Crystal Tassels reports on the Burlesque Hall of Fame 2015 Movers, Shakers and Innovators showcase for 21st Century Burlesque Magazine…
Thursday was a glorious night for spectacle and fun at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend this year. Overall, I found the showcase to be glamorous, though not as artistically challenging as I had expected. There were a few political statements made and several moments of wow factor, but I was hoping to see more risk, innovation, and general weirdness from a showcase of innovators (though, to be fair, as a BHoF virgin, perhaps I read too closely into the title of the showcase).
21st Century Burlesque Magazine Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend 2015 Coverage is sponsored by Fancy Feather.
The evening opened with a tribute to the history of burlesque, from the sexually charged plays of Aristophanes to the neo revival. This included cameos from superstars Julie Atlas Muz, Michelle L’amour, Dirty Martini, Kristina Nekyia, Mr. Gorgeous, Midnite Martini, Indigo Blue, Tigger!, Kalani Kokonuts and Jo Boobs. Hosts Jonny Porkpie and Blanche DeBris kept things flowing with adorable hilarity.
Kicking off the showcase with grand Victorian style and a tiny piano, paragon of fierceness Iva Handfull (Seattle, WA) brought down the house with her signature Goth-industrial dance moves and powerful strut. Next up, Paco Fish (Tucson, AZ) performed a sensuous modern dance piece that was both athletic and luxuriant. His crisp, presentational movements were offset beautifully by moments of stillness and intense eye contact.
Nikita Bitch Project (Los Angeles, CA) presented one of the few pop cultural pieces of the showcase, living up to her name as the ‘Godzilla of Burlesque’ in a reptilian tribute to the city-smashing monster. In a full-body Godzilla costume, Nikita go-go danced and clearly had a ball to the tune of Wake Me Up Before You Go Go by Wham!. It was over the top ridiculous.
New York-based duo AeroTrapeze performed an aerial act in which nearly every costume removal was completed while hanging upside down. Performers Harvest Moon and Jason Mejias flowed seamlessly through a series of tableaux in every shape and contortion imaginable, emanating a sense of closeness that was incredibly sexy.
Bringing a bit of bump and grind to Movers and Shakers, Missy Lisa (Dallas, TX) smiled and shimmied through a classic act that started with burlesque standard Big Spender and ended with Kanye West’s Gold Digger. The classic elements of this act were energetic and well executed, but the transition was predictable. The gold digger trope is a classic, but as this was presented without commentary, it came across as one-dimensional.
Lando Blaze and Narcissa (Chicago, IL) were absolutely charming as a pair of magicians in an act dubbed, ‘Scarfnado’. Narcissa pulled scarf after colourful scarf out of her bustle and tossed them into the air as Barry Manilow crooned in the background. The clowny duo juggled and leaped until Narcissa’s final reveal of a pair of vibrant silk fans. The fans were beautiful, and comically unnoticed by Lando in one of the few narrative acts of the showcase.
Sukki Singapora (Singapore) was teasing and provocative in her glittery tribute to burlesque legend Barbara Yung. Moving all the while, Sukki shed her costume like a boa sheds feathers, littering the stage with glitzy garments. Capping off the first act, the Fishnet Follies Classic Burlesque Revue (Oakland, CA) brought Art Deco glamour to the stage with a tale of bank robbers. The ten-person group stripping of this diverse, co-ed troupe was cinematic and immersive, and used the Orleans’ giant stage to its fullest.
After a quick blessing from the Bishop of Burlesque, David Bishop, the second act started with performer Flirty Sanchez in an adorable gremlin onesie. After accidentally spilling a glass of water on the stage, Sanchez summoned a pack of menacing gremlins. Performed by troupe Wet After Midnight (Seattle, WA), the gremlins furiously seduced the audience in one of the only nerdlesque acts of the entire weekend.
In another culturally explorative, Asian-inspired performance, Bazuka Joe (Chicago, IL) performed a surprisingly solemn, though energetic, striptease that was poised and crisp, almost to the point of being militaristic. Following that, Tansy (New York, NY) stole the show as a scarlet-clad Edwardian lion tamer. In the biggest reveal of the night, Tansy whirled her enormous skirt towards the curtain and as she turned back, a well muscled, acrobatic lion, Leon Lightfoot, came roaring out of it. The lion exalted, worshipping and lifting Tansy as she strutted and stripped. As host Jonny Porkpie rightfully quipped, “It was the burlesque equivalent of a mic drop.” (Click here for full photo report of Tansy’s act.)
Tansy was no easy act to follow, but comedic mastermind April O’Peel (Vancouver, Canada) told an irresistible tale of love, betrayal, and cleaning supplies that had the audience rolling in the aisles. Dressed as a janitor, April fell in love with a mop, married it, became pregnant, delivered a tiny baby mop on stage, discovered her beloved in bed with a broom, then choked the cheating mop to death with her own bra. April’s impressive storytelling was hilarious, and was only enhanced by the classic bump and grind that underpinned her every movement.
Sugar Cane Jane (San Francisco, CA), who is approximately 99% leg, performed a dance-heavy piece that showcased her superhuman flexibility and badass attitude. Sequins flew in all directions as she ripped the garters right off of her legs. Hard Corey (New York, NY) brought some refreshing weirdness to the showcase with an act full of awkward silences in tribute to comedian Andy Kaufman.
Cherry OnTop (Vancouver, Canada) made my space-loving nerd heart flutter with her sweet, immersive astronaut routine. Stripping out of a Victorian hoop skirt (there seemed to be a lot of big hoop skirts at BHoF this year) and revealing ever tighter and skimpier costumes, Cherry created distinct physical settings using movement alone. Whether she was operating the rocket’s controls or bouncing around in zero gravity, every locale was interactive and clear.
Also hailing from Vancouver, bombshell Ruthe Ordare’s piece about the visibility of and violence against Aboriginal women was the most political statement of the showcase. Ruthe removed her lush white bustle to reveal a long swath of feathers, which she eventually draped over her platinum hair. As a political artist and Native performer herself, Ruthe is certainly justified in creating whatever imagery she pleases. But the picture of a blonde woman in a headdress resonated with me in a way that felt risky and uncomfortable. It was a powerful performance.
Ending the evening on a lewd and spectacular note, the step down number from 2014 King of Boylesque Mr. Gorgeous (New York, NY) was one extended penis joke. Goofy and lascivious, Mr. Gorgeous humped everything in sight before exposing a giant circus-style cannon, which he climbed inside. The cannon exploded in a burst of confetti and Gorgeous emerged naked, lighting a cigarette as if he was recovering from an exhausting orgasm.
What a fabulous way to kick off BHoF weekend!
About Fancy Feather
Quoted in major international newspapers and held in high esteem and affection by the international burlesque community, 21st Century Burlesque Magazine has documented the contemporary burlesque scene since 2007. Founded and edited by Holli-Mae Johnson.