The 16th Annual New York Burlesque Festival

Yes, folks, contemporary burlesque is alive and well and living in New York. Shows like Le Scandal at West Bank Café, venues including Duane Park, The Slipper Room, Sid’s Gold Room, Bathtub Gin, Nurse Bettie…offer the art with and without vaudeville acts and live music. The New York School of Burlesque offers classes for aspirants, professionals, and women who want to own, celebrate, and perhaps share their sexuality. It’s a tight, immensely supportive community. All over tonight’s jam-packed, vociferous audience are performers come to cheer on their peers. Eyelashes are up and out in the hundreds.

The Company

Brian Newman (love the suit) and his band detonate the readily raucous crowd with thumping rhythm, dexterous drums, and dam-busting trumpet power. “Spooky” launches a BIG, infectious turn. Wish there was more of this genre. “Old Black Magic” is less successful, burdened by an overly complex arrangement, handicapped by poor sound design that buries vocals. (Not the first time I’ve experienced this here.)

Scotty the Blue Bunny

Our Master of Ceremonies, who admits being over fifty, is genial, over-the-top, decadent-evangelist, Scotty The Blue Bunny. A broad-shouldered mustachioed man, he must be almost six feet to begin with, and on eight-inch Lucite heels towers over performers. Swathed in a skintight bodysuit (including head) of turquoise blue with darker sequined swirls, Scotty walks like a slightly tipsy showgirl – not without grace. Fourteen-inch (a guess) jackrabbit ears finish the top, while a tail the size of a robust grapefruit bounces behind.

The first set featured twelve burlesque artists from all over the world in every size, shape, and color. Elaborate make-up, uber-high heels, and layers of fantasy costuming (for reveals) are a given. Some women think with these requisites all they have to do is strut, bend, wiggle, crawl, and show flesh – oh, and a gimmick doesn’t hurt.  (Remember the ladies of Gypsy?) Not true. Nor is the supposition that a good,  i.e. tight, shapely body is necessary.

To me (I’m straight) and, I hasten to add, every (admittedly) straight man accompanying me, the art is most successful with more than an aesthetic tableau vivant. On the other end of the spectrum, however, the iconic Dita Von Teese offers just that.

Kiki La Chanteuse

Several of the most effective performers I’ve seen have been women reveling in full figured pulchritude and sizzling tease. More than one takes the stage tonight. Michelle Mynx, whom  I can’t show you for fear of being thought pornographic by the Net, is a pole dancer with extraordinary strength/control, agility, and palpable playfulness. As she rises and drops, coils, twists, and extends limbs, creating both vertical and horizontal sculpture, we observe expressions that – suggest.

Three others deserve call-outs: Kiki La Chanteuse has an R & B voice as muscular as her moves. Singing “House of the Rising Sun,” she whips off the appreciable cover of her dress exposing a handsome bustier, tassels, and pasties, letting loose a mane of red, brown, and black Pre-Raphaelite curls. The lady does a smooth split, has seductive floor choreography, and looks us in the eyes.

Giuditta Sin

Giuditta Sin emerges in a dazzling black and gold Pola Negri costume replete with enormous boa. (Negri was a stage and film actress who achieved worldwide fame during the silent and golden eras of Hollywood and Europe for her tragedienne and femme fatale roles.) She’s languid and alluring with an I dare you expression; undulates like a dancer, shows off great legs, and humps without ever growing vulgar. A class act.

Perle Noire is dressed a la Hollywood Egyptian. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a splendid costume with great sweep and a tall, flat-topped headpiece. (Both naturally come off) Music begins like Cleopatra’s march then becomes decidedly tribal. Noire moves fast/repetitive, then oozes. She drops to a split, vibrates as if plugged in, turns, rolls, poses. Two enormous feather fans add to something almost ritualistic. Pride is the overriding feeling. A lioness.

Perle Noire

Wild support erupts for each and every performer with clapping, shouts of appreciation and encouragement driving some of the ladies on to further – demonstration.

The art remains alive, available, and fun.

The Burlesque Handbook

Website for The New York School of Burlesque Lessons anyone?

Photos by Green Bag Photography 

Thirsty Girl and Pontani Productions present
The 16th Annual New York Burlesque Festival
Host- Scotty the Blue Bunny
The very able DJ Momotaro
The Brian Newman Band
September 29, 2018
Sony Hall 235 West 46th Street
Sony Hall Venue Calendar

About Alix Cohen (506 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of eight New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.