The other night I was wandering around Fringe with a friend who introduced me to someone. When asked what kind of performer I was, I answered burlesque. The person I just met then said, “Oh, you do this thing” and made this motion:
Now I’m sure he didn’t mean anything in particular by it, but it brought up a wellspring of feelings that have been dogging me for the last year or so. Is this really what people see burlesque as? Is this what we’ve been reduced to? The movie Burlesque created a wonderful boom for the industry which gave a lot of us work and got a lot of new people interested, but it has become so “mainstream” now – tits, teeth and feathers. This stuff is great, but there is so much more to it than that. Granted, this is not necessarily a bad thing. If audiences are no longer interested then it pushes us to create work that is exciting, engaging and captivating to the crowd. We need innovation to survive – not just in terms of getting full audiences, but also to propel ourselves. I found The Gin Sisters so fulfilling for this reason – it wasn’t necessarily innovative but it was something new for us and has opened up the world for me a little bit more. I’m going to focus on new work this year that is personally challenging and exciting.
To cheer myself up after this….
here are some of my favourite innovative burlesque routines – specifically from Australian artists.
You can’t say “innovative burlesque” without thinking of Imogen Kelly. Imogen’s performances are always exciting and fresh – and it was her show “The Undressing Room” that I saw in the Adelaide Fringe in 2009 that opened my eyes to all the things burlesque can be. Here is one of her latest routines – performed at the New York Burlesque Festival.
I first saw Betty Grumble when she entered the Miss Burlesque Australia competition in 2011. She pretty much parodied the entire competition with hilarious and thought provoking results. Betty challenges the sexualisation of children through beauty pageants, as well as standards of beauty for women. I think her work is phenomenal – and it’s not for the faint hearted!
Mema Sifa is a local Adelaide performer, and I’m proud to say she started off in the Peaches ‘n’ Gin Burlesque Academy. Mema has a unique brand of “nerdlesque” with her acts referencing pop culture and nerd icons. She produces a show called “Bazinga Burlesque“, now in it’s second year at Adelaide Fringe and I just think her ideas are fantastic. Her Game of Thrones act that she performed at Miss Burlesque SA 2014 completely blew me away. Unfortunately it’s hard to get the full feel of the routine from a video so I haven’t posted it. I’m pretty sure she’s performing this at Bazinga – so get tickets!
Photo by Steamkittens
There are still more artists I’d like to include – Lillian Starr, Vesper White, Glitta Supernova, Becky Lou, Sina King….perhaps in another post! And just for one last time…