In her everyday life, Santa Rosa’s Kenyetta Todd is a 53-year-old grandmother and military veteran living with PTSD. But when she takes the stage, she transforms into Dangerous Dollie, a burlesque character Todd has developed over the last decade.
Todd performs this weekend at North Bay Cabaret’s four-year anniversary show in Santa Rosa. “I love the North Bay Cabaret because it gives me a creative outlet,” Todd says. “It’s a safe place for people to showcase their creativity.”
Born in Philadelphia, Todd moved to California in 1992, and was stationed at the Coast Guard’s Training Center Petaluma in Two Rock. When she got out of the military in 1996, she stayed in Sonoma County.
Though she’s long held a love for dance and costume design, Todd never thought to combine the two into burlesque performance—which mixes those elements in stage routines that involve bawdy humor and striptease—until her friends threw a pole-dancing class and party for her 45th birthday.
“They had another class called burlesque dancing and I took that class,” she says, “and the next thing you know, I was asked to be in a show, and I’ve been in shows ever since then.”
Also an avid cosplayer, Todd frequently designs and creates elaborate costumes and attends events in character.
“Funny thing is, in the military I was a test model for the new uniforms for women, so I helped them tailor the costumes there—well, might as well call them costumes,” Todd says with a laugh. “I’ve always had a hand in sewing, and [with burlesque], I can fluctuate from costume design to music and more.”
One thing in particular she loves about burlesque, she says, is that “it doesn’t always have to be sexy; it can be funny, it can be political—it’s welcoming for any kind of artistry you want to present.”
Aside from Todd’s frequent appearances at the North Bay Cabaret, she’s performed as Dangerous Dollie at events like the Folsom Street Fair and the recent Pride event in San Francisco.
Joining Todd onstage at the upcoming North Bay Cabaret show will be a wide range of performers, including bellydancer Pauline Persichilli, local musician Big Kitty, and Angelique Benicio, a visual and performance artist from San Rafael who will debut a new art piece called The Carnival of Lost Memories.
“There are a lot of creative people, and everybody’s looking for a stage,” Todd says. “The North Bay is a really nice place if you’ve never been on a stage—everybody is welcoming. The positivity is wonderful.”