Posted By: David Berke
We’re as tired of the same old burlesque routines as everyone else. That doesn’t mean that New York dancers shouldn’t kick some feather-covered ass in an international competition however.
At the Strip Search burlesque competition at the Slipper Room this Friday, 10 aspiring burlesque dancers will compete for a spot at the Toronto Burlesque Festival. New York Press sat down with event organizer Lynn Sally, who burlesques under the stage name Lucky and teaches a class on burlesque at NYU, to get the naked truth about Strip Search.
How did these 10 finalists reach the competition?
It was a very intensive, grueling process. They had to apply. We had a panel examine their applications. The only requirements were to write a paragraph about why you want to represent New York at the Toronto Burlesque Festival and a link to their MySpace or Facebook or something like that.
Do you need a certain body type to succeed in burlesque? Are the short and stout suck stripping at home in front of their mirrors?
I think burlesque is definitely, definitely more open than that, and that’s definitely one of the appeals of burlesque to people, that you don’t have to fit into one body type. Looking at our lineup, we have a broad range of body types, ages, sizes and ethnicities. It’s going to be, if I can use the term, a well-rounded event, in every sense of the word. Burlesque allows different representations of physicality on stage, which is why it appeals to people.
What are you looking for in your winner?
We are looking for that raw edginess that represents New York City, more so than that perfectly executed performance. Burlesque is very different in New York City. It straddles, very aggressively, the line between performance art and comedy.
We’re also looking for the act that gets the best response from the audience, though we do have a panel of judges. They are going to be rating the performers on a number of variables, most importantly, who stands out as the most New York City.
Are there different events the contestants will have to compete in, like an improv challenge or something?
No, there’s not going to be that horrible bathing suit or ball gown stuff like at a beauty contest, just straight competition. If we have a tie, we’re going to have a question section of the competition.
What kind of questions do you ask in a burlesque competition?
One question I would love to hear, and I may ask this question anyway, is ‘what part of New York City do you want to represent?’ Of course, we’ll have something really obnoxious, like ‘if you could solve one of the world’s ills, what would it be?’
The winner of strip search heads to the Toronto burlesque festival. What happens if they win the top prize there? Could they start a career in burlesque?
Some people do make it as a performer, but, just like in any performance profession, they are few and far between.
The person who wins this competition will get lots of awards and accolades. They’ll get a spot in the Toronto festival, a crowning ceremony, an ad announcing they won at the Toronto festival and a private “tittoral” from New York School of Burlesque. They’ll get full accommodations in Toronto and a drive there with my husband and me. It’s going to be a sweet little gig. They are going to get a lot of international exposure—and of course they will get bragging rights for being the best peeler in the Big Apple.
What’s the atmosphere like at a burlesque competition? Are competitors trying to sabotage each other backstage?
It’s silly rivalry, but it’s absolutely not the type of sabotaging that you see at a beauty contest. You won’t see anyone putting itching powder in a competitor’s bathing suit. No way anybody in a burlesque competition would ever do that. The whole point is to build community as well as competition.
What’s the reaction been like to your NYU burlesque class?
The reaction has been varied. I’ve been teaching it for five years, maybe six. The students really respond to it positively. They’re not only learning the history of this form that has had a lot of influence on other types of performance, but they’re also able to see and experience its current incantations in the current neo-burlesque movement. This last semester, the class was overenrolled.
Strip Tease will be at the The Slipper Room (167 Orchard St. at Stanton St.). Doors and silent auction at 7, show at 8. $5 in advance, $10 at door