Burlesque is a very specific genre of entertainment. Largely Victorian in origin, it has had revivals in America and the United Kingdom over the years and it is currently enjoying world wide popularity. Basically it is an amusing parody of a sexy extravaganza, along the lines of the shows in the musical Cabaret and All That Jazz. Last year the wonderful British Burlesque Extravaganza, Hurly Burly, came to Emperors Palace in two formats, risque and naughty.
There is magic in Burlesque as an art form, for at its best it makes every woman want to be like that sexy siren, confident in her own unique sexuality, desiring and being desired and it makes every man want his woman to be like the woman on stage, flirty and naughty, but only for him. At its best Burlesque, unlike many other forms of ‘exotic dancing’ does not make the male voyeur want the dancer or the woman voyeur to be the dancer – rather they both want their own relationship to have the marvellously earthy sexual quality the dancer exudes.
There has been only one Burlesque Dance Troupe in South Africa, the Black Orchid Burlesque Troupe from Cape Town, presided over by the exquisite Miss Diva DisaStar, so I was very excited to learn that another company has been formed, this time in Johannesburg – Big Top Burlesque produced by Dirk Badenhorst, Hein Kaiser and Lindsay McDonald. I went along to their first show, The Monday Club, at the Blue Feather, Midrand.
The Blue Feather is an existing restaurant partnering with this project. On the night I attended there were some teething problems – nothing that couldn’t be sorted out with a little bit of practice and meticulous attention to detail and I understand that the food service problems (the meal was delicious, but service slow which meant that the food was cold) have already been resolved.
The dancing was every bit as exquisite as I expected, led by Angela Maree who does manage the transition from the ethereal ballet dancer to the earthy burlesque show girl, showing off her considerable talents. The singing by the very young Hazel Hynek was marvellous, even when the sound let her down her natural voice carried in very adverse circumstances and her poise never faltered – what a star!
Natalie Vargas did an aerial ribbon routine dressed in purple ribbons. She is an experienced performer and got the whole spectacular thing right. The martini glass routine was overly hurried (the water was cold and the night was freezing although I snagged a seat right under a heater so I didn’t feel the chill) but it is a fun item in any variety show.
The Monday Club is not yet the best example of the burlesque genre, lacking the saucy naughtiness of the spicy seductresses they are meant to be conveying. Some of this naughtiness can be remedied simply by perking up the costumes. There was not a pair of suspenders to be seen in the entire show. The allure of the bare flesh between a silky stocking and the delights of what must be covered up in public is what makes suspenders and stockings the ultimate in clothing worn for titillation purposes. Bolder colours, the emerald greens, the royal blues, the ruby reds and the contrasts with black and white will make for a more visually appealing feel to the show. Also, burlesque at its best never has two women exactly alike – burlesque features on the individuality of the woman rather than the ballet focus where absolute uniformity of a perfectly homogenous cast of swans (or corps de ballet of whatevers) is the goal.
In South Africa the casinos put on regular mini-extravaganzas, with considerable success. These short shows sport singing and dancing at a very modest cost. Big Top Burlesque is partnering with an upmarket restaurant and the ticket prices are not very modest. The feel of the evening is closer to Madame Zingara’s than to the casino style mini-extravaganza. Big Top Burlesque and Blue Feather must therefore offer a very superior deal indeed if they want it to work. The menu, music (live band) and dancing cast certainly meet these requirements – and I believe that the service will fall in line with this soon, and perhaps already has.
All round I believe that there really is great potential for a full time burlesque troupe in Gauteng, one with a sizzling show that is constantly evolving, always naughty, always nice. As Lola Montez, sponsor for the costumes for this show, says in her tag line “naughty things for nice girls” are always popular in the hearts and minds of the millions of naughty but nice audience members who are itching for some sassy entertainment to which they can (even) take a colleague or their mother-in-law but to which they can and should take their partner – and their best friends.
The full cast for The Monday Club comprises Angela Maree, Anneline Paleman, Cathryn Swart, Cherrie Olwagen, Hazel Hynek, Kabelo Mohlala, Kyle Rossouw, Litha Bam, Natalie Vargas and Shelton Salie. I look forward to seeing them and their successors as lovely ladies (and delicious dudes), naughty nuns, sweetly sexy schoolgirls (and boys) and ni..asty nurses over the next few years.
My best wishes to Big Top Burlesque and Blue Feather for the rest of the run of The Monday Club which continues until September 2013.