In the course of writing this review, I couldn’t help but refer to Darlinda just Darlinda’s review of the Best Boylesque category from Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend 2015 and her musings on gender and inclusivity.
One of the moments that brought the house down at this year’s Tournament of Tease was when Johnny Porkpie announced that the only qualification to compete in the Best Boylesque category was a desire to compete in the Best Boylesque category – decisively reaffirming the gender-inclusive nature of this category, and BHoF in general.
Whilst we have not yet seen gender flexibility in the Queen category, it is nice to know that the option may exist there as well. I’m glad to see that the world of burlesque is continuing to grow and expand our perceptions as more and more of the world realises that we don’t exist on a binary, and celebrating our differences brings us closer together.
On that note, here is my review of the wonderfully creative Best Boylesque category at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Tournament of Tease 2016.
Up first was a dancer who packs a lot of power in a small package – Lou Henry Hoover from Seattle. This was Lou’s second time competing in this category, embodying the aforementioned spirit of gender inclusivity as a female-bodied Drag King.
His entrance was one of the most dramatic of the entire Saturday night show – the curtain opening on him suspended in midair, dressed in a gorgeous merman costume.
The suspension allowed him to create the illusion of swimming in water very effectively, and it was exquisitely beautiful. Our merman then dropped to the ground, shed his tail, and began to learn to walk and dance.
As always, Lou’s storytelling was extremely effective, taking the audience through a variation on the story of the Little Mermaid (I can’t help but assume that the glittering red wig was a nod to the Disney character) – swimming, walking, and finally dancing through a lyrical and very ballet inspired performance.
Up second was another representative of the amazing talent from Seattle, bringing a completely different perspective to the Boylesque category. EmpeRoar Fabulous knocked it out of the park with a bluesy, funny, and sexy lesson in mathematics. This was by far the most fun number of the category, and my favourite of EmpeRoar’s performances.
His stage presence was infectiously joyous, his timing was impeccable, and his choreography on point. In his trademark shades of turquoise, he stripped off portions of his costume to reveal the numbers of the nine times table in sparkly glory. If Sesame Street is teaching kids math, perhaps adult remedial classes should watch this performance, as it is both entertaining and educational.
From the other side of the continent, representing New York, was buff and beautiful Chris Harder. His number was full of cheesy, cheesy goodness in more ways than one – playing the stereotypical porn character ‘The Pizza Delivery Guy’ with an extra-large side of funny.
The number was beautifully designed to showcase his athleticism and strength, along with his comedic timing and sense of humour. He had a cleverly designed prop pizza that he could pull a piece out of with a stretchy length of ‘cheese’ and unravel the crust. This stringy cheese motif was repeated a number of times in his costume as well, providing some great comedic moments throughout the number.
Finally, bringing us back to the West Coast – Harden Reddy from San Francisco’s Fishnet Follies – our new Best Boylesque 2016 and winner of the Most Innovative category – brought yet another completely unique number to the Best Boylesque competition.
A take on the story of Pinocchio, Harden began as a marionette in a box, completely obscuring his handsome face and muscles with a mask and molded body parts. It can be a real challenge to fill a stage as large as the Orleans, particularly when you are quite literally tied to one spot – in this case a ‘puppet stage’ barely larger than him, but he managed to hold the audience spellbound despite staying mainly in one place.
The performance was part dance, part struggle as he gradually shed his strings and coverings to become a ‘Real Boy’. He truly embodied being a puppet with jerky bouncing movements throughout his choreography.
As we all know, Pinocchio has issues with the truth, but there was no growing nose on Harden’s face – the routine finished with him holding the mask over his bits, smiling as the nose grew down there! A cute and sweetly naughty ending to a great routine. Congratulations Harden!
Best Boylesque category at Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend 2016 reviewed by Diamond Minx.