As I sit here watching endless hours of Oscar and red-carpet coverage on the E Channel, I cannot help but think about the magic of getting all dolled up and walking the red carpet into someplace magical. For burlesque dancers it is slightly different...we get all dolled up, but minus the papparazi, the countless number of stylists on hand to fix every hair out of place, and let's be honest, accomodations anywhere near the level of the Kodak Theater for our performances. I've been in the Kodak Theater (even got to make a speech from the stage!), and let me tell you, it is the height of glamour and set up to meet the demands of any type of performance.
This sits in stark contrast to the types of venues where burlesque performers work their magic. For Bottoms Up Burlesque in Indianapolis, we perform at the Melody Inn (where our dressing room is often the kitchen) and Radio Radio (where our dressing room is in the basement), where we face challenges involving uneven stage floors, stages that can be seen in the round, no real lighting options, and an unfortunately-limited viewing space that forces us to film and project our performances on screens in the back of the audience. Please don't get me wrong, I adore these venues, and what they lack in accomodations they make up for in character, tradition, and the sassy attitude necessary in the world of burlesque. On many levels, I wouldn't want to perform anywhere else. Our annual show at the Melody Inn faces huge challenges each year, but when the applause goes up at the end of the finale number, I am reminded that I would never want to stop performing there. There is magic in our performances there.
But, I continue to dream that a new venue will arrive in Indianapolis and make itself available for burleque performances that aren't fraught with quite so many challenges. I hear rumors that such a place is on the way in the form of the new White Rabbit Cabaret in Fountain Square. After hearing murmers for quite some time about this coming venue, I was ecstatic to read in the Indianapolis Business Journal last year that it would open in the fall of 2009...a 2000 square foot , 100 person capacity theater where they would host "live cabaret style dance performances, open mic, movie and board game nights, music, and art gallery events." How grande! However, the fall of 2009 came and went, and still no such venue. I started to worry that it might never happen. However, on facebook I just got a notice from the vocal goddess Kate Lamont about a show there on March 19th where she will join local dance troupe Motus Rising, leading me to believe it is already open or opening soon. I visit to their website says "coming in March," but an email to request more information sits unanswered days later.
So, I continue to dream that the elusively perfect burlesque venue is still coming to Indianapolis. Someplace fantasicial like Club Silencio from Muholland Drive. I am reminded of the venues of ole...the places where the famous dancers from burlesque's fascinating history took the stage and gave performances remembered years after they took the stage. A prime example is the Moulin Rouge, recently made famous again by the 2001 Oscar nominated film, that saw its hey day during the late 19th century. Known as the birthplace of the Can-Can, the famous dance where women would lift their skits to show their ankles (and oftentimes much more) to entertain the male clientele, the Moulin Rouge has had a long history of showcasing spectacular cabarets and exotic entertainment. A neighbor and contemporary to the Moulin Rouge, the Folies Bergere was another Parisian dance hall that also was at its height of popularity from the 1890s through the 1920s. The stage at the Folies Bergere featured operattas, comic operas, popular songs, and gymnastics. Shows there featured elaborate costumes that were frequently revealing, in shows containing a great deal of nudity. On this stage is where the stunning African-American expatriate entertainer Josephine Baker first performed her "banana-dance," clad in little more than a skirt made of bananas.
Who knows...maybe future students of Indianapolis' modern burlesque scene will look at venues like the Melody Inn, Radio Radio, and the soon-to-open White Rabbit Cabaret, and see them in the tradition of the Moulin Rouge and the Follies Bergere. However, what is most important is to feel like a star no matter where you are headed. As a burlesque dancer, I walk the metaphorical Red Carpet each time I put on a corset and eyelashes, regardless of the venue.