by Jack Ruby Murray
When did nudity get so professional? The first Burlesque show I saw was in 2000 in an East Village bar with homemade costumes and a tongue-in-cheek enthusiasm that more than compensated the $5 cover charge. The Fifth annual New York Burlesque Festival held over four days and culminating in the “Saturday Spectacular” at the Highline Ballroom in Manhattan was more Vegas than Village. It was seamless and seriously spectacular.
Surreal too, with acts like ‘Trixie and the Evil Hate Monkey’ a couple from Baltimore presented an high energy dance investigation of monkey on girl love was trumped only by the obscene Tigger with a frightening recreation of Little Orphan Annie. This included a ball swinging rendition of “Tomorrow” interupted by Annie’s sodomisation by Daddy Warbucks and culminated in Tigger plucking a condom from his stubbly arsehole.
The slick ‘Gravity Plays Favorites’ blew me away too with their mix of circus and new Burlesque: an acrobatic pole dance - two girls spinning on a steel pole and neither lost their pasties. Very classy.
The 'World Famous Bob' pinned today’s Burlesque to it’s roots with a recreation of a famous mother/daughter act from the 1950’s and this threw me slightly. The act in question was a tribute to Liz Renay who died in January – she claimed to have the first mother/daughter striptease act (the daughter here played by Ruby Valentine) and I guess she nailed it – Bob certainly bears an uncanny resemblance to the late Ms. Renay but the act in comparison to a set of original modern funny acts left me cold. It didn’t hold up. As important as this act might have been historically I’ll take Australia’s Imogen Kelly hilarous cream-smothered Marie Antoinette any day and honestly if I see another fan dance I’m going to start spitting feathers. This stuff is cute but Burlesque needs to keep reinventing itself.
Burlesque has moved to a level now where the performers can make a living (pretending) to take their clothes off. Ivan Kane is about to open New York branch of Forty Deuce and Dita Von Teese just launched her own perfume And with that sort of investment’s it’s going to have to keep up with the competition. These days that means XBox,Tivo,Blackberrys and Blockbuster. Burlesque is set to be an industry again and the money is definetly not ironic.
View The Fifth Annual New York Burlesque Festival slide show
Lead photo "Diamond Back Annie performing at the New York Burlesque Festival"
photo: Neville Elder