Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend 2015 Tournament of Tease: QUEEN
Kitty Bang Bang reports candidly on the 2015 battle for the ultimate burlesque title: Miss Exotic World, Reigning Queen of Burlesque…
21st Century Burlesque Magazine Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend 2015 Coverage is sponsored by Fancy Feather.
The time has come, my friends, and I know it’s been a while. But it took some time to digest what I saw up on that stage on Saturday 6th June 2015. Some say it’s the stuff of legends. Some say that the lighting in the Orleans showroom that night was powered exclusively via the electricity generated up onstage. Some say the sex shop across the way from The Orleans crumbled due to the sheer volume of cheering coming from the showroom. Some say I should get my shit together and hurry up and post my review of the 25th Annual Miss Exotic World Tournament of Tease. And they would be correct, sorry ‘bout it. So here I go again: these are my thoughts on those motherfuckin’ QUEENS that took to The Orleans stage that night. I warn you, I may get excited. Crack open a bottle of something cheap and fizzy, and let’s relive the competition to end all competitions…
Now, just reading the line up for the 2015 Queen competition made me feel jittery, so I can’t even comprehend how the ladies themselves felt waiting in the wings. I’ve mentioned it before, but being the first competitor out on that stage is damn hard and hats off to anybody that draws that spot. Opening the fight for the crowd and the crown was the gorgeous Sina King, all the way from Australia. Sina gave us hot body draped artfully in white silk chiffon astride an enormous sceptre. Swarovskis dazzled white hot in the spotlight on a crown upon her head as she gracefully gestured to the audience, trailing white silk from her wrists. Her movements were small at first, a considered game of reveal and conceal with her long limbs and exposed back. And as she moved we saw that the fabric draped about her, as her gown is also attached to her crystal-crown-topped sceptre. The lights went out and Sina revealed what the prop was really all about as it lit up and suffused Sina in a red neon glow. Her hands stroked down the sceptre in time to the LED lights changing colour and then Sina gave us pose after pose as the lights flicked beneath her. As much as I enjoyed the act, it also felt very static, I’m sure because of the prop. I think that Sina perhaps suffered from performing it on that huge expanse of stage. Also, to me it seemed the the Orleans lighting team weren’t quite keeping up with her myriad lighting cues, which was a touch distracting. These issues aside, Sina ended strongly. She whirled the sceptre into the air, turning it almost into a huge white flag and ended dressed only in crystals having finally danced her way out of the chiffon.
Next to the stage we had the tap dancing sensation herself, Gin Minsky from New York. Gin appeared onstage in the traditional black tie and tails, top hat perched jauntily on top, and got straight in there with the fancy footwork. She peeled her way out of the trousers and then removed her jacket and took it for a little spin around the stage before discarding it. Then the shirt front and tap pants were flung aside to reveal a gorgeous blue beaded little dress that shimmied beautifully as she tapped. A final adorable flourish was the removal of her top hat to reveal a blue sparkling confection that matched the dress underneath. Gin is obviously an extremely accomplished tap dancer and we were treated to a slick, clean routine. However, earlier in the evening we saw her duo performed with Perle Noire where we got dance, comedy, abandon and the hugest of smiles. It may have been nerves on the night without her partner in crime, but Gin’s performance almost seemed a little one note. It was a beautiful and extremely slick note I hasten to add, but I would have liked to have seen a little more of Gin’s sparkling personality permeating her routine.
Speaking of Perle Noire, she was up next. And what a show it was. I felt a weight of expectation settle upon the room as Perle was announced and they started screaming the second that she entered. Perle walked slowly and deliberately across the stage to the screaming, seemingly unaffected, not looking out. The music started only when she hit her mark. Then The Man With The Golden Arm blared out and she threw her pink ruffled duster coat into the air, the stage lights catching the chiffon and the sparkling underwear set underneath. Perle was all commanding confidence as she ate up the entire stage. The audience were given real moments of absolute stillness juxtaposed with the dancing that we have all come to expect from Perle. The ruffles were discarded and the hot pink chiffon coat underneath was used to full effect as it was flung up into the air and then floated down to the beat, framing her body. More moments of stillness followed, with a commanding and unblinking stare out into the audience. Every fibre of Perle in these moments screams ‘I know…’ She leapt into a box split, pushing herself backwards towards the crowd who at this point had probably screamed themselves hoarse, and then threw herself back and forth frenziedly arching her back and whipping her hair. Exuding musicality and charisma in every step, Perle definitely came to win. As she finished, the crowd leapt to their feet for the first standing ovation of the evening. And Perle drank it in; that girl took a loooooong time milking that exit. As she left, I thought that the whole performance almost felt like a step down act rather than a competition entry. The lady knows that she’s a Queen. (View more photos of 1st Runner Up Perle Noire.)
I for one would not have wanted to follow that particular performance, but Coco Lectric handled it with aplomb. All megawatt smile and yards of multi-coloured ruffles, Coco was a Latin samba goddess with the slinky hips to match. And her costume worked hard for the money! Her skirt was whipped to and fro in time to the beat of the Cuban sounding track before being flung aside. She then span out of the ruffles that previously looked like the top half of her dress to reveal that it was in fact a long ruffled boa, with which she teased us expertly before discarding it in favour of two blue fans plucked from her enormous feathered headdress. Coco was gorgeous, polished and made an outfit with so very much going on look easy to pull off (as it were) all the while shimmying the length and breadth of the stage to make sure that all of the audience got a little bit of Coco love. Giving us grace, smoulder, sex, a little bit of comedy and a tassel twirl finale, Coco was world class.
Ok so, full disclosure… I LOVE TRIXIE LITTLE. I love that she’s a badass gymnast. I love that she’s funny, I love that she’s smart as hell and I absolutely love the act that she gave us for the Queen competition. I’d actually seen her perform the show before when she was over in London so I knew that Trixie was going to kill it, but there had been so many tweaks in the interim period between London and Las Vegas that it was almost like seeing a new show. Trixie stood centre stage in a primary yellow velvet gown, holding a banana. She suggestively peeled the banana and slid her lips down it to take a bite. Having despatched the banana, Trixie got down to the real business – unpeeling herself – and her dress fell away in great yellow strips of velvet banana peel to reveal a bustier glittering with crystals. Definitely the most considered and gorgeous reveal of the evening. But Trixie didn’t stop there. After removing her first glove, she raised her arm to remove the second, but first extended her finger AND PEELED it too, like a tiny glittery banana which she licked lasciviously. The details people! It’s all in the details… More costume came away, piece by yellow piece, and she released her hair then hit the floor for some beautifully acrobatic and innovative floor work. Each piece of costume was more perfect than that last, all working together to elevate what had the bones of a classic act into something intelligent, funny and sexy as hell. She finished with some stellar tasselling and the crowd were on their feet. Trixie Little is the thinking weirdo’s burlesque heroine. Long may you reign of terror continue, my Queen! (View full photo set of Trixie Little, Miss Exotic World, Reigning Queen of Burlesque 2015 performing and being crowned.)
Next up we had a real change of pace from Minneapolis’ RedBone. Dancing to Boom I’ve Got Your Boyfriend (which has to be one of the world’s most infuriatingly catchy songs), Red Bone gave us attitude, slick hip hop moves, and when the clothes came off we saw a toned body that you could bounce a whole bag of quarters off. Wearing baggy gold silk pants, big hoop earrings and a glittering afro she bounced onstage, a ball of energy. For me the act lagged a little in the middle as simple choreography was repeated and then repeated again, but she took the energy back up with a back spin that sent her afro flying across the stage. It may have been an accident but she managed to do it perfectly in time with the music so that it felt like a reveal! RedBone took her boyfriend stealing seriously and at the end of her act she leapt from the stage and dragged a male audience member from his seat and left the auditorium through the back door, man still in tow. I’m not sure he made it back to his seat alive.
Continuing the red theme and following RedBone was Ruby Joule – eventual winner of ‘Most Classic’. Ruby strode onstage in a red fishtail gown, trailing a red chiffon scarf at her neck which fluttered around her as she worked it in time to the music. Her gloves slid off and then she teased the audience with her dress, pulling the zipper nearly all the way from the bottom to the top before deciding, with a shake of her finger, that we weren’t quite ready for her yet and zipping herself right back up. And then with a flourish she quickly zipped the gown open from the top to the bottom, a neat little trick that drew cries of appreciation from the audience. The dress revealed a panel skirt and bra that she gracefully spun in and discarded, then made her way to a little podium where she arched and posed while a fabric flame licked behind her. Another tassel twirl finale marked the end of a classic, polished and proficient act. Ruby is statuesque with a great body, but I felt at times her body was doing the majority of the work and maybe she could afford to let go a little and have slightly more fun with her show. Ruby’s face remained quite composed throughout and perhaps it would have been nice to see a little more personality.
More full disclosure, I have a total girl crush on Lola Frost. It’s the way she moves – all panther slink and prowl – and her offering for Queen did not disappoint. The act was low key and sort of hypnotic. A lady with mellifluous tones insistingly sang that ‘I want to drink you sober’ over and over again while Lola undulated around the stage. She dealt admirably with a slight tech issue at the top of her act which saw the lights come on and the music start to reveal two gentlemen still setting up her table onstage. But Lola didn’t miss a beat. She slammed her bottle down onto the table and drank from her glass. She slipped out of her gorgeous midnight blue and golden coat, then span and span while losing long strands of golden and blue beads effortlessly. We got a beautiful stocking peel and some languorous floor work. Lola’s was a slow burn act that she sold with her eyes, making each member of the audience feel like she was just up there for them.
Following Lola came the impossibly gorgeous Ginger Valentine. Ginger, it has to be said, quite obviously has a formula for success. And I mean, it’s REALLY working for her, so if it ain’t broke, why fix it? But her ‘Purple Freak’ routine seemed to be to be an ever so slightly weaker version of the pink routine that she performed for Burlesque Hall of Fame last year. That said, Ginger’s ‘slightly weaker’ is still one of the most kick ass burlesque shows that you’re going to see. She started wearing a gorgeous Catherine D’Lish, marabou trimmed duster coat which floated around her as she glided around the stage. The coat was removed, followed by the sparkliest purple dress I’ve ever seen. Ginger is such a gorgeous girl and her lines and flexibility when it comes to her floor work are second to none. In my notes I’ve written ‘Ginger is almost better off her feet’, which sounds impolite, but if you have to watch one person hump a boa onstage, you really do have to make sure it is her! Ginger gave great face and had such a connection with the audience. Super polished and hot as, well… Texas! (View more photos of 2nd Runner Up Ginger Valentine.)
If opening the show is a tough break, then surely closing what seems like the longest burlesque show in the world ever must also feel like something of a short straw. I mean, how do you stay awake? Or sober?! But Peekaboo Pointe, after sitting backstage for several hours, came out and closed the most amazing show in the most amazing way possible. She KILLED it. And she did it with joy shining out of every inch of her, which was completely infectious. She ate up the stage to a Latin sounding version of St James Infirmary in a sexy, shimmering red dress. Peeks gave us backbends and her famous ass cheek bounce after the dress came off, revealing a panel skirt underneath which was then whipped into submission. I spoke to Peeks before her show and asked if she was nervous at all, and she said that she was just raring to get up there and dance her heart out, which is exactly what she did. She covered every inch of that huge stage effortlessly and closed out with her trademark tassel twirling, which quite frankly might see her take off one day. A joyful and fitting end to such an amazing and closely fought competition.
Ladies, you are all Queens in our eyes. What a show! Burlesque Hall of Fame has just been getting better and better and I’m already dying to see what everybody brings next year. BHoF is such a great place to come and be inspired to work harder, to create, to put more crystals on every single fucking thing… and I thank everybody who I saw this weekend for being an inspiration. But special love and jewel encrusted bananas to the QUEEN for showing us that the crazy girls can do it too! Trixie Little, I am endlessly inspired by you and all that you have achieved. You got a motherfucking crown!
Lots of love to all the glitter tribe, hope to see you soon.
View the full list of competition results here and stay tuned for more Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend 2015 coverage – enjoy all the coverage so far HERE!
About Fancy Feather
A cabaret chameleon, Kitty manages to encompass both traditional 50s glamour puss and the electric energy of rock n roll. Originally trained in ballet and classical jazz, Kitty draws upon a twenty-two year acquisition of performance skill to deliver her highly choreographed and spectacular stage shows. Be it roaring onstage, breathing flames astride her custom chopper motorcycle or bursting out through her giant magazine cover in a Westwood inspired ball gown Kitty always delivers something polished, original and doubtless the evening will go with a... BANG!