Shalom Life | July 01, 2014

The Schlep Sisters: An Exciting Burlesque Show, of the Jewish Persuasion

An exclusive interview with Minnie Tonka, one half of the Schlep Sisters, who have been entertaining audiences across North America for over a decade

By: Daniel Koren & Zak Edwards

Published: March 3rd, 2014 in Culture » Stage » News

Whether you’re a yeshiva bocher, an honorary Jew, or a bacon-loving Heeb, the Schlep Sisters have the cure: a burlesque show, of the Jewish persuasion.

Comprised of Minnie Tonka and Darlinda Just Darlinda – two long lost sisters who found each other by tracing the roots of New York’s Yiddish theater on the Lower East Side – the Schlep Sisters put a hilarious Jewish spin on the Burlesque industry. Inspired by “Manischewitz, The Barry Sisters, and Rock n’ Roll,” these Yiddish-loving performers have been captivating audiences across the continent for the past decade, from New York to Toronto. They’ve also played burlesque festivals in Dallas and even Australia.

And they even do Bar/Bat Mitzvah parties!

The sisters have been voted into the Top 50 International Burlesque Industry Figures of 2013 and are founding members and co-producers of Dangerous Curves Ahead: Burlesque on the Go-Go!, a touring burlesque troupe which is taking the United States by storm. Their annual Hanukkah performance, the Menorah Horah, is one of the most sought-after events in the burlesque industry, with shows instantly selling out due to their zany hijinks, Jewish humor, memorable music, latkes (of course), and burlesque!

We had a chance to catch up with Minne Tonka on what’s in store for them this year, and how a seemingly risque venture has won over the hearts of both Jewish and non-Jewish audiences alike.

ShalomLife: First off, you guys are going on ten years, mazel tov! Have any big plans for 2014?

Minnie Tonka: Yes! We are thrilled to celebrate our 10 Year Burlesque Anniversary with an exclusive and intimate evening, The Schlep Sisters: Where It All Began! Celebrating 10 Years of Sisterhood on Saturday, March 8th in Brooklyn, NY.

ShalomLife: How did you two meet?

Minnie Tonka: We met at a Flash Mob after party for “Buy Nothing Day” on Black Friday, November 2003. Darlinda was interested in starting burlesque and I was intrigued and inspired to work with Darlinda and do burlesque and the Schlep Sisters were born!

ShalomLife: Why specifically market yourselves as Jewish burlesque dancers?

Minnie Tonka: It was natural for us to identify with and market ourselves as Jewish burlesque dancers. When we first met, I had recently graduated with a M.A. in Jewish Education and was very interested in exploring Judaism through artistic and creative outlets. Darlinda was committed to exploring the performance art community in NYC and for the two of us together, it made sense for us, both Jewish, to have that be our “shtick.”

ShalomLife: You’ve received serious critical acclaim within the burlesque community, how about within the Jewish community? Any detractors? Cool stories?

Minnie Tonka: Yes! The Jewish community loves to write about us. In fact, The Jewish Week, Times of Israel, Forward, Heeb, etc. have all done features on us throughout the years.We are also loved by the Burlesque Community and have been featured in Pin Curl Magazine, Burlesque Beat and 21st Century Burlesque.

ShalomLife: I have to ask, what does a bat or bar mitzvah show entail?

Minnie Tonka: The Schlep Sisters at your bar or bat mitzvah is the best party around! We bring love, energy, dance and excitement with a PG flair. Kids and adults love us!

ShalomLife: You guys met while “tracing the roots of Yiddish theatre and Vaudeville in the Lower East Side,” to quote your site. Do you come from theatre backgrounds? Are you native New Yorkers?

Minnie Tonka: Darlinda has a B.A. in Teledramatic Arts and Technology from California State University Monterey Bay and has danced her whole life. I grew up taking ballet and was a competitive figure skater.

Find out more about the Schlep Sisters via their twitter, or at their website

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