A week ago I saw a poster for the Vancouver International Burlesque Festival, where there was an advertisement for an international cabaret show. Thinking that it would be an artistic strip show, I bought tickets for Tim and I.
The day arrived and I put on my most burlesque outfit and went to The Vancouver Playhouse, where the show would take place. Turned out that my outfit wasn’t that burlesque at all! Not enough anyways, compared to some of the other attendances, whom were dressed up in sequins, rhinestone, feathers and wigs. And some had slim to none clothing.
My perception of burlesque was soon to be altered. Before going to the show, I thought that burlesque would be an artistic sensual dance, where the dancers take some but not all clothes off, striving for making any person of any size desirable. And I wasn’t completely wrong, but turned out that it is more a combination of satire, performance art and risqué entertainment.
There was a good combination of the more traditional burlesque, that I described above, and Neo (new) burlesque, a combination of show dance, striptease, strip fitness and performance art/theater. Notable Neo-burlesque performers include Dita Von Teese and Julie Atlas Muz.
The host and hostess, Bastard Keith and Besty Bottom Dollar, were awesome! They had a very sexual loaded and incorrect humor. Him being an American and her Canadian, they made provocative jokes about their countries relationship, the hotness/weirdness of the shows and at one occasion Keith showed the crowd his left nut. People were laughing, yelling and woo-ing throughout the 3-4 hour cabaret!
There were 21 performances with burlesques from around the globe – but mostly just Americans, who have taken their shows abroad.
The dancers came in all shapes and sizes and had very diverse performances. There were the classic femme fatale with curve hugging dresses, a naughty cat with a rihnestone anus, a yeti getting a snowman off, a 200kg miss pacman, a circus strong-woman, superheroes saving the world with their tit-shakes, a cowgirl, an African tribal dancer, girl on girl, a man with long lashes and a feather dance and I could go on.
Some were good and others less good. The common denominator was that they all, more or less, ended up with glitter covered nipples and a just enough covered ‘See You Next Tuesday’.
They had gotten hold of the now 81-year-old burlesque legend April March, who did a simple classic show with no striptease. She was just strutting her stuff. In her golden days she was known for her classy and sophisticated striptease and she is now also known for being one of the innovators of the elegant striptease.
She began her career in 1952 and was in 1961 given the title ‘The First Lady of Burlesque’ because of her striking resemblance to the then First Lady of US, Jacqueline Kennedy, and was also labeled as a femme fatale after being the cause of a shootout. She retired from burlesque in 1978 citing that the business had changed and become too blatant and sexual, but she returned to the stage in 2006 after an appearance in Miss Exotic World. It’s also worth mentioning, that she is the only burlesque dancer who has been in Sports Illustrated!
Not that her performance was all that great, but her being on stage at her age, looking that good and having that history, was enough to put me in awe.
And then there were Julie Atlas Muz & Mat Fraser as the closing act. They are married to each other and are both performing artists/actors. Muz champions the tradition of naked ladies in public spaces as act of political resistance. Fraser is born with deformed upper extremities and has made a career of it.
Their performance went on like this: He was standing in the middle of the stage holding a microphone,singing, while she butt naked did interpretive/modern dance around him. That was ok, weird, but ok. I would not call it burlesque though, because in burlesque the dancers always have their nipples and gentiles covered (I looked it up just to be sure). Then she undressed him, stood on her head in a full frontal view, raised her legs in a upside-down split – and while she was doing that, he stopped singing and went down on her!! People behind me were cheering, but Tim and I looked like the three wise monkeys! She also performed an act on him, or mere pretended to! He performed the propeller afterwards and what I’ll call a hotdog with her genitalia, but who cares at that point!
Our line had been crossed and we were utterly horrified! People had left during the intermission, for what reason I don’t know, but I’m glad that this was the closing act or I too would have been a walk-out. But like the host said “That’s the way to end the show!”.