The 2015 Great Burlesque Exposition: The Main Event
February 21, 2015
Cambridge Hyatt, Cambridge, MA
Snow fell lightly on Cambridge as burlyQ fans gathered in the lobby of the Hyatt’s President’s Ballroom. The Main Event is The Great Burlesque Expo’s annual competition night so it was surprising that it was more inconsistent than Friday night’s Rhinestone Review with some noticeable lulls. True, many of the acts are up and comers, as opposed to established, but I hoped the competitive nature of the event would push more of the performers to up their ante. That said, a couple of the acts made my list of weekend favorites.
New York’s Auralie Wild kicked it off – it was obvious she comes from a dance background. Her ultra-cute stage demeanour made it surprising when she pulled a raunchy move like jacking off her glove (complete with the bored “Are you done yet?” look). Auralie was followed by Chicago’s Dahlia Fatale, who did a crime-noir inspired routine. After a slow start, her intense electric-shock-style moves and an aggressive sexy edge kicked the routine into high gear.
With exaggerated facial expressions and 50’s inspired costumery, Brooklyn’s Zoe Ziegfield reminded me of Miss Indigo Blue. My neighbor Lili VonSchtupp agreed. Zoe also had the ability to make a pretty standard striptease feel original and exciting. Appropriately, she walked away with an award from Angie Pontanti, another dancer who possesses the ability to effortlessly balance classic and neo.
Seattle’s Sailor St. Claire came out with a slow, seductive routine, smoking a cigarette and stripping from a dark suit to a tightly wound corset. The soundtrack was slow, sultry and sax heavy and her transformation from androgynous captivated. Her routine won judge Nina La Voix’ heart and the “Best Soloist” award. Go Seattle!
After a strong start, the momentum slowed for the following couple acts. Baltimore’s Kiki Allure promised a return to form with her roller skate-strip to Trooper’s hair-metal classic “Roller Rink.” The act started strong but lost me in the middle. She finished fierce exposing some great pom-pom style pasties, but I found myself wishing for more roller skating. A valiant effort, I’m just not sure it was “Best Hybrid” worthy. More about that later.
The “Duchess of Dork” Ellie Quinn, lived up to her name with an uber-dorky Scooby Doo routine that was too adorable not to love. The same can’t be said for Michigan’s Gala Delish, whose routine left me thoroughly confused. While her stage presence and movements were intense, the music choice was poor and her costumery confusing. Obviously, the judges disagreed with me because she walked away with the “Most Beautiful” award.
One of my favorites followed. I first saw Tucson’s Matt Finish perform his gorilla routine at the Hollywood Burlesque Festival in 2013 and it brought the house down. He managed to bring the house down again at The Main Event. He transformed from gruff gorilla to sparkly boylesquer complete with a banana merkin and ass tassels to the classic Jungle Book song “I Wanna Be Like You.” I can’t say enough good things about Matt Finish. While I’ve only seen him do this routine, I have no doubt that he’s a talent to watch. He walked off stage to thunderous applause and the fact that he didn’t win something, seems a severe oversight.
The energy remained high when Pennsylvania’s Mikka Romantic hit the stage. Mikka brought it with a classic routine to “Unchain My Heart.” Her efforts garnered two trophies including Bella Blue’s “Pussy Magic” award. While I did feel she could have challenged herself more, her natural beauty left a palpable sexual energy.
My second favorite act of the night was Ottawa’s Jolie Stripes. Jolie approached the stage from the back of the room bearing ram horns and mythological costumery. The act was notable for Jolie’s incredible body control, the aggressive electronic soundtrack and her bold, hip-hop moves that reminded me (and Lili VonSchtupp) of Chicago’s Michelle L’amour. She left the audience dumbfounded and seriously turned on. Jolie’s award from Kitten Natvidad was well-deserved as she was, in my opinion, one of the sexiest routines of the weekend.
After a few lackluster routines, New York’s Dot Mitzvah brought things back to life with sing and strip. Her voice is incredible, her moves flawless, her stage presence impossibly endearing. It’s a crime she didn’t win “Best Hybrid,” as I felt her fusion of performance styles was much stronger than that of the winner’s.
Cherie Nuit represented Baltimore well with her hilarious “Fanny Pack” routine. Transforming from confused tourist to spread-eagled stripper with a strategically placed “pussy pack” lip-syncing to the Scissor Sister’s “Filthy/Gorgeous.” This is the burlesque I love: funny, provocative and strange. She definitely earned her “Best Comedy Act” award.
Later, I was brought onstage alongside Sailor St. Claire, Lili VonSchtupp and Mizter Scratch. We are 4/5ths of the Brassy committee (the fourth being Chicago’s Red Hot Annie, sadly not in attendance). I helped develop The Brassy Award with Scratch. The prize package includes $500 for production costs, mentorship from all members of the Brassy board, marketing and ticketing support from Brown Paper Tickets as well as a commemorative trophy. We bestowed the inaugural Brassy Award to New Orleans-based producer Mistress Kali, for her upcoming show Storyville Rising. Storyville Rising is an interactive cabaret experience that transports audiences back to New Orleans’ famed red-light district, touching on issues of race, class and gender.
Luckily, I’m not reviewing my own stage presence. I was a wee bit intimidated sharing the stage with four well-trained MCs. I muddled through my intro, and was unbelievably proud to see such an honor bestowed on such an amazing talent. It’s our hope that The Brassy will continue to inspire excellence and originality in burlesque performance for many years to come.
I dipped into the pool party briefly but a long day of classes and shows had me ready to head back to my hotel room to rest up for the final day of The Great Burlesque Exposition.
Stay tuned for my review of Sunday’s Showcase. Catch up with The Great Burlesque Expo Part 1.
All photos ©John Bilotti and used here with express permission. Please do not use photos without obtaining permission. Performers sharing photos of themselves, please credit the photographer and link back to this piece.
John Bilotti is the director of photography for the Great Burlesque Exposition and the official photographer of Boston Babydolls Burlesque.