Reserved for acts with “extra dance genres, hidden talents and special surprise gimmicks”, the World Burlesque Games Triple Crown showcase brought an enthusiastic crowd to Soho’s Floridita.
Egged on by host Miss Behave’s quick-witted irreverence and freak show stunts, ladies in serious showgirl attire threatened to overshadow the performers, and cheered wildly even to the fashion show that started the evening. Burlesquers Agent Lynch, Dinah Might, Betty D’Light, Ebony Silk and Frankii Wilde clearly made an impression while modelling vintage-inspired lingerie from sponsor Secrets in Lace’s Bettie Page and Dita Von Teese collections.
Triple Crown was the first of seven competitions making up the bulk of this year’s festival. Winner Anna the Hulagan was jaw-dropping in her hula hoop number. Beyond accomplished acrobatics that see the artist strip mid-hooping (and even incorporate an unforeseen falling tassel into the act), it is full of visual thrills.
Though harmed by a mistimed introduction from Miss Behave, Tennessee belle Siren Santina didn’t have much in store other than a competent voice in her hazy, awkward opera parody, built around repetitive singing and sparse gestures. Likewise, double act Tango Manga put on a lukewarm display of erotic dancing where Valeria Agostini does little but a few rushed shimmies and teases. Maximus Zeus is even more ineffective, lifting his partner twice and standing still for much of Muse’s Feelin’ Good.
Inventive comedy was the tone of Kiki Lovechild’s elaborate routine. Mixing shadow play and puppetry, the boylesquer is both endearing and funny as he metamorphoses into different animals, culminating with a fan-dancing ostrich. Just so the number doesn’t get too cute, the creatures are under constant threat from a trigger-happy hunter, whose tassel-twirling cameo is literally electric. Tassels were also central to Bunny Pistol, a regular at renowned American show Hubba Hubba Revue. Maintaining absolute control over her beaded accessories, the San Francisco dancer twirls, vibrates and alternates four tassels in her shimmying choreography. The technique is impressive, but the gimmick drags after a while and the number becomes largely a one-trick pony.
Contributing her Kabarett Verboten act, Missy Fatale moves voluptuously with languid sensuality. The Australian bombshell works fire, water and glitter into her sophisticated dance to a torrid Middle Eastern beat. Snakelike and deliberate, Ms. Fatale’s sinuous charms are a hypnotic revelry of erotic indulgence.
World Burlesque Games
Winner: Anna the Hulagan
First runner-up: Kiki Lovechild
Second runner-up: Tango Manga
The division of burlesque into striptease and allegedly more theatrical styles is always a blurry line, and the “surprise gimmicks” of the evening are sure to reappear in other nights of the World Burlesque Games (as they do regularly on variety stages throughout the year). Nevertheless, Triple Crown was a welcome testimony to the rich, often-underestimated artistic vocabulary of burlesque – and a great gig as well.
World Burlesque Games: Triple Crown. Produced by Chaz Royal. Madame Jojo’s, London W1F 0SE. 8 May, 21:00. £20-34.50. http://www.londonburlesqueweek.com.