Parisian starlet Loulou Champagne shares her experience of the Berlin Burlesque Festival 2013…
If I say Berlin, I am sure you will think of polite people, Currywurst, Oktoberfest, Checkpoint Charlie, the Wall, and beers. Think again. Berlin is the new Mecca of burlesque, and now I understand this burly exodus. What can I say about the very first edition of the Berlin Burlesque Festival? It was a blast! Three nights of amazing shows, lovely performers and German sightseeing! I really want to thank Else Edelstahl and Marlene von Steenvag for their amazing work; I just can’t wait to hear about the second Festival!
Thursday, September 19th: Landing at Tegel Airport, flying from Hawaii so completely jet-lagged and overexcited. It was the very first time I would perform in Germany and I was really curious about the Berlin audience. I headed straight to the venue, Heimathafen, carrying my suitcase and falling asleep on the tube.
As soon as I walked into the hall, I knew I was going to have an incredible night. What a venue! Rehearsals and backstage chattering with fellow newbies, and photographers and reporters everywhere. I was surrounded by burlesque stars, for sure! All those gorgeous dresses and amazing costumes. Performers even received a tote bag with some treats: a can of Berlin Burlesque Festival sparkling wine, and chocolates! Marlene and Else, you know how to speak to a French lady…
But no time to actually enjoy any of it – The Newcomer Night began with a press mingler! Exactly what I needed to get into the spirit! Surrounded by sparkly creatures, I made my way to the hall to take some pictures, meet the other performers and have some fun. Then, the show… It was the international debut of my act ‘Kebra Nagast’ and I could never have dreamt of a better evening! The audience was wild and I decided to sneak backstage to watch all the other performances of the evening. And honestly, I felt so proud to be a newcomer. I mean, they were all so fantastic.
It all started with the hilarious Lady Francesca and her ‘Pink Panther’ act. She may come from Sweden but the girl was hot. I was terribly impressed by Valentina’s aerial skills. I laughed so much during Miss Giddy Heights’ wedding with her very, very cheeky groom. I even missed my dear Paris during the fabulous Immoral Babylon troupe’s French Cancan. I think it is actually the best French Cancan act I have ever seen. And Minouche Von Marabou took our breath away with her ‘Black Swan’ finale, transforming into a swan. Magenta Lust closed the night with the most beautifully dark ‘The Devil’s Doll’ act! Yes, I had no champagne glass, but I finally got to meet Reuben Kaye, the most incredible compere ever!
I woke up quite early to visit some Berlin landmarks: Reichstag, Brandenburger Tor, Postdamer Platz, Tränenpalatz, and the Marlene Dietrich section of the Cinema Museum. One of my burlesque friends, Milky Pearl, flew from Paris to attend the rest of the festival, so I had to pick her up at the airport. As I sat on the bus, I received a text from Marlene. I think my heart stopped for a second; one of my dreams was about to come true. Was I available to swim on stage in a champagne glass before the show? How can you decline such a proposal, when your name is Champagne? Sometimes, friendship makes you do crazy things. The two of us headed to the Wintergarten, the Variety from the Roaring Twenties. I really wish performers had more opportunities to perform in such venues. I fell in love with its mirrors, dark red velvet curtains and its starry sky. It was like travelling back in time during the Golden Era of burlesque.
The theatre was packed, and despite the late scheduling we were all excited to watch the show. We took our place on the velvet seats, looking at two fabulous ladies playing in the giant glass and listening to the DJs. I was expecting singular characters, eccentric looks, and eclectic performances. It was more than that; a true anthology of talented performers! Fraulein Frauke and her great ‘Carmen Miranda’ act, Domino Barbeau – the Canadian essence of tease, Diva Hollywood the whip-teaser.
I was struck by three acts. First of all, Anna The Hulagan! I discovered hoop tease a few years ago, but this act was one of a kind. Anna started to gently move her feathered hoop, before gradually proceeding to a proper effeuillage of the hoop. She set it on fire and turned into this sensual spitfire creature. Loved her music, loved her energy. I could not wait to see boylesquer Luminous Pariah on stage. Of course, we all know him for his Blurred Lines parody and his amazing looks (come on, Luminous, give us the secret for your legs). He was FIERCE (and yes, that’s the name of his act) with so much poise and personality. He was incredible and his costume was mind-blowing. Last but not least, Clea Cutthroat. I was really surprised to discover her on stage: it was a true artistic performance. So underground, so disturbing, so odd! A perfect finale for an incredible evening…
So sad to reach the end of this great festival; we drowned our sorrow in Oktober beers. We have to confess that we spent a lot of time shopping (that’s really bad, we know) and taking ridiculous pictures before the Currywurst Museum. Miss Pearl had quite an obsession with those sausages. But this is what Berlin is about, right? FUN and FREEDOM. I felt so blessed and happy to be part of the burlesque community and to discover such a nice city.
It was soon time to dress up and head to Wintergarten for the last evening of the festival: the ‘EVEN Night’. Featuring two of my favourite performers in the world, I had been waiting for it the entire time! Glamorous performers, international stars. Thanks to my performer pass, we made our way through the long line to be on the first row. The line-up was INCREDIBLE.
Let’s begin with the Swedish Blackbird Burlesque Cabaret. I am not a fan of group acts, but the festival changed my mind. Those ladies rocked the stage with good energy and interaction, and a real sense of tease. I think that many women were enthralled by the classy Florian Brooks and his juggling act. I was impressed by Koko la Douce and Hedoluxe’s creativity. It is amazing to see great ideas coming to life on stage, and it seems so easy! That’s crazy! Eliza Delite completely mesmerised us; the audience was in a true religious communion before this ‘Madonna’.
I was delighted to see the famous Honey Lulu‘s ‘Storm in a Tea Cup’ act. I love props and I love tea, so this act was just perfect. Also, big up to Marlene Von Steenvag who performed on all three evenings! She did great on stage AND she was supervising this wonderful festival, so congratulations! Then came the climax, the act I had been waiting for! The one and only Lada Redstar and her ‘Sparrow’. I cannot describe how I feel about this act and this performer. It is always so emotional to see a performer you admire on stage, or to listen to Natasha Enquist’s accordion, or Reuben Kaye’s ‘Land Down Under’. Curtain call. Thundering applause is still ringing in my ears…
The last thing I remember from the Berlin Burlesque Festival is seeing performers and members of the audience on stage, singing and dancing together to swing and jazz music; clinking glasses to burlesque, to the joy of being together, to the new friendships and encounters, to this great success, until dawn.
BERLIN IST WUNDERBAR!
All images ©Heinrich v. Schimmmer (www.heinrichvonschimmer.de)