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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Charlotte Burlesque troupes taking off

Charlotte BurlesqueIt's 11 on a Friday night. In a dimly lit underground club, girls in stockings, garters and corsets mingle with customers before taking the stage. A smart-mouthed, chain-smoking announcer clad in shirtsleeves and a vest announces the performers to catcalls from the crowd – Mistress Colette, Cherry Von Bomb, Mademoiselle Kashka among them.

But it's not 19th century Paris, and this isn't the Moulin Rouge.

Instead, it's 2009 and the art of burlesque is enjoying a resurgence in Charlotte, thanks to such local troupes as La Petite Mort Burlesque and Big Mamma's House of Burlesque.

Deana Pendragon (affectionately known as Big Mamma D) started her group in 2006. She puts on a themed show bimonthly at Elizabeth's Visulite Theatre, drawing a surprisingly female-heavy (and vocal) audience. Last week's theme was “Under the Big Tops,” complete with an act from Sideshow Bennie, a few tricks from Hannibal the Magician and a striptease from “Siamese twins.”

Although the Big Mamma's girls do take off their heavily sequined and fringed costumes (made by Mamma D herself), there's no nudity – just a blink-and-you'll-miss-it flash of pastie-covered breasts. Instead, Pendragon's show harkens to classic burlesque: There's singing, sketch comedy and usually a few tongue-in-cheek stripteases (read: the Siamese twins above).

Mena Killough's La Petite Mort is a little more risque, at times bordering on crass. Miss Mena's girls – including Colette, Cherry and Kashka – perform monthly at Halo at the N.C. Music Factory. Pasties here are revealed for longer than just a flash, and dollar bills are thrown onstage.

Performances at their most recent show last month included a strange pas de deux between a naughty nurse and her mentally ill patient, and an equally jarring S&M-laced routine. (To be sure, there's some classic burlesque mixed in: a cupcake-adorned “baker” stripped down to little more than an apron in a cute dance.)

One word of advice: Don't go into these shows expecting a Dita Von Teese look-alike in a giant martini glass or a song-and-dance routine a la the Pussycat Dolls. Instead, it's about classic burlesque that gives women of all shapes and sizes a feeling of empowerment.

La Petite Mort Burlesque
Next show: 11 p.m. Aug. 21. Halo, 820 Hamilton St. (inside the N.C. Music Factory). $7.

Big Mamma's
Next show: Oct. 10 at 8 p.m. Visulite Theatre, 1615 Elizabeth Ave. $12 in advance.

By S. Aarthun of the Charlotte Observer

1 comment:

Gemma Parker Burlesque and Pin-up artist said...

Fantastic post and brilliant photos throughout the blog! Great stuff!