Burlesque in the small country town of Byabarra

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If the walls could talk and tell the tale of years past, Byabarra Hall, located on a windy road west of Wauchope, would have lots to tell. Chrissy Jones caught up with Annette Willows, who has heard some whispers …



Byabarra is a small country town with a big heart. Tell us how everyone is joining together to help to keep the community hall operating …

There is not much to Byabarra: the hall, tennis courts, a small school and Blue Poles Café. The small township has a large heart, consisting of people who work tirelessly to keep the tennis comp up and running, are always busily organising functions in the hall for various other causes like the fire brigade, the school, or to raise funds for the upkeep of the hall itself – it is often in need of repair, or just paying the power bills and keeping up the insurance payments is a full- time job.

The heart is always pumping, if you know what I am saying.

There seem to be a lot of different people helping out to make your fundraising nights successful. What are some of the events organised over the years to keep things going?

In the early days, around the mid 1900s, they had a lot of ballroom dances at the hall. Later on, a market day was conducted every month, then we started bush dances and Christmas in July dinners, that also helped by raising money for the children’s school excursions.

We have had many ideas, including movie nights and game nights, cheese and wine tasting evenings, to multicultural events. Later this year, in August and October, square dancing with professional square dancing instructors will show us all how to dance a proper square dance to a professional caller.

We also have a beer tasting night that has successfully run for four years, with a high attendance of 70 -100 people gathering at the hall. In other words: lots of hard work, but a heck of a lot of fun.

Your latest idea – a Burlesque Night – sounds like fun. How did this all come about, and what is it?

Burlesque is described as a flirty comedy dance routine. A group of us girls were watching Packed to the Rafters one night, where two middle aged women were doing a class of Burlesque, and our collective imagination took off like a rocket. With the Hall’s Christmas party just around the corner, we thought what a chance to sound everyone out and see how much interest for this we would have. No surprise – most girls were ready for something new and exciting.

Next step was to find a teacher. Soon after Christmas, when everything was back to normal, I asked the Zumba teacher, Mandy, if she knew of anyone. She told me that she had been practising to teach a Burlesque routine for a short time now – how lucky was that! Not to mention, she is also a disc jockey by night.

Then our next mission was to get a ‘bra shop’ on board to get us the corsets and the frilliness! Heart to Heart Lingerie in Wauchope came to mind. I knew Sheryl would be in on this; she is a real asset with her expertise in the bra game.

So away we went … on with the girlie stuff and us feeling attractive again, just a bit scary to some of us … and learning the routines from our talented teacher, Mandy.

We are now dancing and giggling our Friday nights away at the hall.

You have a fundraising night in May. Tell us about that …

The Burlesque Evening is set down for 19 May at $30 a ticket. Attendees are encouraged to dress to the theme. We will have a complimentary drink on arrival and plenty of finger foods throughout the night. There will be competitions organised for sexy legs and booties on women for the men to vote on, at a cost of $2 per vote; multiple votes will be allowed, of course. We want to include the men as well, so we will hold a comp for their booties as well.

We will kick things off at 7.30pm, and it is BYO.

DJ Mave from Maverique events and our teacher is in charge of the music, and we can dance the night away – and don’t forget the dance routines we’ll tease you with. I am sure there will be plenty of laughs on the night and lots to remember for weeks after.

Do you have to come in costume on the night?

Now, if people need ideas for what to put on, don’t panic too much: suit pants for boys, bowties, top-hats … stuff like that.

Girls, just put something on that you feel attractive in and add some frills. You can even wear a mask if you like, to be extra secret. Let your imagination run wild if you dare …

We do hope to sell a lot of tickets; normally they go really fast, so be quick. Sheryl from Heart to Heart Lingerie has them for sale already and if you are stuck for an idea on what to wear, I am sure she can help! Numbers have to be in by 12 May, so don’t be late – or you just might miss out!

What are you hoping to raise funds for from the Burlesque Evening, and how can people help?

This fundraiser is aimed at getting a new stainless steel kitchen. We have already saved $9,000, so we are almost there. All the money raised on the night will go to the hall’s kitchen.

We are also looking for sponsors of gifts to the winners of the best dressed and the legs and bootie competitions. All donations will be greatly appreciated.

I hear you are putting together a fundraising calendar. Sounds interesting …

Yeah, it sure is. We are in the process of compiling a calendar of the girls involved in our Burlesque class that requires sponsors for every page. Each page will have that business name on it, and we need a clever print shop to make the calendar at a reduced price if possible.

If anyone can help us with this, please call myself, Annette, on 6587 1247 or pop in to Heart to Heart Lingerie in Wauchope and speak to Sheryl Barnett.

Anyone you would like to thank?

We would like to give a special thanks to Mandy, our Burlesque teacher; she has done a lot more for us than she was obligated to do. The long nights of rehearsal, bringing her camera and lights along for us to perform under, taking photos and in general being her wonderful self, with her beautiful smile and encouragement for us to have faith in ourselves to do Burlesque.

TAFE is also going to assist us in filming the event on the night, and that will be totally unforgettable.
Thanks Annette.


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