Drag kings dressed as sperm performing a synchronized dance to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.” Need I say more? The Vic Theater in Belmont hosted Gurlesque Burlesque, an all-female burlesque show, last Saturday night. Though most people came to see the infamous Margaret Cho, famous for her provocative stand-up comedy, it was the Boyz and their sperm dance that stole the show for my friends and me.
The acts of “Gurlesque Burlesque” ranged from the kinky La Divina Cucina, who simply read recipes to the audience in a provocatively sultry voice, to the political, in an act featuring two naked women disguised as President Bush and Vice-President Cheney rubbing chocolate sauce out of gasoline cans on each other, to the gender-bending and provocative as with Teena Angst and iconoclash’s ASSimilate This!
The Gurlesque Burlesque show was a fundraiser for a documentary about the history and the current state of burlesque dancing. The Mistress of Ceremonies, Jessica Halem, who announced that the U of C was close to her heart, kept the show alive, asking between each act “are you all having fun?” She demonstrated her determination to keep the fun going with jokes about straight couples and gay ones, as well as many jokes about Stoli, the official sponsor of the event.
Halem was almost as concerned with the stagehands as she was with the audience. She talked to them constantly and requested that the audience cheer for them every once in a while. Also present were two ASL interpreters, who Halem forced to sign hilariously perverted questions to the deaf members of the audience. Halem declared the deaf members of the audience a dirty subculture, and the audience roared with laughter. Everyone who went to see this burlesque show was in on the joke. Here, there was no perverted subculture; there was just culture. Many members of the audience were dressed in their own costumes, ranging from drag to eccentric and slightly more clothed versions of burlesque. I thoroughly enjoyed Halem, but she made one mistake: She claimed that San Francisco has nothing on Belmont. As a San Franciscan, I say this is not true!
The burlesque performers ranged from old to new, from talented to sort of disappointing. Miss Indigo Blue was the highlight of the traditional burlesque dancers. Her mastery of aesthetic presentation was unbelievable. Clad in tassels, she moved them in amazing ways that I would have thought impossible. Also truly stunning was Satan’s Angel, a burlesque dancer who was prominent from the ’60s to the ’80s. Somehow, she managed to entertain the audience with the same energy and engagement I imagined she would have had in the ’60s. Her control of the pasty tassels was just as amazing as Indigo Blue’s, and she proved herself to be far from over the hill. The night was capped by her performance, and it reminded everyone of how traditional and historically important burlesque dancing truly is. Satan’s Angel was excited to be there, and the audience was excited to watch her sexy dancing. She was unconcerned with the set pieces, the clothes, and transitions, and cared only about dancing and engaging the audience.
Margaret Cho danced to two songs. In the first, she came on dressed as a centurion of the Roman army and stripped to “Black Hole Sun,” revealing a large tattoo covering her back and midsection. Fond of props, as we were to learn, she used the shield to coyly tease the audience as she took off her bra behind it seductively. Her second act, however, was the true highlight of her dancing. She seductively stripped behind two large red feather fans and at the end of the song proudly removed them to reveal a large penis and scrotum. This, I would say, was the second funniest moment of the evening, and it certainly pleased the crowd.
My personal favorite, though, was Alotta Boutté, a tap dancer who showed burlesque dancing to be just that: dancing. Her act displayed not simply the lithe movements of beautiful women, but the energy of a more mainstream dance show. I might be partial since she’s from San Francisco, but I think that her name says it all.
Julie Atlas Muz, Miss Exotic World 2006, most aptly presented what I thought the show would be like. In her first act, she came onstage with a large balloon, which she proceeded to climb inside by pulling it over her head and body. This act was about having a sexy attitude, but it was her next performance that stole the show. She came out with a plastic heart and, it should go without saying, very little clothing, and proceeded to pour fake blood from the heart onto her body and rub it around. At this point, one of Halem’s famous stagehands came out and carried her off.
Muz’s performance was weird, but beautiful, and I think that might be what burlesque is all about. Going in, I believed it was simply topless women who knew how to swirl their pasties in opposing directions. But it truly is beautiful, representing the inner kink of everyone, simply showing what we see every day in a more exciting way, in rainbow colors, with men in heels and women playing Eminem.