Here we are once more, sparkle folx: another year rolls forth, bringing with it another Tournament of Tease. As ever, it is my distinct honor and pleasure to bring to you my reflections on and reviews of the performances of each of the incredible burlesque artists who competed for the title of Miss Exotic World 2017.
Kicking off the Queen competition with her incredibly high-energy signature act, ‘Bad to the Bone’, was RedBone (Minneapolis, MN/San Francisco, CA). A festival favourite, this number employs a consistently high energy bump and grind movement style.
Clad in a black and white lace gown cut all the way up to there, accented by red gloves, RedBone made excellent use of the massive Orleans Showroom stage, including all sides and the entire depth, thus ensuring that all audience members were given focus and connection throughout the performance.
With a fabulous blend of classic and irreverent, her constant and fluid motion incorporated use of her skirt removal’s panelwork directly into a backbend and transition into floorwork. Ending with a costuming transition to all red everything and a middle-finger merkin, RedBone capped off her signature act to loud applause.
Next up was Lady Josephine (Montreal, QC), also known as the tall glass of badass. She sauntered around the stage in furs and sunglasses, with drapy fabrics in muted mossy colors in the Art Deco silhouette.
This outfit was in contrast to her hot pink heels which, while lovely and certainly unique, did not end up tying into the overall aesthetic as much as one might have hoped, either via colour themes in the undergarments or later prop work. Each reveal showcased more and more fringe as well as underthings embellished in a similar green palette, as the music transitioned from the familiar tones of The Stripper to a more contemporary sound, interspersed with high kicks and topped with a drop split.
Lady Josephine finished off her act by teasing with a mirror fan extracted from a box. A beautiful prop, to be sure, but it might have been even more wonderful to have seen it played with longer and in greater variety, or perhaps addition of matching embellishments to tie in the aforementioned hot pink heels.
Continuing the retro vibe was Jessabelle Thunder (Los Angeles, CA), fondly known as the 8th and 9th world wonder. Renowned for her classic and bold up-tempo dancing, often paying homage to the movement style of black burlesque legends of yore, Jessabelle took the stage cradled in hot pink feathers, trimmed with pops of yellow and orange.
Utilizing the whole stage with aplomb, Jessabelle teased the audience from corner to corner with myriad bumps and grinds interlaced with sensual moments. Her glove twirl served as foreshadowing for her dizzying hip rolls and isolations, the movements of which were framed and amplified perfectly by a well-tailored and draped feather bustle with butt peekaboo amplified hip movements, the top of which came free to further showcase her gyrating assets. Continuing in the vein of whirling choreography, Jessabelle ended her act with an invigorating tassel twirl.
Molding Art Deco stylings with fancy footwork was the next Miss Exotic World 2017 competitor Gin Minsky (Brooklyn, NY). Known for her highly energetic performance style, the 1920s tapping sensation returned to the stage for the second year in a row to compete for the Queen title. Starting out in a sparkly flapper dress of gold and black chevrons, she delighted the audience with costuming reveals, as well as reveals of her own person.
Notable amongst these reveals was a quick change from the flapper dress to a gorgeous long sapphire blue evening gown, as well as a hair reveal entailing letting her hair down from a period-style turban. Seasoned performer that she is, Gin Minsky continued to tap through her applause and all the way off stage, earning her the title of Most Classic for the evening.
Rounding out the middle of the Queen competition was Melody Mangler (Vancouver, BC). In addition to her solo performances, Melody serves as the artistic director for the Screaming Chicken Theatrical Society (Winner – Best Large Group, BHoF 2016) as well as co-founder of the Vancouver International Burlesque Festival.
Melody’s green and aqua panel skirt set was visually contrasting and highly complimentary to her bright red hairstyle. With awesome use of glove removals to tease, Melody moved to panel removals. Given the lovely contrast of her hair with the color of the panels, it would have been even more lovely to have a bit more time with the panel work to really sink into the choreography. Additional weighting on the hems of the panels could potentially assist with this adjustment. Melody transitioned into floor work with a jump drop to both knees.
The number was topped off with headbanging which was delight to watch but perhaps a bit too vigorous as she did appear to loosen a pastie towards the end of her number. Regardless, the move was handled with verve and panache, to the audience’s overall enjoyment.
Hailing from Sydney, AU, Miss Alyssa Kitt entered the stage as the Siren of the Swamp. With big, big hair and to the tune of gluggy swampy noises giving way to her act’s musical accompaniment. Alyssa’s costume was a visual feast and completely on theme with swampy goodness, comprised of a twinkling vitrail-encrusted corset with lovely matching underbits, as well as swirling green skirt with swamp detritus strewn upon it.
In a show of raw and powerful athleticism, though perhaps not as crisp and clean as it could be, she wowed the audience with a cartwheel split in both directions, coupled with bouncing and undulations. For the conclusion of her number, Alyssa tassel twirled into straddle split and then executed a backbend tassel twirl for the finale.
Returning to the stage was the 2nd Runner Up from the Miss Exotic World 2016 competition, the Energizer Honey, Sweetpea (Minneapolis, MN). Rocking a cape and a cowboy hat in leopard and black, Sweetpea popped and dropped to the sensual Ciara song Ride. Matching the feel of the song, she combined building energetic tension with silky motion and released that tension with her signature dynamo moves.
With perfect timing, she transitioned to floor work as she peeled off her chaps. Using her horse prop for more astonishing choreography, she performed an outstanding upside down twerk, and I wish we had seen more use of the horse prop as it was really fantastic to see those moves executed masterfully upon it. Returning to the floor, Sweetpea did a headstand into a backwards roll for her bra removal, and in a final cheeky move, she placed her hat back on her head for her final pose.
As the Queen competition drew to a close, Miss Bettie Bombshell (Melbourne, AU) treated us to some sparkly neoclassic glamour. Shimmering onstage, Bettie sported an outfit of an aqua green and black patterned sequined jacket with tails over high-waisted shorts and topped off with a matching hat. With fluid and expressive movement, she twirled off the jacket into a panel skirt and harness combination.
Using joyful movement, including a cute little booty pop, she executed smooth and sexy removals with both the panel skirt and shorts removed via dual side zips. Employing use of levels, Bettie also did a series of splits and backbends with delightful musicality, although not as much towards house right as to the rest of the audience. Bettie’s final reveal featured an excellent set of teardrop pasties coupled with a French cut g-sting.
Shaking things up as the competition wound down was the Golden Glamazon, Sydni Deveraux (New York, NY) who strutted on to the stage in a complete stylistic departure from all numbers previously seen in the evening’s various competitions. In nothing but a fur coat, red monokini, red gloves and heels, and a high ponytail, she served us up a bombastic act that was funky, sexy, and laced with the erotic.
Set to the thumping Trina banger Long Heels Red Bottoms, Sydni’s phenomenal choreography had the crowd roaring and yelling for more, although those sitting house right did not receive as much attention. Her movement was punctuated with plenty of isolated staccato movement and linked together with slow and languid motion, resulting in a thoroughly dynamic series of moments with creation of tension and utterly satisfying release.
Using the ever popular drop split to transition into floor work, Sydni gave us a nice and slow traveling twerk across the stage, and she exited the stage as she entered: in charge and simmering with sexuality.
Born in Spain and known as ‘sin in an hourglass’, the final competitor for Miss Exotic World 2017 was Medianoche (New York, NY). Floating onstage with a dramatic white silhouette, her gown was accented with molten pale gold corset, flowing skirt, and epaulette, with red touches. Using classic choreography, the act started slow with many holding moments, allowing her to take her time, and her ability to play to the whole house enabled her to bring the whole audience with her.
Additionally, Medianoche’s extensive costuming background was apparent throughout her act, with many of her reveals linking to costuming choices. Some of these reveals include red lining for her corset, a strappy red body harness in a unique asymmetrical shape, and removal of her panel skirt to reveal another smaller red panel.
However, the most dramatic costuming reveal was her use of colour changing sequins on her bra that shifted from gold to red. At the sight of that reveal, and one might argue that is the moment that won her the title of Most Dazzling, as the audience reacted with an audibly collective gasp before erupting into wild cheering.
The BHoF judges select the winners based on seven judging criteria, which are as follows: style including overall glamour, poise/polish/professionalism, stage presence/charisma, creativity, striptease experience, movement and danceability, and entrance and exit from stage.
After yet another year of formidable competition, the ultimate winners for the 2017 competition were Sydni Deveraux as 2nd Runner Up, Sweetpea as 1st Runner Up, and our Miss Exotic World, Reigning Queen of Burlesque 2017 – Medianoche! Many congratulations to all of the winners, and special congratulations to our new queen – may your reign be smooth, fruitful, and replete with amazing experiences.
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.