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.
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 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.
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.
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