Thursday 27th July
Doors 7pm, Show 7:30pm
Misfits, upstairs at the redfern
produced by Porcelain Alice and Plastik Soup
Welcome to the history of a showgirl where Porcelain Alice and Natalya Alessi invite you to explore the rich tapestry of burlesque.
Tonight the stage becomes a portal, transporting us through the ages as we pay homage to the pioneers of this exquisite art form.
A brief history
Burlesque, an art form rooted in satire, wit, and sensual performance, has a rich and vibrant history that spans several centuries. Its origins can be traced back to the 17th century in Italy, where Commedia dell'arte troupes would incorporate humorous and exaggerated acts into their performances. Burlesque as we know it today, however, emerged in the late 19th century in Victorian England. It was a form of theatrical entertainment that parodied high society and cultural norms through bawdy humor, risqué performances, and extravagant costumes. The popularity of burlesque quickly spread to the United States, particularly in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, where it became a staple of vaudeville shows and variety theaters.
the folies bergère
Located in Paris, the Folies Bergère emerged during Belle Époque in the late 19th century as a pioneering theater renowned for its extravagant and daring performances. It served as a hub for showcasing the fusion of operetta, music, dance, acrobats and comedy captivating audiences with its innovative and boundary-pushing shows. The Folies Bergère became synonymous with the spirit of burlesque, embracing a lavish and immersive approach to entertainment. It introduced the world to the allure of showgirls, elaborate costumes, and spectacular stage designs. The venue's influence on burlesque extended beyond its performances, as it served as a cultural touchstone, setting trends in fashion, inspiring artistic movements, and shaping the broader public perception of burlesque as a captivating and provocative art form. The Folies Bergère remains an enduring symbol of the artistry, glamour, and enchantment that define the history of burlesque.
the fan dance
Sally Rand (USA) is more often than not credited with popularizing feather fan dancing. Active from 1925 - 1979, she featured in musicals and soundies as well as on the burlesque circuit, but it was her infamous fan dance at the 1933 Chicago World Fair that really shook audiences.
Giant feather fans played ‘peek-a-boo’ to reveal and hide her body. Rand performed in a bodystocking which scandalous at the time, meant she appeared completely nude and as a result, was arrested multiple times in her career for indecent exposure
The image of the modern showgirl is synonymous with Las Vegas.
Though dancers had already been flanking musical headliners on the strip, the late 1950s saw them thrust into the spotlight as the top casinos fought it out with grand productions for top billing. Donn Arden and Miss Bluebell of the Paris Bluebells - Lido de Paris at the Stardust, Jack Entratter's of New York’s famous Copacabana - Copa Girls at the Sands, and Harold Minsky's of New Yorks most successful burlesque theatre - Minsky’s Follies at the Desert Inn.
With the largest budget, The Copa Girls were the premier attraction until Minsky introduced Vegas to their first topless showgirls at the Dunes, in 1957
Burlesque, the artform, style and its stage performers featured heavily in Hollywood films made under the studio system. From the silent era on, particularly classic epics and what is coined as The Golden Age, Hollywood both influenced and featured burlesque - its dances, costumes and glamour.
Gypsy Rose Lee (USA), known as the literary stripper, often spoke to her audience while performing. Her memoir is an example of Hollywood’s interest in Burlesque. First adapted to stage as the Broadway musical Gypsy (1959), it then became the 1962 film of the same name.
The costume featured tonight, created by Nicol and Ford, pays tribute to that worn by Natalie Wood in the film whilst portraying Gypsy.