Issue November 17, 2010

Performing Arts: Va Va Vixens revive burlesque

It’s been a long time since adult entertainment has garnered respect in this community, but thanks to the burlesque troupe Va Va Vixens, that might be changing. Burlesque, once a viable form of entertainment in the early 20th century, is making a comeback. Nationally, the much-anticipated Cher/Christina Aguilera film “Burlesque” hits theaters Nov. 24. Locally, the Va Va Vixens are turning up the heat on a typical night out on the town.

Burlesque is a blend of performance art, satire, comedy and striptease that is loosely translated as “an upside-down style.” The Vixens certainly have the upside-down down — Saturday night’s premiere of “Va Va Vintage” featured many of the ladies in gravity-defying positions. Whether on hula-hoop, stripper pole or the shoulders of each other, the talented performers tantalized a full house at The Alley Theater.

The show’s three leading ladies — Vicki Meares, LeeAnn Cooper and Divinity Rose — opened the evening with racy song-and-dance numbers inspired by popular Vaudeville hits like “Hey Big Spender.” The women, adorned in flashy evening gowns, wore heavy stage makeup, donned fancy accessories and used over-the-top gestures to grab the audience’s attention. This was followed by nearly a dozen more skits featuring the rest of the Vixens — including a magic show by Darshwood the Conjurer. There were aerialist acts, choreographed dance numbers, yoga on a stripper pole and even a kissing booth.

While anything but innocent, “Va Va Vintage” transported the audience back to a time before cable television, before the PC movement turned everything PG. Although there were mic issues and a few onstage flubs, I suspect these will be ironed out before this weekend’s performances. I caught up with host Divinity Rose after the show to ask her about the finer points of burlesque.

LEO: How long have you been doing burlesque?
Divinity Rose: This is my first burlesque show, although my Sub Rosa the Gypsie Courtyard shows (ongoing open-mic gigs) are Vaudeville in nature, so it’s not a huge difference for me. I have experience doing comedy, dancing, singing, emceeing, film and theater. It has allowed me to combine all the performing art forms I love, and burlesque is another good outlet for my abilities.

LEO: What was your attraction to burlesque?
DR: I think deep down, most girls have been attracted to the idea of being sexually appealing and gotten goo-goo-eyed over Mae West, Jessica Rabbit and other sex icons. I love the idea of burlesque because it is smart, witty, strong and empowered women putting on quite entertaining shows. It celebrates the creativity, charm and beauty of women. I love the cheesy humor and being able to be both sexy and silly at the same time. (Creator of the Vixens) Christiane Nicoulin’s reason behind this show is definitely to bring sexually empowered women to the stage and make them feel good about themselves, and it works.

LEO: Why is a Va Va Vixen show better than a strip club?
DR: Strip clubs have degraded the entertainment to a woman taking off her clothes on stage in a “Look, I’ve got body parts, now give me your money” type of way. At a burlesque show, you have beautiful, wise, witty and charming women who are doing it because they really love it … they are there to entertain you. Although no one gets completely naked at a Va Va Vixens show, they really know how to jazz up a room full of people, and the high attendance and sold-out shows are proof of that.

‘Va Va Vintage’
Nov. 19-20, 26-27
The Alley Theater
1205 E. Washington St. • 713-6178
www.art-sanctuary.org
$18; 8 p.m.