By Tara-Michelle Ziniuk

Who: Christopher Hayden a.k.a Bruin Pounder
What: Member of BoylesqueTO
Where: Boy O Boy Cabaret. Also seen at: Artwherk, Alternaqueer, Decadance

Bruin Pounder was a small town caber toss champ. Always open to new possibilities, Pounder left his hometown of Fergus, Ontario to pursue culinary arts school dreams in Toronto. Dancing like no one was watching, Pounder was discovered in a Humber College kitchen letting loose to Van Halen’s “Jump.” A little naïve, pushing the boundaries of “pretty boy,” Pounder stays true to his country boy roots adding a little line-dancing to the art that is otherwise known as Boylesque.

So goes the mostly fictitious coming-to-be story of Bruin Pounder, the part-leatherman, part go-go boy, all country burlesque character of local performance artist Christopher Hayden. Hayden, 24, brings brains to his practice. Like Pounder, Hayden is not your typical jock-strapped, boy-on-pole (which is not to say he didn’t make an underwear-adorned appearance in a local gay boy mag recently), and does not come from the circuit party scene that often spawns such acts. Also like Pounder, Hayden embraces an outsider background, appealing to a slightly more self-conscious, slightly more sober crowd. His occasional smarty-pants drag appearances are influenced by his formal study of critical theory, performance art and gender norms. Hayden was an arts school geek in his day–imagine late-’90s in hemp necklaces, a Spice Girls T and a slightly askew visor, music theatre songbook in hand. If this is not endearing enough, plump him out to baby bear-status chubby, and picture him dancing in a Mississauga, Ontario bedroom to Deee-Lite.

Don’t think that Hayden’s entry point into taking off his tiny cowboy shorts and having audience members lick whip cream off of him doesn’t have anything to do with Ukrainian Christmas, rural Alberta or Canada World Youth. Picture Rocky Mountain House, a trucker town in central Alberta, the last place to fill up before you reach the oil sands, nearly 20 churches to serve a population of 7,000 and a Malanka celebration to raise funds for a local women’s shelter. Hayden, our awkward and adorable (and, newly out!) hero, dons a patchwork dress and long black wig, and takes it upon himself to enact the Frying Pan Fortune Teller (his first public performance since playing piano in the Royal Conservatory of Music). Yes, Hayden “told fortunes” by looking into his magical frying pan. And when the mayor of this small Alberta town thanked the townspeople and participants for their support of a worthy cause, he shook hands with everyone but Hayden, instead he whispered into Hayden’s ear, “You scare me.” If only he could see him now…