The art and grandeur of burlesque is at its best when it's “classy,” when sexy ladies in illustrious, vibrant costumes can entertain and entice you, as the world of the mundane drifts far into the background. That’s the impression given by Gypsy Louise, burlesque legend, hall-of-famer, and performer in the 7th Annual Southwest Burlesque Showcase at the Kimo Theater this Friday and Saturday night.
“My favorite thing about it is the way the girls look,” Gypsy said. “You know, they put on their makeup and they're beautiful, the way they walk, the way they move. You know, it's sensuous, it's sexy, it's classy.”
In keeping with this classy form of strutting a stage, performing for eager audiences, and inundating a crowd with an art-form that has progressed and changed as the decades shift, the Showcase is keen on providing performances that'll allow audiences to see fresh up-and-comers and the women who inspired them.
The annual event, spearheaded by performer Kitty Irrevent and raconteur and Alibi film editor Devin D. O'Leary, prides itself on being part of the decade-long run of an entire neo-burlesque movement.
“I dreamed up the idea some time during my second or third year of performing,” said Kitty Irreverent, one of the producers of the showcase. “The community was just burgeoning back then, but at the time it already felt diverse. We had two troupes and a handful of solo performers and while we were all doing our own thing, we never did anything together.
“The Showcase started out as a way to get us all together and to invite regional performers to come to New Mexico and join us on stage.”
While burlesque has always been somewhat of an artform with a limited audience, the fact that performers like Michelle L’Amour (who won the Burlesque Hall of Fame’s Miss Exotic World title in 2005 and is headlining Saturday night) have started making television appearances and opening schools that teach burlesque, it says a lot about the state of this once-renegade art form.
In reference to how different burlesque is now than when it first came about, burlesque legend and Miss Nude Universe 1975 winner Tiffany Carter says, “I danced in the ’70s until 1989, and left [burlesque] until 2006. I came to the first Burlesque Hall of Fame show here in Vegas! Wow! That got me started again, so in 2008, I was onstage for the first time since then.
“There were a lot of changes. In the early years, you had to have the great body, the big breasts, no tattoos and no body piercings. Your acts were more of a great tease, but also fun shows and comedy.
“Today, it has gotten mixed up with some shows that are what I call ‘too dark,’ which I don't care for. Also all sorts of body images, lots of tattooed people, and the styles of some gowns or costumes have more of a variety in some shows.”
But, to Carter, that’s not necessarily a negative attribute to burlesque today, just a whimsical surprise in comparison to the showgirl, gogo-inspired good old days.
“I do feel for the change that all sorts of women (no matter what size) can perform because they are beautiful people, and it helps them to feel better about themselves. I also love the group, duo and more men in shows today. So, for the most part, it’s a good thing!”
Featuring the talent and mastery of such performers as the aforementioned ladies, along with dancers like Angi B Lovely, Friday night headliner Jo “Boobs” Weldon, Cora Vette (who is the guest emcee for Saturday night), Cha Cha Velour, Tito Bonito and Albuquerque’s own Burlesque Noir, the showcase is a chance for audiences to not only see beautiful women in gorgeous costumes shake a tail feather, but also to see the legends who started it all.
If that sounds like too much to handle, the Launchpad is hosting a Pre-Show Party on Valentine’s Day at 9 p.m. to get you into the swing of things with some ease … well, maybe not with ease. But then again, where’s your sense of adventure?