Curvy burlesque bombshells on stage might seem like a thing of the past, but a red-hot revival is on the bill at the Ogden Theatre this Friday. Burlesque, the sassily seductive entertainment, is back.
"Burlesque has a whole new group of girls that have that cool, hip, alternative edge," says Burlesque-Fest headliner Dita Von Teese, a retro pinup girl who has been performing her routine -- complete with a giant martini glass and olive -- for over eight years. "The girls who are doing it aren't just strippers."
Bluenoses, take note: Burlesque dancers do not get completely naked. Instead, there's tease and titillation. Burlesque-Fest organizers promise plenty of fan dancing, gyrating and racy romps with Denver's own Burlesque As It Was, the pulp-vixen Gun Street Girls, the frisky Kitten on the Keys, and the carnival-like Oracle Dance (which features girls hanging from trapeze swings).
7:30 p.m. September 13
Ogden Theatre, 935 East Colfax Avenue
Tickets: $12 in advance, $15 day of show, 866-468-7621
"Anyone can get up there and wiggle around with a boa," says Bella Beretta, a member of the Seattle-based Gun Street Girls, who incorporate weapons such as bullwhips and butterfly knives into their acts. "We really bring the audience in and involve them in the story. I enjoy being able to take a traditional art form and challenging that by creating unconventional characters. We all have a weapon of choice, and we all have stories that we're trying to tell."
Beretta describes her stage character as "a backwater bayou girl existing in a one-room apartment above a Baptist revival in New Orleans. It has a Tennessee Williams feel to it," she explains.
Other performers take a softer approach: Kitten on the Keys imitates Shirley Temple, complete with curly wig and a sailor's hat. "I used to cut Sunday school so I could stay home and watch Shirley Temple," remembers Kitten. "Now I sing The Good Ship Lollipop, using the same words but with different inflections. It's very naughty. We use a lot of double entendres." In case anyone misses them, Kitten's final outfit -- star pasties and bikini panties covered in anchors -- is sure to drive the point home.
These vamps haven't exactly invented something new: Wild and wicked glamour girls have been strutting across stages since the late 1800s. But in the past ten years, new-wave burlesque has become more mainstream. "What I love so much about the burlesque revival is the normal female form; it's women with real bodies and sassiness," says the San Francisco-based Kitten. "There is a whole tease and persona involved. You have to be really energetic and dynamic to pull it off."
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Organizer Jerri Theil says the intention is to "turn the Ogden into an old-time burlesque theater with cigarette girls walking around. It's going to have flavor."
Part of that seasoning is the spice of imagination. "We live in a supersaturated world of nudity and sex, so it's fun to take it back and leave things to the imagination," says Kitten. "Burlesque is fun; you don't do it alone in a seedy booth with a video. There is a certain spark and delight in burlesque. I think it's appropriate for everybody."
Well, almost. It's a 21-and-over show, and at least one dancer sees her art from a somewhat steamier perspective: "I find it very liberating to dance in front of people in pasties and a G-string," says Von Teese. "I don't think burlesque is as wholesome as some people make it out to be."