Subscribe to my full feed.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The best burlesque performer in Denver?

Vivienne VaVoom The Bluebird on Colfax was jazzed, as women in various states of undress milled around the crowds last July 26, adjusting their costumes. But it was no cheap hustle. And as the Perry Weissman 3 blared out their first sultry chords, the crowd hooted and whistled as a slinky lady took the stage.

With camp and cockiness, the 10th anniversary of “Burlesque as It Was” took off at a gallop. The ringleader of the evening? Vivienne VaVoom.

When not shimmying and shaking what Mother Gave Her, Vivienne is also known as Michelle Baldwin – Denver’s Best Burlesque Dancer (and in full disclosure, one-time Denver Nightlife Examiner).

That's "best" not "breast."

It started innocently enough. “I saw a show at the Mercury Cafe in 1996. A woman was touring and performing as Evangaline the Oyster girl and had been trained by the original woman who had performed as Evangaline in the 1940's and 1950's, Kitty West. She came out of an oyster shell, had her own 3 piece band and was just amazing to watch. I headed to the library and started researching and reading everything and anything I could find about burlesque. About a year later I saw a full show in NYC, with lots of performers and an emcee and quickly became obsessed with putting on my own show.”

And put it on she did. While some may look down on this fleshy art form, calling it “tawdry” among other things, Baldwin knows better. “It's what people who don't understand burlesque think of it, and it's what people thought the word meant when I was first trying to book shows in Denver. They still associated it with the more modern ’gentlemens’ club stripping. “
But critics are wrong, she insisted.

“It was and still is an art form -- just like any other dance or performance. It evokes feelings, expresses ideas, and is often very challenging by the mere fact that there's often a woman onstage taking her clothes off that doesn't fit into the magazine/movie/stripper body type that our society promotes. There's a great quote from a friend of mine who emcees in NYC, Miss Astrid, who says ‘Does an eagle cry because it's not a swan? No. Is a dove sad because it's not a flamingo? No. And so it should be, ladies and gentlemen, with women. Different shapes, different sizes, tall, short, fat, thin are all beautiful.'''

As popularity grew in Denver, Baldwin opened four-week classes. Her graduates can then perform as stars, if they want. “I've never had anyone say they were embarrassed to be on stage. In fact every time I've held one of my graduation shows, where the gals who take my classes perform for the very first time, every single one comes off the stage saying they want to do it again.”

Baldwin, VaVoom and other dancers continue to put on shows. And crowds continue to roll for the spectacle and naughty excitement.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice blog....I'm very much into pin ups, burlesque, kustom kulture & rockabilly. I just don't know where to find others in Denver that are into it also.
Keep up the it!