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Move over Olympics, the World Burlesque Games is in town. And, as the largest event of its kind, raucous entertainment is in store

WORDS: CAROL DRIVER

Writhing, pouting, smoldering, teasing, flirting, stripping, mocking, shocking. These aren‘t the usual words used to describe a world-class competition. If you thought the Olympics was the only show in London worth watching this year, think again. The World Burlesque Games takes centre stage this week, and with 100 competitive performers battling it out to wriggle and twist their way into the top spot, it mightn‘t always be pretty.

Opening on May 7 with a VIP ceremony, the crème de la crème of performers from around the world will hit the stage. Then, over five nights, acts will battle it out for titles including British Newbie and the Twisted Crown, at which audiences should expect surreal performances. The winners will perform at a sparkling VIP show on May 13.

As a source of entertainment, burlesque is becoming increasingly popular across the capital, with events popping up regularly. A cross between cabaret and a talent show mixed with stripping, it offers audiences the opportunity
to watch an all-round performance.

Chaz Royal, World Burlesque Games organiser, is keen to point out the event is suitable for all – even the most prudish.

“Burlesque is now obtainable in most cities and is a fun environment,“ he says. “People like to step into this world and be a part of the action, whether as a spectator or those keen on performing themselves. It gives them a chance to express their sensuality, but also delve into unknown territory with some of the more avant-garde performances.“

The best 100 acts have been selected for the competition – including four from Australia – from more than 400 applicants from around the world.

So what can viewers expect? “The festival is as diverse as it comes, showcasing an array of genres and styles of burlesque performance,“ Royal says. “The public will see high-energy and high-standard burlesque. Patrons leave feeling they witnessed something very special.“

Betty D‘Lite will be taking to the stage on May 7. Having been in burlesque since 2007, after working as a dancer for
a cabaret company, D‘Lite says the audience will be wowed by her six-minute performance.

“My act is called Drunken Grind, and I play a showgirl who has a giant bottle of brandy on stage with her, and the more I drink, the more raucous I become and the more clothes I take off,“ she explains.

“I‘ve completely revamped the act. I‘m covered in rhinestones, spent a fortune on Swarovski to bling it up. It‘s feathers, high-energy and shimmy-shakes. I‘m really excited to perform at this event.“

And what would D‘Lite offer to her critics, those who compare what she does for a living to the brashness of a stripper taking her clothes off for money? Is it the same, just dressed up with more frills?

“There‘s no real comparison,“ she says. “Burlesque may be known by some as striptease, but it‘s so much more than that, much more than a girl on stage taking her clothes off.

“It‘s got such a rich history in this country, burlesque has been in Britain for more than 200 years. It‘s got so much
to do with satire as well, it really pushes the boundaries of entertainment.

“Yes, there are silly knickers, feather boas, that is a part
of burlesque, but it‘s only a small part.“

And how about the feminism argument? Where does D‘Lite stand when it comes to how women are portrayed on the stage, as the dancers peel off their layers for the audience‘s pleasure?

“It‘s a positive thing for women,“ she says. “It‘s actually one of the few industries that is largely female driven, and that‘s in every aspect of it – from producing events to photography and costume-making.

“It‘s an industry run for women by women – even the audience is 70 per cent women.“

That's a sentiment that Sharon Davis (aka Bonnie Fox) agrees with – to a point. However, the professional swing dancer, who will be competing in the Burlesque Games for the World Female Crown title on May 12, says acts need to move more, instead of relying on looking pretty.

“I have a mission in life – there‘s not enough dancing in burlesque. A lot of times it might be a beautiful performer, wearing a stunning costume, but they don‘t move their bodies as much as they should. And I want to change that. Dancing is key to my act,“ she says.

Davis, 29, has been in the burlesque business for six years, after spotting a gap in the market in her hometown of Perth, Australia.

However, she moved to London a few weeks ago, attracted by the professional nature of the city‘s burlesque scene. “London has bigger and better opportunities, there are so many burlesque and cabaret venues. And it‘s the most professional in the world,“ she says.

And what of her act? “I‘ll be presenting a feather fan dance. It will be a combination of a lot of sensual things from a lot of different cultures,“ she promises.

For anyone still not convinced, organiser Royal says punters must go along with an open mind.

“Every act we‘ve had at the festival throughout the years has made an impression – some good, some bad, others, questionable,“ he admits.

“But the reality is most spectators leave with a smile on their faces if they come in with no preconceived idea of what they should be seeing.

"We are diverse and try to showcase an eclectic mix of classic and new striptease, both female and male, as well as variety acts, cabaret artists and circus, sideshow – novelty that is unparalleled in your average night out. It changes people‘s impression of burlesque every year."

TNT'S PICKS

Sarina Del Fuego
A regular on the Fringe Festival circuit, Del Fuego is one of Australia's top showgirls and is also the lead singer for Glitterbaditz, who played at Kate Moss's hen night. For her act on the opening night of the Games, expect a mix of vintage glamour with burlesque flair as she dons lavish costumes for a not-to-be-forgetten, impressive routine.

Monday, May 7
Madame JoJo's, 8-10 Brewer St, W1F 0SE 
TUBE: Leicester Square

Go-go Harder
Erm, watching the men compete for the British & World Male Crown is probably not for the faint-hearted. Expect this night to do what it says on the tin, with lots of suggestive, writhing moves. Describing himself as "the boy next whore meets glittery sex-bomb", this American dancer wears very little and leaves less to the imagination.

Thursday, May 10
Royal Vauxhall Tavern,
372 Kennington Lane, SE11 5HY
TUBE: Vauxhall 

 

Peggy De Lune
Our pick of the top acts battling it out for the British Newbie Crown. With OTT moves, De Lune is a burlesque chameleon, mixing Betty Grable-inspired glamour with contemporary comedy, her work ranges comedic neo-burlesque to classic American burlesque. And she'll be tough to beat, having already secured her slot in the London scene.

Friday, May 11
Bush Hall, 310 Uxbridge Road, W12 7LJ 
Shepherd's Bush Market 

 

Cherrie A. Dorable
She may have luminous blonde hair, milky white skin and hourglass curves to die for, but don't let the innocent image fool you. Dorable is competing for the World Female Crown and is playing to win. She's developed a top-class show of explosive moves, bump 'n' grind and sensual, classic striptease, all expertly delivered with her trademark teasing smile.

Saturday, May 12
Bush Hall, 310 Uxbridge Road, W12 7LJ 
Shepherd's Bush Market 


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Sophisticated sexiness: World Burlesque Games 2012 in London
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