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Sunday, July 6, 2008

Burlesque: a celebration of the body

burlesque bodyPhotograph: Candee Photography
Burlesque is dominated by big celebrity names, with Dita Von Teese reigning as the queen of the American scene, and Immodesty Blaize flying the flag for the British contingent.

It's hard for new acts to break into the market, which is where Claire Hearne, aka Lulu Spanx of Lulu Spanx Inc. comes in. She is hosting The Big Burlesque Bout!, where 11 aspiring performers will compete for the chance to win a place on her agency's books and a slot at the Cherry Pop Peep Show.

'We had one lady that was really out there,' says Hearne of the contenders. 'We just didn't know how to mark her. She was from France and she was absolutely crackers. She was singing the whole way through, her zip got caught on her dress and she got one of the judges to undo it for her. It was just bizarre.'

Hearne knows exactly what makes a truly great burlesque artist. 'Burlesque is for everyone, all shapes and sizes and all ages,' she insists. 'As long as you can get up there and be confident in your own skin, then the people who are watching you are going to enjoy it as well. [The reason why] most of the other girls didn't get through was just due to lack of confidence rather than anything else.'

Performers' confidence would undoubtedly be boosted by chances to showcase their talents but, to an extent, they are trapped in a vicious circle.

'Without a recognised club name, it is difficult for new performers to get a foot in the door,' Hearne admits. 'Nights like mine usually won't book them because we like to guarantee a certain quality for the people watching the show – so an opportunity such as this is really good for them.'

The prospects for new performers are steadily improving as audience numbers grow, dispelling a few misconceptions in the process.

'When people first come, they're very dubious about what it's going to be like,' Hearne says. 'It's very hard to explain to someone that there are going to be girls taking their clothes off, but that it's not seedy.

'The girls have a great time, and we mix it up with a compère who plays the ukulele, and we have lots of old Victorian-style freak-show acts, lying on beds of nails and stuff like that. Quite often, people arrive still thinking of lap-dancing clubs and, when they see how much fun it is, they're nicely surprised.'

Battling it out: Eleven wannabe burlesque artists compete for the chance to win a slot at the Cherry Pop Peep Show.
Photograph: Candee Photography


candee photography said...

Great story - very pleased the night got such wonderful coverage - would have loved to see my photo credited....

Candee Photography

Burlesque Baby said...

Sorry, that info wasn't forwarded to us. I will update the post now :)