DANCING AND COSTUMES: THE WORLD BURLESQUE GAMES 2013
A cold, dark, Thursday evening; my breath turning into condensation as I exhale and walk through the back streets toward Soho. The distant sound of cars and voices start to fade away, and the thumping of nightclubs and drunken chitchat begin to enter earshot and, as I approach the venue to what would soon become the most interesting of events I’ve been to, I hear in a voice as though I was watching Oliver Twist: “Excuse me sir!” I stop in my tracks and cast my eyes upon a voluptuous, well wrapped up woman who, in a cockney accent continued: “Would you like to see our lovely women upstairs?”
I was certainly in the red light district, and as I sped through what I can only describe as Sex Shop Avenue, the character of the environment I had found myself in was unlike that of any I’ve experienced before. Before long, I had located Mama Jo’s, the venue at which I was about to lose my Burlesque Show Virginity.
Burlesque Meets Fashion
Having been given two press tickets to the World Burlesque Games, I thought of it as an opportunity too hard to miss. Although images were not allowed inside, I’m sure my upcoming descriptions will do the show’s justice.
Night #2 of the international awards show, ‘Twisted’ was the theme; and there was no doubt that it was. The first act being a woman dressed as a horse, mane and all, with a foot-long plastic penis protruding from her waste, it hit me immediately: how on earth am I meant to write about this in a safe-for-work manner?
Needless to say, the show was an insight into the world of burlesque. A mix of male and female performers, we were even treated to a cowboy and a disturbed mental health patient whose performance wouldn’t look out of place in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ or even The Human Centipede. Although not about fashion: more the lack of it, the World Burlesque Games are a method of recognising the most talented burlesque performers, which was an eye-opener for my previous assumption that the industry was full of desperate women in need of some extra cash.
Although the Games were not necessarily representative of the entire industry – just as London Fashion Week does not represent the entire spectrum of fashion for women – it changed my mindset and allowed me to see the importance of the talent behind the clothes when it comes to the art of strip teasing.
The Talent in Burlesque
Anybody can remove and put clothes back on; we do it every day, but the hard work and endurance of the dancers on show at the Burlesque Games paid off, as both men and women across the venue – which I might add was full to the brim – quickly became aroused and were cheering and applauding the removal of clothes, which was smooth enough to be hardly noticeable. Before you knew it, there was a woman on stage dancing with nothing on but a G-string, and it made me question whether she was really enjoying revealing herself to so many strangers.
However, ultimately it is a competition that people have to enter, so by the time they’ve come through to the final stages of the World Burlesque Games, they must be pretty sure on wanting to do burlesque. Beyond that, I am stuck for words: the only way to understand the world of burlesque is simply to go to a show, and whether you enjoy it or not, it’s certainly an experience you will never forget.