The Schlep Sisters, the burlesque duo of Darlinda Just Darlinda and Minnie Tonka, have celebrated ten years as a team, performing what they call “the sexiest slap-‘schtick.’” Their acts lean towards the ridiculous, with unison choreography and ditzy frozen smiles often accenting music by The Barry Sisters. Themed shows take the oy-vey to the extreme, such as The Burning Bush vs. The Second Coming, which offered Jews and Christians a way to duke it out goodnaturedly about Passover vs. Easter—and featured an audience game of “Hide the Afikomen” using Tigger’s body for maximum hilarity.
The decade-anniversary show, “Where It All Began,” was held on March 8 at the private space “The House of Collection,” so uniquely decorated that it got its own feature in the paper of record. Fittingly, the first Schlep performance was held in this very Williamsburg venue.
Joining them were performer/producers Jonny Porkpie and Little Brooklyn for an evening of scattered performances and a lot of schmoozing. Many in the audience were burlesque luminaries in their own right, and there was a surprise guest song performed by nightlife producer Jen Gapay and Jonny.
Minnie said that she was “not surprised at all” that this onstage partnership lasted ten years. Darlinda said, “I’m not sure I actually thought my solo burlesque career would last this long, so it’s a delight that both the partnership and the solo career have lasted!”
Not that either one of them was a stranger to performing. Darlinda came from a theater background, and Minnie was a competitive figure skater, doing what’s now known as “synchro,” or line dancing on ice. Traveling the country competing was very social, and Tonka said, “I really grew up with my figure skating community. That’s why community is so important to me—I grew up with these girls,” and there’s a similar camaraderie with burlesque, “traveling and competing together.” Darlinda said, “If I stopped doing burlesque I would probably just go [back] into theater.” She added, “I wouldn’t stop performing, I’m a performer, it’s what I do!”
Minnie said that the duo has moved on to doing acts that are not necessarily Jewish, especially for venues such as at Coney Island. But, she said, “It’s become a part of our identity and our brand. We’re not limiting ourselves to giving a nod to Judaism, but in terms of our brand and our identity and playfulness, it’s who we are together as the Schlep Sisters, to celebrate our Jewishness.” Darlinda added, “I think it’s valuable to make it our schtick, when we bring audiences our Jewish culture they really get a kick out of it, no matter their cultural/religious background. The Jewish schtick has been important in showbiz for years.”
Minnie said that the Schleps are very “wholesome gals,” and that they really would like to work a bar or bat mitzvah, something they’ve yet to actually do. Both women have vibrant solo careers as well. Minnie has described Darlinda as being very supportive of her solo development—including a recent competition for Queen at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend in Las Vegas—and Darlinda has been exploring performance art with partner Scary Ben at Bushwick Burlesque.
“I’ve been doing performance art burlesque and avant-garde performances for years,” Darlinda said. “My solo performance style has always been going that direction. There has never been a conflict. The Schlep Sisters have our own unique performance style and Minnie and I do unique solo work as well. I think if anything it all supports each other, because we both have so much to offer.”
Tonight at Bushwick Burlesque (which takes place on the third Tuesdays of the month at Bizarre bar), the saga continues when Darlinda celebrates her own ten-year anniversary as a performer. Of course, Minnie promises to drop in and parody one of her pretend-sibling’s acts.
2 Jefferson St. at Myrtle Ave., 347-915-2717, doors open at 8 p.m., show 9 p.m. to 12 a.m., free