Burlesque Hall of Fame 2016: Movers, Shakers and Innovators Showcase
Thursday, June 2, 2016
The Orleans Showroom, Las Vegas, NV
I have to assume the Disney theme was discussed beforehand because if not, it was downright uncanny how many acts invoked the mouse at this year’s Movers, Shakers and Innovators Showcase. Thursday night’s showcase officially kicked off the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend and spirits were running high. Co-host Sailor St. Claire told me it is her favorite night because you get to see the “weird” stuff. Indeed, the focus was heavily on the “neo” in neo-burlesque.
The night kicked off with a group routine that featured a ton of Seattle performers in black robes, backing hosts Sailor and Armitage Shanks in a mashup of the Eurythmics “Sweet Dreams” and Prince’s “Sexy Motherfucker.” Unfortunately, wireless mic noise disrupted the act, obscuring many of the lyrics and giving it a clunky feel. Thankfully, the sound issues were quickly resolved.
Toronto’s St. Stella and James and the Giant Pasty kicked things off in grand style. Stella played a sexy art critic observing a hunky statue that changed positions every time she turned around. The statue comes to life and they engage in a sensuous dance that was brought to another level by Stella’s ballet training and the pair’s effortless grace. I love this act.
Chicago’s Camille Leon followed with a strong traditional act. She oozed confidence with perfectly timed body beats and incredible costumery. Teddy Bare out of San Antonio offered an aerial strip that integrated some very impressive contortion skills and had a definite Cirque Du Soleil feel….with more boobs.
Next was my favorite act of the night. Seattle duo The Duet That Do It! performed a robot act set to Fukkk Off’s “I Give You Bass.” Absolutely perfect music for this act! Their sexed-up android routine was flawless complete with sexy robotic moves, illuminated costumes (including LED pasties) and blank, expressionless faces. I’ve never been more turned on by simulated robotics.
Montreal’s BonBon Bombay did an act that Armitage described as what would happen if Salome opened a barber shop. She dropped a gorelesque routine that featured some incredible shadow play behind an illuminated screen, a creepy alt-rock version of The Jungle Book‘s “Trust In Me” (Disney reference number one) and a decapitated head performing cunnilingus on Bon Bon, who essentially portrayed a sexy version of Sweeney Todd. With great props and a shocking finale, the number felt inspired and represented the gorelesque scene well.
Mista Bagalicious represented San Diego well with a great plumber-inspired boylesque routine that featured some impressive plunger juggling. At one point he had four plungers balancing on his head in a cross formation while stripping down to an S&M harness. I chuckled at the “ewwws” from the crowd as he licked the plungers.
Madame Romanova graced us from Rotterdam, Netherlands, with a magic routine that had her changing in and out of multiple costumes instantly, and gave us a pretty solid fan dance to boot.
Peekaboo Pointe performed to a live trap mix of Ellington’s “Caravan” from Dr. Israel. I loved the concept and vision of this piece, and both performers are so skilled, but I didn’t feel they were entirely in sync. It felt like two things happening at once as opposed to having a singular synchronicity. I’d like to see this idea evolve. That said, Peekaboo’s rhinestone dress was stunning when that spotlight hit it and she is always a gorgeous presence on stage.
Cape Cod’s Brazen Belles gave us a solid cowgirl act that featured ass-less chaps and simulated bronco riding on stools. I saw them perform at the Vermont Burlesque Festival and it was great to see them exude the same confidence on the giant BHOF stage.
Reigning King of Boylesque Matt Finish kicked off the second half with his step-down act and the second Disney reference of the night. Inspired by the magician’s assistant scene in Fantasia, the act felt clunky and confusing. It lacked any noticeable beats— perhaps this cinematic soundtrack doesn’t work well for burlesque. An ass-tassel master, Matt usually blows me away, but this act missed the mark.
Hazel Honeysuckle performed a singing strip to “You Gotta Have Boobs.” Her voice was beautiful and the lyrics were clever, but the act felt lackluster overall. Vancouver’s What Surname followed with a Celine Dione-inspired routine to “All Coming Back to Me Now.” It was appropriately tongue-in-cheek and she made great use of facial tissue as a prop. Her finale featured pasties adorned with tissues blowing in the wind. Funny stuff!
Valerie Veils and Vyxen Monroe did a rain-inspired act that began with Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” and segue-wayed into an electrofied “Singing in the Rain.” They were well-synced and had a steamy chemistry on stage as they stripped each other and performed sensual circus-inspired acrobatics. Their costumery was absolutely stunning too. This act was low on kitsch and high on quality, something I love to see.
Corvette La Face serviced the Big Lebowski fans with her bit inspired by John Turtorro’s bowling alley sleazeball Jesus Quintana. It was a great act, loved by the crowd, but felt a little too literal to me. She did some perfect tassel twirls, but I thought the ending was awkward because the act ended before the song did. J. Von Stratton followed with a solid routine to AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck,” the highlights being a beautiful red dress, one long-ass ponytail and a perfect headstand.
Hailing from Brooklyn, 2015’s Best Large Group Jenny Rocha and her Painted Ladies did their step-down act, delivering my second favorite act of the night. It was also the third Disney reference with each of the Painted Lady’s performing as a Disney princess. The act opened with “When You Wish Upon A Star” which we see are throwing stars in each of the princess’s hands. The music then changed to Eve and Missy Elliot’s “Wanna Be” allowing them to showcase their hip-hop-inspired moves. Soon the princesses are in the middle of a lethal battle and the music shifts once again to Die Antwoord’s “Happy Go Sucky Fucky.” Before you know it Princess Jasmine has killed Belle Gold and Snow White is ripping Tinkerbell’s wings off. At the end, they’re all dead. Amazing.
Japan’s Gilbert De Moccos closed things out with a routine that showcased his incredible talent at physical comedy. I think there were a lot of Japanese cultural references that were lost on the mostly Western audience but it translated because of Gilbert’s commanding stage presence. It was also great to see a thoroughly non-Western interpretation of boylesque. An excellent example of how burlesque is transcending its American and European roots into more of a global art form.
Armitage brought the night to a close with his version of “Pink Elephants On Parade” from Dumbo, our fourth, and final, Disney reference of the night. It’s always a treat for me to watch him transform a room of well-dressed hipsters into goofy toddlers as they sway like pachyderms, blowing blasts from their imaginary trunks. Brought me back to his Circus Contraption days.
The glitterati filed out of the Orleans showroom and rushed the bar, getting juiced up for the after-party. Apparently over half of this year’s attendees were newcomers, and indeed there were many new faces in the audience, bright with the glow of their first BHOF showcase and all the glittery promises the weekend holds. Just wait until they get a load of the Legends on Friday.
I just have one question, will the Disney theme continue? We’ll just have to wait and see.