Twirling tassels are good for the soul. And for those in need of that kind of soul food, Las Vegas is presenting what is hoped to be an annual event: The Las Vegas Burlesque Festival, which opened on October 10 at Boomer's Bar. The festival features some 70 acts over three days (Thursday through Saturday) as well as street performances and shopping opportunities. The performances on Friday and Saturday will be at the Plaza Hotel. Details are at the event web page.
Burlesque, nearly a dying art not all that long ago, has been seeing a resurgence nationally, and especially in Las Vegas over the last couple of years. A primary driver of that has been Cha Cha Velour, though her Las Vegas Burlesque Classes. The community that has grown up around the students and performers has become vibrant and active, with frequent performances in venues intended by and for locals. This isn't a tourist attraction so much as a way of life. And what better way to celebrate that life than a festival that attracts performers from all over the country and around the world. Hence, the festival.
To be sure, there were tassels aplenty. And boobs. Lots of boobs. Host Sugar Shagamore set that tone right off the bat with her song, “Boobs are everything.” No mincing around the issue at this event, which delivered on the promise of the song. The crowd who had come for those staples of classic burlesque striptease got what they wanted, with performances by artists like Kiki Delco, Mia Sangria, Kitty Cox, Veronica Derriere and show opener April Showers. Some chose variations on the classical style, with Man's Ruin doing a dance reminiscent of the Middle East, and Nikita Bitch Project evoking Michael Jackson, not previously known for his burlesque strip teases.
Other performers chose to emphasize the humorous aspects of classical burlesque within the stiptease format. General Blackery redefined the Tea Party in a way that left some members of the audience literally with a new taste for it. Dierdre Von Derriere received the night's most raucus applause, requiring an encore appearance, for her take-off of a geriatric stripper. And Anita Brassiere redefined “boobs” in a surprise ending to her routine that has the audience cheering.
In addition to the classic seductive striptease and comedy, there were also performers like Miz Charlamay, whose housewife-possessed-by-Jimi-Hendricks routine was topped off by an acrobatic/contortionist display.
But the performance that seemed to generate the most comment was by Minouche Von Marabou, right off the plane from Zurich, Switzerland for her first visit to the United States. It started off as a ballet-inspired number, with Minouche wearing a black tutu, with a skirt of feathers. As the dance progressed it developed that the skirt was six feather fans, and Minouche used them to transition into a Sally Rand-style feather dance. At this point the audience was entranced: pretty girl, elegant dancing, creative use of costume. And then . . . she transformed it again, turning the feathered fans into wings in a finale that left people gasping. See the slide show for pictures of the changing costumes.
Boomers is a club used to hosting burlesque, and the audience understands “stripping” as an art form, full of creativity. Unlike the “strip shows” in the Gentlemens Clubs that cater to the tourists, where people tend to sit in quiet, detached observation, burlesque as done at this club, for this festival, is one for the audience to appreciate, loudly cheer for and even participate in. The tourists don't know what they are missing.