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The accidental Dita Von Teese

 

This week is all about the way that burlesque creates effects and is, itself, affected. The currently ubiquitous Dita Von Teese has been talking to Vogue again - amongst other things about how she came to choose her name, a pseudonym we now consider synonymous with retro glamour and a certain kind of Hollywood style. So how did it come about?

 

Apparently she was just Dita for years. After watching a film starring Dita Parlo (who was actually born Grethe Gerda Kornstadt) and who was also a big influence on Madonna, she adopted the name. Her aim was to become one of those single name icons - Cher, Madonna etc. Then, when she did her first Playboy shoot in the early nineties they told her she had to have a second name too.

 

Just pause a moment and contemplate that - can you imagine telling Dita she needs to do anything? How stardom changes us …

 

So, she was working in a bikini club at the time and opened up a phone book (remember those? No, us neither, obviously we’re all way too young for that!) and with a girlfriend she started flipping through the index, looking for ‘cool’ names. The one she found was Von Treese. But when Playboy ran the shoot they called her Von Teese and despite her request for them to correct it, they called her Von Teese in the following months issue too.

 

So there you have it - an accidental misspelling or the view of a junior editor at a soft porn magazine made a Germanic surname into a tongue-in-cheek double entendre and cemented the career of an icon - even if it did stop her being known by her first name only!

 

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Posted By Victoria Barber

Burlesque tips for all

26/05/2016 14:50

Burlesque challenges prejudices

 

Burlesque CostumingA burlesque cabaret with a difference is taking place in Vancouver - the performers all have various disabilities and explores the prejudice and institutional barriers experienced by disabled people when trying to express their sexuality. The show is called ‘Sexy Voices’ and explores what it is like to have a libido and a self-defined disability - where does one impact on the other and how.

 

The hope is that the audience will be encouraged to explore the three-dimensional nature of life with a disability and challenge a common misconception that disabled people don't consider sexuality as being just as important as other people.

 

One routine involves a quadriplegic performer offering a comedy routine about how frustrating she finds it to be overlooked by men. She then breaks into a burlesque striptease, getting down to her corset whilst dancing in her chair. As one male performer said, ‘We're seen as asexual people. And sometimes we're even punished for expressing our sexuality.’

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Posted By Victoria Barber

New venues for burlesque acts

 

Amidst all the recent furore about strippers and burlesque dancers being hired for places where the guests apparently had no idea they were about to be treated to a burlesque performance, it’s good read some great news about the role of burlesque in local communities and in the wider cultural world.

 

First up, ‘The Gentleman’s Retreat’ a barber shop and tattooing parlour which has been given a new licence by Doncaster Council - it’s now able ton host burlesque nights and served alcohol. But’s that’s only half the story - the other half was that the licence was appealed by the venue’s owner who said that the strict ‘no under-18s’ police would have prevented his young daughter and even some of his staff, from being able to enter the premises.

 

Whilst certain areas of the property remain off limits to under 18s, the ban has been relaxed for other areas of the business. Of course there are still some people who are uncomfortable with the idea, notably a Pastor of a local Evangelical Free Church who fears  there will problems, ‘The whole tone of the building would just not be suitable for children to be involved in. I think this sort of business and mixing the two things in the same venue is not going to help in any way shape or form.’

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Posted By Victoria Barber

Burlesque is just not cricket!

 

Cricket Dinner BurlesqueWestern Australian Cricket Association is a very straight laced organisation with an extremely strict dress code, so it was a surprise to many members, and indeed non-members, when photographs of its black tie awards dinner were published online. They showed  a burlesque dancer, wearing nothing more than a gold-string, splashing around in a martini glass.

 

More than 800 guests attended the dinner and it seemed most of them were ‘blindsided’ by the dance whilst many more called into a radio station to express their shock and disgust at the cabaret show. Burlesque aficionados might be raising their eyebrows at another matter … the martini glass is known to be the hallmark act of Dita Von Teese and while there’s no such thing as a trademark for a burlesque performance, it’s often considered in poor taste to ‘hijack’ another burlesquer’s act.

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Posted By Victoria Barber

Forty Elephants burlesque homage in Alberta

 

Send in the Girls Burlesque in Alberta has a history of blending classic burlesque and theatre in ways that make narrative burlesque performances into something very special. With up to 22 participants - often all onstage at the same time - creating encapsulations of women throughout history, their shows can be both satirical and oddly reverential. Their latest offering, Bust ‘Em Up Burlesque is a reference to the 40 Elephants gang - a women only criminal sorority who had many more than forty members and were famous for swarming into high class shops and stealing everything they could lay their hands on. Because there were so many of them, staff and police could not hope to catch them all and from the mid Victorian era the gang, which drew its name from its Elephant and Castle location, was a thriving success story. By the 1920s it was notorious and the Bust ‘Em Up title relates in part to the fisticuffs, which were commonplace as women in the gang vied for position.

 

The show runs until 19 March - we wish we could be there!

 

League of Exotique Dancers - documentary and investiture etiquette

 

The largest documentary film festival in America is Hot Docs, and its headline film this year will be ‘League of Exotique Dancers’ by Indo-Canadian filmmaker Rama Rau. This latest documentary covers three different activities - the legends of burlesque as they prepare to give a live performance at the Legends of Burlesque Hall of Fame in Vegas, the process of inducting new members into the Burlesque Hall of Fame itself, and exploration of the home lives and personal experience of famous burlesquers away from the stage - an often substantially different lifestyle.

 

So what does it mean to be an inductee to the Burlesque Hall of Fame? It requires having made a substantial contribution to the art of burlesque, having stood the test of time and having been an example or mentor to the next generation of burlesque performers. Rama Rau creates a powerful and often moving contrast between the golden days of burlesque, the fantastic costumes, Hollywood lifestyles and glamour of the performers in their prime, and the more hardscrabble existence that many burlesque dancers experience as they age.

 

So that investiture - there must be a dress code, right? Well yes, it turns out there is. Zandra Rhodes famously went knickerless to her Investiture at Buckingham Palace but what does one wear to a Burlesque Hall of Fame investiture in Las Vegas? It turns out that the glamour of an investiture is absolute - we’d recommend our blue feather fascinator as a first step. Costuming is respectful and not garish but corsetry, gloves and excellent hosiery are always evident. Oddly, the ladies are quite restrained about inductee costuming and you could mistake them for any upmarket group of matrons … until you catch the twinkle in their collective eyes!

 

The Hot docs festival opens on April 28th and features titles from 51 countries. 

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Posted By Victoria Barber

Bestival and the FT make rather unusual bedfellows - and when the common factor is burlesque, you can bet the bed is large, pink and feathered! So this week’s news shows just how pervasive and adaptable burlesque is, and has always been.

 

Festival barnstormers

 

The four day Bestival on the Isle of Wight has become one of the UK’s premiere music festivals in

the past decade and this year one of the show stopping acts included is going to be Lucha VaVOOM which will play the Big Top stage. Featuring a blend of Mexican wrestling (Lucha Libre) and Buxoticas - burlesque acts ranging from raunchy to ridiculous - in between each wrestling bout, this is the most full-on spectacular including trapeze acts and incredible choreographed ‘wrestling’. We’re particularly looking forward to Hula Hooping burlesque artist Karis whose act is definitely both erotic and athletic. The commentary in Lucha VaVOOM alone, is worth the entry price!

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Posted By Victoria Barber