Originally Published in Burlesque Beat on January 10th, 2015
Tears? At a burlesque show? As my wife and I waited outside the Re-Bar, amongst the hundred or so performers and fans for “Decadence – A Raunchy Retrospective of Ten Years in Tease,” I didn’t expect that the show I was about to see would move me to tears. But it happened.
Flirty Sanchez, the evening’s MC, was quick to point out that while the show focused on performers celebrating their 10th year in the burly biz, she represented the “newbie” generation. Flirty kept things moving along nicely and held the crowd’s interest with her coy, slightly goofy, demeanor.
The One The Only Inga kicked things off with a drunken sailor routine set to “Rum and Coca Cola.” I’ve seen variations on this at festivals and various shows, so it didn’t feel especially groundbreaking, but that was probably beside the point. Flirty made it clear that this was an early routine that has since been retired, and Inga’s body control, facial expressions, and timing showed a talented dancer who has paid her dues.
Miss Indigo Blue reminisced on twenty-five years in burlesque. She shared stories of her early years as part of Tamara the Trapeze Lady’s Fallen Woman Follies, as well as the first Academy of Burlesque classes, which were held in her apartment.
Heidi Von Haught, one of the evening’s producers, regaled the audience with tales from her first Burlesque Hall of Fame weekend at Dixie Evan’s goat farm in California: the blazing hot stage under the desert sun, a 70 year-old legend’s signature move (showing her ass to the audience while patting her nether region) and motorcycle gangs who revved their motors to show the dancers their approval.
The next dance routine came courtesy of Jo Jo Stiletto, who performed a piece dedicated to Franzia boxed wine, set to Puddle’s Pity Party’s version of “Royals.” Unfortunately this was the second “drunken dancer” routine in a row—seems like a poor placement choice. Heidi returned and sang a beautiful, hilarious number entitled “Everybody’s Fucking But Me,” followed by Elsa Von Schmaltz, the evening’s other producer, who read from her Book of Shitty Shows. She relayed an especially shitty show in Oregon where her troupe performed to only 14 people in a 450-seat theater. One of those 14 people flew in a small plane just to get to Eugene. That person was her mother, sitting two rows in front of me. Elsa brought her to the stage and gave her a bouquet of flowers while my wife and I frantically reached for our hankies.
I’m always impressed by how Miss Indigo Blue uses her face. She infuses so much unspoken dialogue into a routine with just a facial expression. Dating back to 2001, her routine started with her in a yellow slicker, performing an innocent number to “Singing in the Rain.” Halfway through, the music changed to a raunchy bump and grind. Her innocent character instantly transformed into a badass, sexually-charged stripper. Her moves were flawless but I gotta say, for me, with Indigo—it’s all in the face.
After a brief intermission, Tamara the Trapeze Lady delighted the audience with anecdotes from 20 plus years (!) in burlesque. Tamara started the Fallen Woman Follies in 1995 for sex workers who were looking to perform something less exploitative, but still sensual. Seattle’s neo-burlesque scene sprung from these shows, right here at the Re-Bar, one of the few remaining bastions of Seattle’s edgier past. Tamara’s got a great raw energy and is not only an incredible performer but a top-notch MC and producer.
Sinner Saint Burlesque’s Evilyn Sin Claire livened things up with an amazing Bollywood-inspired bellydance routine. Evilyn is another performer who knows how to use her face. Her body control from years as a belly dancer is impressive, and I could tell that even from the start, she was a trailblazer. Tamara came back, this time in a performance capacity, with her signature aerial strip. Seeing her perform brought me back to my introduction to burlesque at the Pink Door and Columbia City Cabaret, which she ran for seven years. Fluid, sensual and simply breathtaking, Tamara is not only a legend within the local burlesque community, but the circus and aerial communities hold her in equally high regard and it’s easy to see why.
Delivering the final act, Elsa Von Schmaltz is one of those performers that I especially adore. She blurs the lines between burlesque, comedy and performance art. She danced one of her Burlesque 101 pieces, dressed in a pig nose and tail while wearing a revealing chef outfit. The grand finale finds her in a compromising position on a baking sheet. Disturbing, yet strangely sexy. Bravo.
Three generations of Seattle burlesque in one night is an amazing feat. The show captured burly from where it began, to new(ish) performers like Inga and Evilyn, sure to be legends themselves someday. Even though the storytelling and interviews slowed things down, it wasn’t supposed to be a typical night of burlesque; it was all about giving and receiving the love. “Decadence – A Raunchy Retrospective…” was a big hug, a thank you, a way-to-go to the community and its supporters. And, to the evening’s producers, Elsa and Heidi, I say well done. It’s not a typical burlesque show that moves a big lug like me to tears.
All photos ©Paul O’Connell and used here with express permission for Burlesque Beat. Performers may use shots for promotional purposes, but please credit properly with photographer’s full name and a link to this piece. All other requests please contact them to acquire permission.