Sydney Burlesque Gala 2017
Aight, let’s tick off the basics and history lesson first:
Burlesque is a literary, dramatic or musical work intended to cause laughter by caricaturing the manner or spirit of serious works, or by ludicrous treatment of their subjects.
The word derives from the Italian “burlesco”, which, in turn, is derived from the Italian “burla” – a joke, ridicule or mockery.
In essence, Burlesque overlaps in meaning with caricature, parody and travesty, and, in its theatrical sense, with extravaganza as presented during the Victorian era.
A later use of the term, particularly in the new world, refers to performances in a variety show format.
These were popular from the 1860s to the 1940s, often in cabarets and clubs, as well as theatres, and featured bawdy comedy and female striptease.
American burlesque shows were originally an offshoot of the classic Victorian burlesque. The English genre had been successfully staged in New York from the 1840s, and it was popularised by a visiting British burlesque troupe, Lydia Thompson and the "British Blondes", beginning in 1868.
New York burlesque shows soon incorporated elements and the structure of the popular minstrel shows.
They consisted of three parts: first, songs and ribald comic sketches by low comedians; second, assorted olios and male acts, such as acrobats, magicians and solo singers; and third, chorus numbers and sometimes a burlesque in the English style on politics or a current play. The entertainment was usually concluded by an exotic dancer or a wrestling or boxing match.
While burlesque went out of fashion in England towards the end of the 19th century, to be replaced by Edwardian musical comedy, the American style of burlesque flourished, but with increasing focus on female nudity. Exotic "cooch" dances were brought in, ostensibly Syrian in origin. The entertainments were given in clubs and cabarets, as well as music halls and theatres.
By the early 20th century, there were two national circuits of burlesque shows competing with the vaudeville circuit, as well as resident companies in New York, such as Minsky’s at the Winter Garden.
The transition from burlesque on the old lines to striptease was gradual. At first, soubrettes showed off their figures while singing and dancing; some were less active but compensated by appearing in elaborate stage costumes.
The strippers gradually supplanted the singing and dancing soubrettes; by 1932 there were at least 150 strip principals in the US.
By the late 1930s, burlesque shows would have up to six strippers supported by one or two comics and a master of ceremonies.
The uninhibited atmosphere of burlesque establishments owed much to the free flow of alcoholic liquor, and the enforcement of Prohibition was a serious blow.
In recent decades, there has been a revival of burlesque on both sides of the Atlantic.
The brains and organisers behind Sydney’s Burlesque Gala live and breathe the essence of burlesque, coquettish disrobing, slinking and swinging between aerial routines, erotic shadow projection and downright saucy striptease in intimate live music and burlesque venues hosting outstanding performers of Australian burlesque and their second Annual Sydney Burlesque Gala presented the biggest Sydney Burlesque Events over ten massive nights.
Produced by three of Sydney's Favourite Burlesque entertainers i.e. Kelly Ann Doll (Red Light Confidential) , Memphis Mae (Mr Falcons) and Michael Wheatley (The Boys Light Up), the Gala’s tenet is to celebrate all things burlesque: Comedy, Spectaculars, Boylesque, Burlesque, Circus, Cabaret, Live Music – the lot.
Pocket rocket, anchorette and Dominatrix of Ceremonies extraordinaire Memphis Mae is a well known Sydney Producer who is the founder of Mr Falcons Burlesque; one of Sydney's longest running monthly burlesque shows with a host of prestigious performers from all across the world.
Memphis prides herself on her quality over quantity morals that are very clear to all that attend her events.
With her well calibrated delivery, she manages to steer the audience’s exhilaration through the curated evenings with pizzazz, keeping the event flowing, expertly navigating the thin line between saucy allusions, engaging banter and matter of factly framing of what the recipients are to experience, bridging between the varied segments of the evenings.
Her conspirator, Kelly Ann Doll, has headlined almost every major burlesque event in Australia since she crashed her way onto the Australian scene almost ten years ago and has also held court away in Europe, USA, Asia and Indonesia. A pedigree that manifests in her performances.
Completing the triumvirate with a family history in burlesque that goes all the way back to the 19th Century, Michael Wheatley, co-producer of the infamous Red Light Confidential, has been tearing it up in the world of burlesque since 2010.
After the success of their debut earlier this year, The Martini Lounge returned with all the class of the original Burlesque Shows.
The Rock’s venue The Basement was transformed into a vessel that served as a stage for live music, dance and a gastronomic journey, reminiscent of New York Jazz clubs.
Hosted by aforementioned Sydney MC Memphis Mae, The Martini Lounge is in essence a modern twist on old school burlesque and variety performance, accompanied by leading Sydney blues and jazz band, The Hanged Men, an amazing cast of six musicians, spouting blues and jazz classics with veracious style.
Dancers on the evening were Sheena Miss Demeanour, Bella Louche, Lillian Starr, Noemi Nikolett and International burlesque star fresh from her tour with Dita Von Teese's show "The Art of the Teese", Australia's dynamic Zelia Rose.
An immersive and intimate experience, with a hint of cheek, a giant Martini Glass and a stunning smorgasbord of live music that penetrated aural senses.
Another of the flagship events of the Gala, i.e. The Saffron Club, provided the perfect evening for those whole like a bit of sophistication to their sin:
The Saffron Club brings the underworld of Kings Cross back to life as you step into the devilry of the 1950's when local standover Abe Saffron ruled and the Showgirls were fierce.
The Saffron Club introduced Newtown’s venue Leadbelly deviously to the thrilling and lascivious world of Burlesque and Vaudeville with showgirls / -boys, pole dancing, comedy and singing and culminating in #MyAwards are the not so serious community burlesque awards that happened after the entertainment section of the Saffron club.
Summa summarum: 2017’s incarnation of the Sydney’s Burlesque Gala was a refined affair that whets one’s appetite for the 2018 incarnation.
Photo by KAVV
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