Burlesque is back: Sydney women reveal more than flesh

Burlesque is back: Sydney women reveal more than flesh

The art of tease and seduction continues its resurgence, and from behind the red velvet curtain, burlesque has made its way into Sydney nightclubs and theaters

Dr Sketchy's at the ArthouseUnderdressed? Not to a man in a white T-shirt. Burlesque at Dr Sketchy's Burlesque Life Drawing.

For a decade, burlesque has been the domain of warehouses and private multi-media events.

But the pre-cultural revolution art is re-emerging from obscurity. It has maintained its traditional appearance, but a new generation of performers is as much about female empowerment and self-expression as it is about a li'l peek-a-boo.

This urban uprising has made it no longer a men-only domain.

It's resonating: every weekend -- and even through the week -- seductresses are swirling feathers, kicking their legs and telling jokes in the name of entertainment.

Whether it’s the neo-burlesque, traditional (for that glamour-pretty dress fix) or slapstick, growing audiences are giving the art their rapt attention.

Miss Burlesque Sydney 2010

Danica Lee, Miss Burlesque Australia 2010Miss Burlesque Australia 2010, Danica LeeMiss Burlesque Sydney 2010, Danica Lee, is a salubrious example of the burlesque movement.

“I got into burlesque as a hobby,” says Lee. “Within the first 12 months I had quit my job and was doing burlesque full-time.”

After doing the rounds in relatively unknown spaces, Lee organized the Burlesque Royale this year, the first rendition the State Theatre has ever seen. It came with international clout in the form of burlesque beauties such as Immodesty Blaize, Kalani Kokonuts and Perle Noire.

“They didn’t disappoint,” says Lee. "We had an amazing response.”

The performers plan to be back in 2012.

Is that a pencil in your pocket?

Drawing beauties at Dr Sketchy's, Arthouse HotelBurlesque posers at Dr Sketchy's class, the Arthouse HotelThe Arthouse Hotel hosts burlesque-related events to provide a richer feathered fix.

Dr Sketchy’s Burlesque Life Drawing continues the tradition of drunks and lechery with a modern twist: It gathers Sydney’s art purveyors in a room to sketch the bedazzled beauties.

The women strike still life poses for artists.

Drawing sessions are held every second Tuesday at the Arthouse Hotel from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Tickets cost between $20-25 and include sketchpad and pencil.

On alternating Tuesdays, Grab My Junk is a burlesque show and game show in one. Posters suggest "The world’s most touching game show." The innuendo, like the ladies, is poorly cloaked.

These events build to a climax. The Ruby Revue is a monthly show that mixes burlesque, vaudeville, comedy, music, magic and cabaret on the second Sunday of every month. Show-only prices start at $25 per person. Prices for dinner along with a show are $50 (reservations required).

Expression generated from the underground

Sydney’s notorious act, Six Quick Chicks, has been doing the rounds for four years; its evolving cast is orchestrated by Vachi Hughes and Liesel Coneivel. Confrontational and in your face, "pussycat" Edwina Blush explains their message:

“Burlesque doesn’t have that desperate quality of ‘look at me’ anymore," Blush says. "People don’t just have to sit there being a voyeur -- even though there’s nothing wrong with that.

“T and A is a great way to get a message across. But within the language it commentates on the way women and sexuality are treated.

“It’s popular culture now, because taboos exist less: language and sexuality are accepted. And women can use that provocatively."

An experimental night, 34B is a monthly show at the Exchange Hotel (44 Oxford St.) where potential dames trying to make it on the big circuit can be seen. General entry is $20.

Gurlesque at the same venue shows how much the art has evolved: it’s a night for lesbians, trannies and other interested ladies to let loose.

Beneath the underground

For those interested in a how-to crash course, Blush Dance School holds a burlesque basics plus pole and chair dance workshops.

Along with lingerie, potions and "bedroom playthings," Love Rouge offers a four-week beginners burlesque course. At Salon Burlesque, one of Sydney’s hottest performers, Rachel St James, teaches the art of striptease.

While cotton briefs are cute, they don’t wreak havoc on a man’s mind, nor make women think, "My overcoat has to come off!"

Dirty Pretty Things (31 Norfolk St., Paddington) is the home of "lingerie aficionados," while Wheels & Dollbaby (259 Crown St., Darlinghurst) has lacy, frilly everything.

Colin Delaney is a Sydney-based freelance travel and arts journalist. He hasn't a dog, nor a cat, just a bike that keeps breaking down.

Read more about Colin Delaney

Matt Khoury likes to write. He's been a freelance journalist for a decade
and an editor of five publications -- including CNNGo/CNN Travel's Sydney and Australia section.

Read more about Matt Khoury