Who knew there were so many kinds of pasties in the world? Pasties shaped like flames, pasties shaped like wolf paws and my personal favorites, pasties shaped like faucet knobs. The women wearing the pasties were similarly diverse: all shapes, sizes, talents and gimmicks. But they all were at Angel Burlesque’s Open Bra: Spring Scream to get up and take it off.
According to a fabulous recent article in NUVO, we currently have no less than six burlesque troops operating right here in the Circle City. While Angel Burlesque hosted the event at Cracker’s Comedy Club, dancers from other troupes, or “independent” dancers not affiliated with any troupe, also strutted their stuff on the tiny stage. Emcee Jeff Angel described the event as “an open mic night, except with boobs.” That sums it up pretty well. From uber-experienced Sugar Lee with a list of accomplishments a mile long to first-timer Lady Katie, dancers of all experience levels stripped down to thongs and pasties.
If you’ve never been to a burlesque show, it’s hard to describe. Every performer put their own unique spin on the genre. Some sing–one woman just sang, not removing a single article of clothing. Most dance, and all but a few shucked down to their skivvies. Many incorporate comedy and elaborate storytelling. The theme of the evening’s entertainment was horror, which meant we saw everything from alien invasions to creepy dolls to a stellar Psycho homage.
Interestingly, burlesque isn’t about sex. Okay, it’s about sex, but it’s far more about sensuality and confidence, about reclaiming your body. The best dancers weren’t the thinnest or the most toned. The best performers were the ones who looked at the audience with a mocking smile and said with their eyes, “I don’t need you or your approval. I’m doing this for me, and I choose to let you watch.” Interestingly, more than half of the audience were women, further confirming these performances aren’t about sheer titilation. They’re about empowerment and fun and a little sexiness and a lot of silliness. These are women who are nurses and engineers and office workers by day and who let their hair down and their boobs out at night. As performer Pepper Mills told me, “this is my way of doing drag.” It’s part performance, part therapy and entirely compelling.
Standout performances included a sinister version of “Be Prepared” from The Lion King, performed by Jackie Max, a hilarious spoof of Carrie performed by MaMarie LeVeaux (who tied in my pick for best burlesque name along with Holly Hock) with an assist from Souxie Snapdragon and that Psycho homage I mentioned, performed by Holly Hock. Star performer award goes to Ginger Peach, the only dancer to perform twice, once in Colonel Sanders drag, complete with bucket of fried chicken and feathery pasties, and then as a sexy Jason Voorhees of Friday the Thirteenth fame. Ginger got it. She knew it doesn’t matter how much or how little you’re wearing, whether you’re in a goatee or a thong. What matters is how comfortable you feel in your own skin. And that’s a little something we all could learn from burlesque.
Angel Burlesque’s next Open Bra event will be Nerdgasmin July, but you can catch their Improv-A-Tease with Tessa von Twinkle on May 11. For more information, visit angelburlesque.com.
Reviewer’s tickets were provided courtesy of Angel Burlesque.