For one night only the Australian Burlesque Festival sashayed into Perth to deliver a sultry spectacle for its seventh year in a row. With a standout lineup that united both global and local burlesque performers in a night of glamour and risqué humour, it was an experience I never thought I’d have.
I wouldn’t call myself conservative, but the idea of paying money to watch women gradually remove their clothing wasn’t exactly what I had in mind for my Saturday evening, but damn, was I not disappointed. In fact, I was absolutely blown away.
As someone relatively naive to the art of burlesque I was quickly drawn in to the grand spectacle that these women orchestrated with skill and talent that I hadn’t anticipated. I had no idea the Australian burlesque scene was so alive until I arrived to find the Astor Theatre packed-out as an eager audience awaited the performers. Before the show began I overheard a group of lavishly dressed audience members praising the wide range of performers’ ages and body types in the shows line-up, and I couldn’t agree more. Nothing could have dulled the excitement I had for this show more than a selection of same-age, same-size performers that would have done nothing to appeal to the diverse audience seated around me.
Along with the variety of performers the range of performance styles was also immensely enjoyable. There were demonstrations of classic burlesque executed fabulously by festival director and co-founder, Dolores Daiquiri, and by Miss Sena King, all the way from Berlin—who was one of my personal favourites. Duets and group performances, such as Perth’s Les Sataniques, with their wonderfully executed go-go girl choreography, as well as comedic and charismatic renditions by Honey B. Goode brought a fun and light-hearted atmosphere to the steamy theatre. A futuristic adaptation by the likes of Melbourne artist, Ruby Slippers—a fan favourite by the sounds of the audience—also injected life into the night by enabling the festival to pay homage to the history, and the future, of burlesque.
However, the stand out of the night was, by far, Miss Bettie Bombshell. Her darker, more brooding and emotionally charged performance was brimming with a mysterious enchantment that was absolutely captivating from the moment she claimed the stage. When she returned for the second act it was to the ultimate girl-power song, ‘All the Single Ladies’, to which she strutted and swaggered across the stage in a sexy suit jacket to the roar of the female audience members—myself included. Her ability to draw power from what many consider to be such a vulnerable position, and exude strength as well as beauty, was truly a ‘girl-power’ moment and a particular highlight for me. If you had to choose to see only one burlesque performer, make it Miss Bettie Bombshell—with her versatile abilities and powerful stage presence—she is the one to watch.
After a night full of feather boas, sequined corsets and a tasseled nipple or two, the curtains drew to a close and I found myself in awe of these amazing women—women who know how to work a crowd to the edge of their seat with the carefully timed slip of a silk robe or a downright whip-cracking bend back.