The crowd scream and whoop as the two scantily clad dancers spin their tassels to the tune of the William Tell Overture. As the performers duel with their breasts, the noise intensifies. With no clear victor the tassels move from breast to bottom as they twerk to the beat for the audience’s approval. Just another night at a burlesque show.
A compelling and alluring whirlwind of song, dance, magic, spinning tassels, and jiggling bottoms – Burlesque is a show that harks back to New York’s pre-prohibition hedonistic heyday, and it cannot fail to entertain. The performers and audience interact in a way rarely found in our technologically dominated world. As Peekaboo Pointe puts it, “burlesque is a conversation with your audience, and you can lead the conversation anywhere you want it to go. People are there to be involved”.
Everyone has a different reason for being in burlesque. Amber Ray wants “people to wake up sensually in their life. I want people to understand how important our senses are”
. For Jo Boobs, her “favourite thing is just being part of showbiz”
. Whatever the reason, nobody is in it for the money. "It’s not like anybody’s rich and famous walking away from this. We’re here because it’s fun”
, says singer Michael Cunio.
There’s a unique and inspiring camaraderie between all the performers. Crammed into tiny, sweaty dressing rooms, there is no room for hang-ups over personal space; even during competitions they help each other out. But Peekaboo Pointe is against the competitive part of her industry. “I think it breeds competition in performers and it breeds negativity and cliqueyness”
. Nonetheless, she still feels obliged to take part: “if you’re not doing those festivals, then you don’t get jobs”.
In spite of the competitions and financial hardship, none of the performers can bring themselves to walk away. As Tansy says, “burlesque is energy, comedy, joy, and beauty”.