The eloquent Vicky Butterfly guides us through Friday Night at the New Orleans Burlesque Festival 2013...
Wow, what can I say about the New Orleans Burlesque Festival? For my first ever burlesque festival I wasn’t quite sure what to expect; all I knew was that I couldn’t think of any better combination of place and occasion to celebrate both my 30th birthday and ten years (give or take) in burlesque. So, on impulse, I’d booked a ticket and prepared for an adventure! I was to appear in the Mondo Burlesque showcase on the Friday: an eclectic selection of acts from around the world, hosted by Dr Sick.
When I arrived for my tech I was very excited to see some intriguing props; I’d got to know some of my fellow performers at the welcoming drinks party, so I had some clue as to the sort of variety packed showcase to expect, but I knew I might not get the chance to see the show from the side of the stage, so this was my chance to get up-close and personal so my imagination could fill in the blanks if I had to watch it on a relay screen. The atmosphere backstage was very relaxed, and I started recognising a few familiar faces as the acts began to gather and the excitement levels started to build. I was to be on almost at the end of the show, and as usual I was ready before curtain up so I had plenty of time to hover and watch the show from backstage.
All of the very diverse acts were a pleasure to watch, but I must confess to having a few favourites. Although the relay screen did not do Missy Lisa‘s sparkling delight of a costume justice, it didn’t stop me from watching enthralled as she undulated across the stage in a way that would have done Jane Mansfield or Diana Dors proud, and worked the floor with the power and passion of a classic exotic. Stephanie Blake is that rarest of creatures: a two-time Miss Exotic World. I’d seen pictures of her during my early research into burlesque but never seen her in motion, and her very acrobatic duet with surprise guest Russell Bruner provided plenty of laughs as a complement to her athletic, prowling sensuality.
Keeping the laughs flowing were Forever Marzipan, whose comedic timing was as flawless as their jaw-dropping aerial skills. As they flew over, under and around the bar of the static trapeze, I saw ambitious transitions and holds I’d never seen before and it was a pleasure to watch their chemistry as they maintained their characters through even the most difficult of tricks. It was a very skills based show (with my personal favourite to come later!), with Confetti Eddie‘s adroit and classic burlesque twist on a magical classic that nearly brought the house down, and a wonderful hoop routine from Valentina which fused burlesque, hula hoops and bellydance seamlessly, so that through her isolations the hoops just appeared to float magically through the air. Tammi True gave us a taste of why they used to call her “Miss Excitement” in her New Orleans Burlesque Festival debut, but she still kept us guessing on the real story of Jack Ruby… a ‘True’ tease!
As I stepped onto the stage, I could really feel the atmosphere in the room through the hot lights; I was so excited to be able to bring one of my favourite numbers, ‘The Moth’, to a new audience. When I know I’m performing it to a completely new and un-suspecting audience I always get a bit of an extra frisson of excitement before I unleash the surprise mid-way through the act, so I felt like I was almost floating! Afterwards, I felt like I was walking on air; they were so warm and welcoming and I felt like I had well and truly marked that ten year milestone!
To close the show was a burlesque ‘first’: a stunning striptease on ice by Elle Dorado. A former champion of the ice, she employed her flawless skills as well as her charm and charisma to create something really special and unique, with beautifully elevated jumps and incredibly quick edges and footwork that were a marvel to watch, especially in a space so small that it would have daunted the confidence of many a dancer, let alone a skater. The crowd went WILD! Anyone who knows me will know that I’m a sucker for the innovative and creative, the aesthetic and the dramatic spectacle, and this was the WHOLE package. I barely had time to remember to pull on a dress for our final curtain call and then, with the adrenaline still pumping, I could now finally relax and concentrate fully on enjoying a whole other show to come…
One of the many pleasures of New Orleans that I’d discovered was how easily walkable it is compared to places like London or Paris, and although I took the chance to drop my show bag back at my hotel on the way to the House of Blues, I still had time to get a celebratory cocktail in my hand before settling down with my friends from Sublime Boudoir for some of the best views in the house. Under the strict but tender mercies of mistress of ceremonies Cora Vette, more than eighteen beauties, including Cora’s own saucy VaVaVettes, bumped and ground (if you can say that!) for our delight. Every flavour of naughtiness was represented here, from nuns in the confessional to bondage, and a very cheeky Russian doll, as danced with verve by Pepper Potemkin.
It’s hard to play favourites when there’s so much to enjoy, but I’ll always remember stamping and cheering during Miss Redd‘s sultry fetish number, where she teased us like an after-dark kinky Jessica Rabbit, and Porcelain‘s raw and raunchy leopard with prowling and supple floor-work. A special mention has to go to Maxi Millions‘ sassy pick-up, with her pert interactions with Cora and the crowd. However, my hands down stand-outs of the night would have to be GoGo McGregor‘s ‘Pain Proof Princess’, where sensual bump-n-grind gave way to a wild and free display of classic floorwork… on broken glass! It was a perfect marriage of styles; GoGo’s perfect Sherry Britton coolness showing how effortlessly and seamlessly she could integrate classic side-show stunts within classic tease without compromising the flow of the dance.
Then Miss Miranda‘s sizzling chilli goddess. Now, I’m not biased just because she’s a fellow London girl; I’d never seen this number, as she’d created it inspired by New Orleans itself, and it blew me away! You want a bad girl? Her torrid undulations travelled all the way to the back of the room… as did the scent of the hot tabasco she poured over herself and invited someone to lick from her foot! From the tip of her light-up headdress to the tip of her foot on someone’s head, she was every inch a goddess, and this act combined textures of everything from the swoosh of silk veil fans, the rattle of dried chilies and the scent of sauce in more ways than one to provide a multi-sensory experience.
Finally, I was completely blown away by Po’ Chop. Some people just have ‘IT’. It’s really hard to write about her performance as there were so many intangible qualities that made it a tour-de-force. There was energy, there was charisma, there was the swagger of the girl whose gang everyone wants to be a part of… everyone knows the real bad-girl deal when they see it. Athletic, but constantly engaging the audience, it was a powerhouse performance that left us wanting more!
And now they’d got us all fired up, what could we do but dance and drink into the small hours?! Why, it’d be rude not to! Thank you again to everyone involved in the festival for making my first festival (and my birthday) such a wonderful and unique experience, to friends both old and new for the fun, laughs and adventure, and last but not least to New Orleans herself for being everything I hoped she’d be and more.
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.