The most fearless performers in South Africa at any given time are the ladies of burlesque. They perform an art that is extremely dependant on audience encouragement in the form of cheers, cat-calls, whistles etc. Rowdy audience behaviour is your ticket aboard the Burlesque Express… other than admission at the door of course.
We have followed Black Orchid Burlesque for a few years now. While it’s the stars like B.have and Diva Disastar that entice us to buy tickets, it’s the newbies that always fascinates me the most. Watching them perform as their confidence grows with every show is extremely satisfying.
For instance when we first saw Lucy Diamond the nerves clung tighter to her body than her corset. More than a year after we first saw her she still does not exude the confidence of B.have but she has channelled her shyness as part of her act which works very well.
Diva Disastar introduced newbie Bon Bon as shy and demure. Dressed up as a flight stewardess she revealed her character through a short sound clip with naughty in flight announcements before launching into her routine. She was the most ‘modest’ of the bunch stopping at her high waisted panties and bra yet her routine felt thorough.The most inventive ladies in the troupe, with the skill and costumes to pull it off, is Miss B.have with her Neo Burlesque performances and the grand dame herself, Diva Star, doing a turn as Marie Antoinette.
I wasn’t sold on the concept of Boylesque (can men be truly sensual?) and Dear James seemed to do everything in his power to cement this. In an 18th century composer costume he sets out to teach the audience something (it wasn’t very clear what this was). This entailed ‘contacting’ the audience and ‘playing’ a tune on his keyboard tie. He went on to lose a few items of clothing which ‘climaxed’ in him partially ripping open his shirt revealing his nipples taped over. So no I’m not sold on Boylesque, but I would love to be proven wrong.
The Burlesque Express incorporated two members from The Rouge Revue which was a real treat. Penny Pinup was a beautifully expressive face. She walked on stage a secretary and left as the scene stealing rock chick right off the video of a 80s hair band.
Dudes looking like ladies, drag queens if you will, are an extremely celebrated bunch. I have only read about the elusive parallel culture, drag kings, so experiencing it in the form of Maiden D’nude’s alter ego Casual Harry, also from The Rouge Revue, was a welcome new experience. Dressed as a rocker from the 70s Casual Harry performed to the classic rock anthem Cocaine. By the end of the line all signs of Harry was peeled away to reveal the beautiful Maiden D’nude in a feminine lacy lingerie. It was not a form of burlesque I particularly like but do find it intriguing and well thought out. But most of all it was kept to the point, only spanning the length of one song.
For a first class education into the art of burlesque it’s best to hop on the Burlesque Express. According to the schedule you’ll get off in 2 hours, but if you’re lucky it will be a whole lot sooner;)
* Photography by Miss Hepburn Photography
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