Archive for August, 2009

Leeds prepares for battle of the burlesque beauties
August 28, 2009

Leeds is bracing itself for a burlesque battle of the Atlantic this weekend.

The UK Versus US Burlesque show at the Alea Casino in Clarence Dock on Saturday will be the first of its kind in the city.

Performers will be trying to tease their way to win the crown for their
country.

The UK team features five dancers, including Miss Alternative World 2009 winner Fancy Chance and Leeds’s very own burlesque diva Bella Besame – Bella Taylor.

Miss Besame currently runs her own burlesque night, The Slippery Belle, every month at Subculture, Leeds, as well as burlesque classes in the city.

She said: “This is the biggest event ever for Leeds burlesque. It’s going to be a spectacular show.

“We have the best performers from near and far and I can’t wait to shake my stuff.”

The US team includes 2007 Tournament of Tease winner Siren Stiletto and renowned bellydancer Kimberly Mackoy.

Miss Besame added: “I’m glad we’ve got Fancy Chance on our side as she is amazing. It could still go either way because the performers are so good. It just depends on the audience.

“There’s no doubt it’ll be a success though, and it might change peoples perception of burlesque. I’ve been dancing 10 years and I’ve seen seedier dancing on MTV than at any burlesque show.”

The show was organised by leedsburlesque.co.uk, a site set up by burlesque performer Cecilia Rouge.

Doors open at 8pm.

The event is black tie and glamour but vintage/burlesque style dress is welcome.

* Tickets start at £15 and are available at www.leedsburlesque.com and Hellraiser in Leeds city centre.

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The big tease: Burlesque grows in popularity
August 28, 2009

By MARTHA IRVINE / AP National Writer

Michelle L'amour

Michelle L'amour

CHICAGO — In the Depression-era days of Gypsy Rose Lee, burlesque dancing was about as naughty, and as nude, as it got in public. The emphasis was on the tease more than the strip, until Playboy and harder-core pornography came along in the 1950s.

Now burlesque is back with festivals and club performances, from Amsterdam to Alabama. It’s seen as a chance for some bawdy fun and, some would say, even a little empowerment for the performers who are often amateurs with other day jobs.

But its growing visibility, in mainstream clubs and theaters, is also sparking a debate, and some confusion about what it is and whether it’s appropriate in those settings.

Is it performance art, as some contend? Or is it, as others say, just a (very) thinly veiled excuse to strip in public, even if most performers end a routine in pasties and G-strings?

“The performers are interested in being sexy, but not being pornographic,” says Rachel Shteir, a DePaul University professor who’s written books about burlesque. “They’re trying to strike this middle ground. But that’s very difficult to do in our culture.”

A few recent cases highlight that point.

Earlier this year in New York, burlesque performer Tara Lee Heffner filed a lawsuit against the Learning Annex for referring to her as a “porn star” in an online ad for classes she was teaching. She claimed the label damaged her reputation.

This summer in London, one club owner also shut down long-standing burlesque shows after being told he’d have to purchase an adult entertainment license, something generally reserved for more traditional strip clubs with dancers who make use of laps and poles.

“There’s no doubt that some men watch burlesque and find it as sexy as other forms of entertainment,” says Alex Proud, whose club in the city’s Camden borough bears his last name. “But at the end of the day, the naked bit lasts about three seconds.”

And many audiences of burlesque shows are filled with women, who often focus as much on the costumes, glamour and dancing as anything.

“True burlesque is more of a kitschy Vaudeville act than anything else. It’s all about the art of the striptease, a cheeky and titillating performance that can induce chuckles, cheers and longing sighs all at once,” says Katie Laird, a burlesque fan in Houston.

“Performance is the key word here, not naked gyrations for dirty dollar bills.”

At recent shows produced in Chicago by burlesque dancer Michelle L’amour, performers donned large feathered fans, in the tradition of Depression-era starlet Sally Rand, and costumes that ranged from a scantily clad secretary to a 1950s housewife. The midnight performances at the city’s historic Music Box Theatre also included slapstick comedy acts and a campy magic show, as well as a couple of male “boylesque” performers.

“Even my super-conservative grandmother is totally OK with it,” one performer, Cherokee Rose, said of her work with L’amour’s troupe, the Chicago Starlets. Still, the 28-year-old Chicagoan preferred to use her stage name, rather than her real name, because she’s looking for a job in the psychology field. “I wish people in my field were more accepting of this,” she says. “But sadly, they’re not.”

Most of L’amour’s troupe are professionals or students who started by taking classes with L’amour and moved onto the big stage when she considered them ready. For them, burlesque is a hobby.

The 29-year-old L’amour is, in fact, one of a few dancers who’s made a living at burlesque since its comeback in the last decade. Other professionals include Jo Weldon, a.k.a. “Jo Boobs,” and Dita Von Teese, who regularly makes red-carpet appearances and who’s become a bit of a fashion icon.

Theirs is a style that is more “classic” burlesque, focussed more on subtlety, artfulness and humor. But, L’amour says, it’s no wonder people are confused about what burlesque is when you have harder-core strip clubs featuring burlesque performances or even pop music acts, such as the Pussycat Dolls, referring to themselves as a “burlesque troupes.” Singers Cher and Christina Aguilera also are set to star in a movie titled “Burlesque.”

“It’s become a bit of a pitch word to hook people’s interest,” L’amour says.

In this latest rebirth, even many women can’t decide what they think of burlesque.

“Is it porn? Is it feminist? I would hesitate to say either,” says Shteir, the DePaul professor, whose books include “Striptease: The Untold History of the Girlie Show” and “Gypsy: The Art of the Tease.”

Others say it depends on the context.

“As a feminist, I do not assume that, when women engage in performances that highlight their bodies or sexuality, this is necessarily degrading,” says Barbara Scott Winkler, head of the women’s studies department at Southern Oregon University.

For their part, performers talk about the camaraderie they feel with one another. Often, they create and oversee the shows themselves and make their own costumes.

“It’s about embracing the female form, no matter its size,” says Ruby Rose, founding member of London’s Burlesque Women’s Institute. She led a street protest of the Camden Council’s adult entertainment license requirement and is in talks to get them to reconsider.

In a statement, the council said its only concern was nudity. And that’s an issue that’s not likely to disappear anytime soon, says Molly Crabapple, a New York artist with ties to the burlesque community.

“When you do anything that involves nudity, even performance art, many people want to stigmatize it,” says Crabapple, who founded a group of burlesque-influenced drawing clubs called Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School.

However it’s defined or maligned, Proud, the club owner in London, says he thinks burlesque makes life more interesting – though he has no plan to buy an adult entertainment license.

“Nightclubs should still be a little risque or on the edge. If they’re not, you can just stay home and drink a bottle of wine,” he says.

Martha Irvine is an AP national writer. She can be reached at mirvine(at)ap.org or via http://twitter.com/irvineap

Spotlight On: George/Viktor
August 23, 2009

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Name: George Blair IV as Viktor Devonne

Age: 25 playing 29

Location: New Jersey

My act consists of: emceeing, fan dances, clown, vaudeville skit routines.  My music is consistently inconsistent.  I range from classic 20’s sound to Top 40 of 2009.  It’s about the storytelling, not whether or not a burlesque performer from 50 years ago also danced to it.  I have a few personas (costume decisions): the standard emcee in stripes and suspenders; the hobo clown who has lost everything; a vamp/drag; gothic boy — but they are all ultimately Viktor, and even more ultimately-er, me.

I got my start in burlesque: in 2006, helping a friend, who would then become my co-director in managing an burlesque troupe, The White Elephant Burlesque Society.  What was intended (or expected, rather) to be a one-shot became a now 5-year development.  We have since performed in upwards and downwards NJ, Philadelphia, Massachusetts, Rochester, New York City, and are heading to more expansive locations this fall.  But we are very much NJ Burlesque—whatever that they may indicate.  It’s who we are.

The special skills and/or gimmicks I bring to the stage are: a wandering accent, fanciful make-up, stripey stockings, and the cabaret charm.

My dream act is: a live band to back us up while bring the bump and the grind.  In a theater I own.  With money raining down on me.

My influences and inspirations are: Elaine Stritch, Madonna, Joel Grey, Kander & Ebb, the Dresden Dolls, Bette Midler, Alan Cumming, Jonathan Sharp, Cyndi Lauper, Bea Arthur, and Richard O’Brien.  Whether they encourage me how to speak, move about on stage, or push forward and continue just doing it, they’re all very important to me.

The five things I couldn’t live without are: hot showers, comfortable bedding, music, water; and as it turns out, the internet.

If I was an article of clothing I’d be: A really comfortable but classy men’s dress shirt that may not be the whitest it has ever been, may be missing a button, and smeared with lipstick.

The best burlesque performance I’ve ever seen or been in was: Dirty Martini stepped it up a notch when I saw her in New York City at Margaret Cho’s The Sensuous Woman, and I think Julie Atlas Muz is fantastic.  I also need to see Selene Luna again.

The worst was: I was raised to talk about people behind their backs.  Get me a drink—we’ll chat.

The things that make someone a burlesque queen are: fluidity in movement—even if you’re a robot, your body has to make sense with what you’re doing.  One of the most important things to realize is: SLOW DOWN.  If you go too fast, you’re missing the point.  Music is essential.  You can strip or dance to anything, whether it’s Lady GaGa or Duke Ellington.  Madonna said it: “You’ve got to just let your body go with the flow.”  Additional keys include knowing you are fabulous but not essential to anything—check the attitude; be nice.  You never know if you’re being rude to someone who’s very influential and could make you, is having a bad day and excusable, or is packing heat and could end you.  Oh, and baby powder.  It gives your skin a nice finish.

Burlesque – stripping or art? If there’s a single person who just answers “stripping,” they clearly aren’t your bag.  But if anyone just says “art,” well, that’s a lazy person right there.  It’s of course above and beyond that: it’s a state of mind.  If your mind has tassels, go with it.  If your mind is Botticelli, go with it.  It may not always be grand, but it will always be honest.  Being onstage is the biggest lie you can tell.  You are anyone but yourself.  So you might as well be honest about it, and lie like a pro.

My favorite songs to dance to are: Madonna has a healthy sampling.  There’s a remix and a remake album by Shirley Bassey which are fantastic as well.  It’s got to have swank, personality, or a va-va-voom quality.  A lot of people assume that unless it has horns or that raunchy raaaarrr to it, it doesn’t count.  Those people aren’t creative.  You should be able to make anything work.  My favorite numbers are “Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You,” by Madonna; “If You Hadn’t But You Did,” performed by Kristin Chenoweth (which my cohort, Femme Fae La Butche, admittedly has more work than me); “The Imperial March” from Star Wars, and “If You Go Away,” performed by Cyndi Lauper.

If I could change one thing about burlesque, it would be: the implication that it’s easy.

Something that people would be surprised to learn about me is: I am actually a duo of dwarves in an overcoat.

The movie of my life would be called: Viktorian.  A Musical.

If I wasn’t a burlesque performer I’d be: so fucking sad.

The art of Burlesque: Learning to strut a quintessential part of self-esteem TV show
August 23, 2009

Posted by Tanya Enberg

There’s nothing like busting out the dirty cowgirl to kick a gal’s mojo into high gear.

Or how about a wild hair toss while using an ordinary household chair as a sexy stage prop?

No? Well, perhaps a body-gripping corset and a stacked pair of pumps will do the trick.

Now, just add in the ex that broke your heart and, meow, you’ve got yourself a dose of red-hot revenge fiercer than a Manolo Blahnik spiked heel.

That’s the premise behindRe-Vamped,a 10-part series debuting Sept. 6 on Slice, which follows the journey of eight jilted women as they endure an intense training regime designed to help them get in shape and dust off their long-stashed away mojo.

With the high drama of reality TV, jilted gals move into a house together. They work tirelessly with health, nutrition and fitness experts, while mastering some smoking hot burlesque moves, which fully materialize during a sultry stage performance held in front of family, friends — and the exes that left them devastated.

Pamela Sargent, one of the participants, is a curvy blond with a frank attitude and confident demeanour.

But, she wasn’t always that way.

Just a couple of years ago, Sargent hit rock bottom when her almost 20-year marriage unexpectedly collapsed.

At the time, the Hamilton-based couple were considering buying a new home, had a healthy sex life, and, other than the occasional relationship blip, their marriage appeared relatively blemish free.

So, when Sargent’s then husband pulled the marital rug out from under her, her dreams of happily-ever-after shattered like a delicate champagne flute hitting the ground and, in the messy aftermath, so did her self-esteem.

“Mentally, he said he left the marriage eight years before we separated,” recalls the mother of two daughters.

“I thought we were good, and it took me a long time to realize we weren’t. I realize, after all the bulls–t, what I was putting up with.”

What Sargent is referring to his her ex-husband’s habit of prioritizing work over family and “the other” woman who suddenly appeared on the scene.

While Sargent suspects he was having affair, she says he only ever admitted to developing an emotional bond with the woman he’s since married.

“It was really hard to disconnect from it at the time, I really doubted myself and my self worth. How can somebody make love to you and tell you that they love you when it’s all a lie?”

Fast-forward to the present day and Sargent is empowered and vibrant, a remarkable rebound from the low place she was in not too long ago, a time during which she gained weight and slumped into a depression.

“I am in the best place I’ve been in a long time,” Sargent beams. “And even though I am carrying around extra weight, I am strong.”

She’s also bounced back in the romance

ENBERG

department as well. Last January, Sargent started dating a “fantastic man.”

“I now know that whatever journey I am going to take, that it’s a journey that I am going to succeed at,” she says.

Ironing out the sexy kinks and turning the participants from drab to queens of fab is Kaitlyn Regehr, a vivacious 24-year-old professionally trained burlesque and cabaret performer, who teaches her daringly seductive moves — from gyrating hips and flirty hair flips to straddling a backward chair and shaking the bod cowgirl- style — at Toronto’s Flirty Girl Fitness Studio.

“I think a lot of women are looking for that other side of themselves,” says the outgoing instructor.

“A really important thing about seductive dance is that it’s not about sex … that’s a misconception.”

What’s it about then?

You guessed it — keeping the mojo flowing.

According to Regehr, many women misplace their inner seductress somewhere along the way.

Then, when they finally decide to go looking for it, there’s so much dust built up, they can barely find it.

“Often when we become career women, we become so fearful that we can’t be successful if we’re viewed as sexual beings,” Regehr observes.

“We’re realizing now that we’ve abandoned that side of ourselves and, you know what? We can have it all, and we also want to be viewed as sexy beings.”

– – –

Tantalizing teasing routines celebrate a myriad of body types

Burlesque is booming here in the Great White North and elsewhere around the world.

From tassels and long dainty gloves to snazzy ’50s updos, flirty eye winks and bootylicious shakes and wiggles, burlesque is becoming almost as mainstream as spinning.

In recent years, burlesque troupes have been popping up all over the country, but novices also want to be part of the thrill-seeking seductive inspiration at dance studios or privately at home with DVDs.

While some modern burlesque dancers are edging away from the subtle roots of the movement and turning it into a raunchier spectacle more fitting for pole dancers (bordering on this trend is the Pussycat Dolls), the classic approach is heavily rooted in tantalizing theatrics, playfulness, comedy and satire. In other words, it’s not about stripping down for tips from ogling patrons seated in pervert’s row but, rather, about story, glamorous costumes, cute moves, celebrating a myriad of body types and the art of the tease.

This understanding has led to burlesque festivals in major Canadian cities and has inspired average gals to unleash their own inner Dita Von Teese, one of the most famous modern-day burlesque performers, and author of the book,Burlesque and the Art of the Tease.

It’s a fun workout too. After all, where else do you get to bump and grind while using feathers and fans in class?