vamps return, by Amanda Horswill - 16th February 2007
Credit: News Limited
Top hats, corsets, tattoos and nipple pasties do not
a normal Friday night make, but that's precisely the
point for the new wave of party people attracted to
risque than a musical and sporting a streak of circus,
the Moulin Rouge-style of show made famous in the
underground nightclubs of Europe of the mid-19th century
has made a comeback on a club scene tired of drunken
dance-floor gyrations to canned music.
Fortitude Valley has the Bar Burlesque and Queensland's
strong showcase of acts such as Imogen Kelly, Lola
the Vamp and production company Strutt N Fret are
in hot demand across the country.
is not about women stripping nor vulgarity, says Sugartime
tour promoter Ben Gilmour, known as burlesque DJ Mr
Maitai by night and an ambulance officer by day. His
company is bringing burlesque variety show The Absinthe
Club to the Valley's The Columbian Bar next weekend
as part of a capital-city string of shows playing
to booked-out venues.
is vintage entertainment that often includes something
sexy, but requires humour and a narrative to give
it the intelligence that a discerning crowd requires
from entertainment," Gilmour says. "In the
19th century, all sorts of peculiar performers and
the avant garde couldn't get jobs in big shows in
bigger theatres. So they performed in underground
bars and illegal dens and clubs that used to feature
outrageous jazz and swing bands.
drinking crowd of the day gradually demanded something
a bit more risque than performers could get away with
in the big theatres. So the striptease became an element
of burlesque. It wasn't always just about the girls."
was big in ultra-conservative America and England
of the 1860s and was often a comedy act sending up
the politics of the day. The working class would flock
to theatres to see what was basically the infant version
of a slapstick comedy show, from which some say stand-up
comedy has evolved.
was banned in the US in the early 1900s, as it became
more about nudity and cheap thrills than theatre,
but its appeal never really died and it has resurfaced
over the years in many forms, including in the film
says there has been an underground burlesque movement
active in Australia for some time, but the artform
was now receiving more mainstream attention.
guess it's taken about 10 years for this more mainstream
revival of burlesque and vintage entertainment to
happen," he says. "There have been a few
performers who have been doing more classy and accessible
burlesque during that time, but unfortunately there
have been many how should I put it that
have done neo-burlesque which leans too much towards
the extreme. It involved a lot of nudity and was a
bit more lewd. Too lewd for mainstream.
have tried to refine it to bring this form of entertainment
to a larger audience. They want to see the intelligence
first, and even though the act is sexy, they want
to see performances that are smart not merely
sexy. If punters want that they know where to go.
you will not even see any nipples for example, no
naked breasts. The most you will see is nipple pasties
and tassels. You will see more nudity hanging out
at a public beach than coming to a Sugartime show.
Grotesque stripping is not what burlesque is about."
it is about dressing up and having fun. Gilmour says
the crowd that goes to his shows are a mix of normal
club types, Goths, fetish fanatics people of
all ages and socio-economic status. Some don elaborate
costumes and make-up. Others wear jeans.
people dress up for a party, they become that character
and enter that world. They look around and see that
everyone else is in that same world . . . and the
opportunity for escapism is created," he says.
promoter Jac Bowie says her Burlesque Ball was such
a hit in Sydney last year that she's bringing it to
Brisbane in October or November.
is popular because of music acts like The Pussycat
Dolls, she says, but also because party people are
looking for something different.
are screaming out for something different, some sort
of live entertainment that is still accessible. So
when people go to burlesque, they are having a live
experience as opposed to just listening to a DJ in
a club. Burlesque incorporates so many different aspects
of entertainment dance, comedy, circus
so one minute you are laughing, and then appreciating
beauty, and then having a bop.
a lot of people just go to meet the fascinating people
who go to burlesque."
Absinthe Club, Saturday, February 24 from 9pm, The
Columbian Bar, 14-20 Constance St, Fortitude Valley,