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“The Jacqueline Kennedy act has gotten me some interesting attention in the burlesque scene,” says Rebelle, who recently took home the trophy for Best Soloist at the Austin competition for her new balloon dance, “Rain Cloud,” set to music from the Disney cartoon film Bambi.
But it’s the grieving first widow act, in which Rebelle starts out in a pink suit covered in blood, that she says has become her signature number. “It’s Jacqueline Kennedy after JFK was shot,” she explains. “But it’s tasteful.”
The eight-minute routine capitalizes on the classic burlesque convention of storytelling through movement, costuming and music while reaching for the neo-burlesque heights of profound thought and emotional impact. It’s the performance-art nature of the piece that has made it so popular, says Rebelle, who admits she might be retiring it soon in order to avoid becoming a one-trick pony. But Albuquerque audiences have at least one last chance to catch that risqué display Thursday at Aux Dog Theatre.
Rebelle’s homegrown neo-burlesque troupe, Burlesque Noir, which also nabbed Best Ensemble in Austin, is scrambling together for a somewhat last-minute one-off to welcome the five award-winning New York burlesque artists embodying the touring show Dangerous Curves Ahead: Burlesque on the Go-Go. That act last came through town in 2010 and is now on its fourth national tour.
Rebelle says that because she was only given three months’ notice to put the show together, she wasn’t able to book a bar or club—like the Launchpad, one of the troupe’s customary venues—but was fortunate enough to squeeze into the intimate Aux Dog. The move is either a happy or disappointing change of pace for burlesque in Burque, depending on who you ask.
“There’s this big debate [about] burlesque that happens in a theater and burlesque that happens in a bar,” Rebelle explains. “I don’t know that anybody feels one is better over the other, but there’s a discussion about it in the community. ... The nice thing about a theater is you get lights, you get good sound, you get a good dressing room,” as opposed to building a makeshift one in the bathroom, she says. The downside to performing in theaters is that the payout is usually less because they charge an up-front rental fee that bars typically don’t.
“I feel like we’re able to just be like, Oh, today I feel like this, I want to do this number,” says tour member GiGi La Femme. “It just makes the performance that much better. You know, you don’t feel locked down with something you don’t want to perform.”
She divulges they’re not bringing any big props, like the built-in oven used in a housewife number by Minnie Tonka, one of the tour’s producers. “When you’re on the road, you’ve got to pack light,” Tonka says.
What is guaranteed in Thursday’s show is prime-time stripteasing from nationally recognized artists. All five New Yorkers have won Golden Pastie awards, the coveted prizes of the lauded New York Burlesque Festival, and each of them has shimmied across the stages of the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend (formerly Miss Exotic World) multiple times, three of them coming away with titles. Tonka and co-producer Darlinda Just Darlinda will bring solo acts while also appearing in their duo incarnation as The Schlep Sisters, a saucy pair of vaudeville-inspired Jewish siblings.
Without uncovering too much, Tonka sums up what Albuquerque can look forward to Thursday. “We bring our signature New York City-style burlesque, which is a lot of comedy, rock and roll, classic glamour and sexiness,” she says.
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