Annual New York City Asian Burlesque Extravaganza, Joyen, an alternative entertainer from the Philippines, showed NYC audiences the wonders she could do with ropes, latex, and a little imagination.

“The burlesque and rope bondage suspension fusion act is my masterpiece,” she said.

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Joyen, 36, has heard about the NYC’s Asian Burlesque Extravaganza which has been running for five years now. This year, she contacted its producer, actress and burlesque performer Calamity Chang, and asked how she could get on the show.

Joyen Santos in civilian get-up. CONTRIBUTED

“She was very responsive and supportive, even though I am but a humble performer from the Third World. She gave me a chance, and I represented the Philippines,” said Joyen in an email interview with The FilAm.

Burlesque community

In New York, Joyen met fellow Filipina burlesque dancer Lady Mabuhay, a professional journalist and a member of NYC’s burlesque community. “She graciously offered to host me and answer any question I had about NYC and the burlesque scene here. She is the best host a lost kitten like myself could possibly have.”

Known by multiple monikers — such as Bondage Babe, Bad Girl of Burlesque, Manila’s Queen of Rope, or Mistress of the Underworld — Joyen has been exploring underground entertainment with a little bit of kink in it. Before pioneering burlesque in the country, she was a singer in the band, a songwriter, and a filmmaker. A bachelor of arts film major, she graduated cum laude at UP Diliman.

She began as a BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism) performer, until burlesque came along and led her to another form of entertainment that is less seedy and slightly socially acceptable.

“I was already well on my way to being a freak show, given that I started in the Philippine alternative scene with performance-style BDSM,” she said.

Friends and family relieved

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“Burlesque is actually more light and sweet compared to that, so I guess you could say that my family, friends and co-workers are relieved at this more easily digestible piece of dark entertainment.”

Burlesque – or ‘burlesk’ — has been in the Philippines as post-war vaudeville entertainment in the 1950s. It was an act performed by comedians dressed in drag, stripping and stumbling for laughs.

Joyen Santos at work. CONTRIBUTED

But the serious side of burlesque is unheard of in Manila, unlike in other countries where it is staged in adult venues and caters to audience looking specifically for adult entertainment. Joyen is trying to professional burlesque and develop a following that will appreciate it as an art form and not simply as erotic fetish.

Manila is still learning how to consume burlesque as a form of entertainment, she said. “They are still not quite sure where to place burlesque in their lives.”

Business venture

Joyen has elevated burlesque into a business venture. She is business director at Burlesque PH, a brand associated with performances, education, and merchandise.

“We have to teach the audience what burlesque is and create the need for it so it can be sustainable. So far so good! We gain followers, and even advocates, every time we have a show. The response to our public classes is amazing,” she said.

She said her pursuit of alternative art is based on lifestyles and mindsets that generally celebrate sex positivity and body diversity.

“Once a person accepts (these), only then is he or she truly at peace,” she said.

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TAGS: and masochism), Annual New York City Asian Burlesque Extravaganza, Bad Girl of Burlesque, BDSM (bondage, Bondage Babe, Calamity Chang, discipline, dominatrix Joyen Santos, Filipina burlesque performer, Lady Mabuhay, Manila’s Queen of Rope, Mistress of the Underworld, sadism
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