by Kat Richter for The Dance Journal
Neo-burlesque troupe Peek-a-Boo Revue packed the house at World Café Live on Friday night for its post-Valentine’s romp, Blow Me a Kiss. It had all the makings of great burlesque, including live music and nipple tassels enough to clothe an entire army, but it lacked the self awareness that makes neo burlesque neo: the satire, the wit, the “yes, we’re stripping but we’re making a statement” attitude that differentiates modern burlesque from glorified striptease. The audience, however, didn’t seem to mind and kept right on cheering throughout the entire three-hour show.
The evening began with It’s a Shame to Tell a Lie featuring a solo vocalist Tracey Todd Superstar and six chorus girls in white shorts and sequined bras who performed an upbeat Charleston in what would remain the most “dancey” number of the entire show. Next up was Rosalie Sweets, who stripped from a purple, floor length gown down to a sequined corset then unhooked her bra with one hand to the tune of a trumpet solo. Cherry Bomb then performed to a cover of Toxic by Brittany Spears, tiptoeing across the stage with a miniature umbrella like a Victorian tightrope walker.
The performance continued in this vein, combining vocal solos, comedy sketches and of course, lots and lots of sequin pasties all ushered along by hosts Joey Martini and Count Scotchula. Their monologues were entertaining at times and their frequent costume changes kept things interesting, but their introductions—not to mention the Escape from New York spoof—often dragged well beyond the point of funny.
Breaking rank, soloist Ginger Lee, who teaches neo-burlesque in Fishtown, performed sans high heels. Her barefoot solo, for which she wore a simple cream colored negligee, comprised a surprising striptease-meets-lyrical mash up. She circled her hips and concluded the routine with a simple rond de jamb before exiting the stage.
California-based Lulu Lollipop was the most polished performer of the evening. Her feathered headdress surely had the Mummers in the audience green with envy, and her poised, well-timed striptease looked like it came straight from a period film. Nineteen year old Sophie Sucre of New York’s Brown Girls Burlesque wasn’t far behind with her samba-meets-burlesque routine. Although the number followed the same storyline as every other piece (girl dances, girl reveals thong, girl reveals pasties, audience cheers), her quick footwork and shaking hips were a nice change in pace.
The musicians who comprised the Striptease Orchestra were top notch. The horn section enjoyed their fair share of penis jokes—perhaps more than their fair share—but then again, what’s a clarinetist supposed to do while playing a burlesque show? Their introductions, in which each musician got a chance to play solo, were a highlight of the evening. And the polka dotted, corset-themed music stands were a nice, kitschy touch.
Another highlight was Beautiful, performed in the dark by co-host Joey Martini and dancers Cherry Bomb and Ginger Lee. The trio sauntered across the stage as various costumes pieces comprised of fluorescent rope lights came into view: first Martini’s hat, then smiling faces for the girls, then the outline of a bra and finally light up heels. This—at last—was neo burlesque. The dancers literally turned their clothes on instead of taking them off for a truly original take on the traditional striptease.
Kat Richter is a freelance writer and teaching artist. She holds an MA in Dance Anthropology and is also the co-founder of The Lady Hoofers, Philadelphia’s only all-female tap company. Her work can be found at www.katrichter.com.
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