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All words + photos: PJ Rey

Halloween events are low-hanging fruit, especially for a medium that is both participatory and involves costumes, so it was no surprise that a costume-clad audience packed Red Palace for “Everyday is Halloween: A Pre-Halloween Halloween Show.” (In case you didn’t get it, the emphasis here is on Halloween.) Nevertheless, BlackTassel Boolesque’s Mourna Handful (below) put on a solid show, both as organizer and as “stage zombie.” (She was a classic Romero zombie and not a 28 Days Later Zombie, so she ambled onto stage and groaned every time she had to pick something up).

In the best tradition of vaudeville (and other “low” or popular stage performance), MC Hot Todd Lincoln made the audience part of the show (and the butt of much of its humor), leaving you with the feeling that you actually know the room when the show is done (unlike “high” art performances, where the audience experiences the event in total isolation from one another).

Far and away the best performance was by Addie Pocere. She was carried onto stage by an unnamed partner, who proceeded to string her up like a marionette. She then rose and danced as if suspended from the puppeteer’s hands. The puppeteer wore a bloodied butcher’s apron that gave the vignette a sadistic quality—as if the dance was some sort of metaphorical effort to push the limits of a sub/dom relationship. Eventually, Addie broke from the strings and danced on her own. Did she want to be free and human like Pinocchio, or did she just want to be an oversized doll that could freely perform for her sadistic master? Not sure. In any case, the audience shut up and watched mesmerized. Afterward, Lincoln just sputter, “woah… that was like a thing we call a-r-t.”

I also really enjoyed Rose Hips. I suspect this is, in part, because I’m not over the amazing robot outfit she wore as the stage kitten for “Candy del Rio Presents: Hot!” back in early August. That outfit exemplified the fact that, design is often simple and transparent on burlesque costumes. Unlike contemporary Hollywood wizardry that tries to make you believe it’s the real thing, this sort of stage performance is about the enactment. We watch stage performances on two levels: to see both how the story unfolds and, just as important, how the actor/actress chooses to represent the story. Good burlesque acts often have a Dr. Who -esque magical quality (I’m referencing the original, here, not the reboot), where a plunger glued onto a trash can transforms into an entire alien species. Unlike Hollywood, we’re not meant to believe that the Hips is a robot, rather, we are drawn in by the suspense of witnessing how she chooses to express robotness.

We’re not so much there to see a story unfold (in fact there isn’t even a plot in most burlesque acts) as we’re there to see how gestures and expressions can give life to glue, cardboard, and metal tubing. It’s  not about suspension of disbelief or getting lost in a story, but about transubstantiating a costume to an animated character.

I also really liked Maki Rolle’s scarecrow costume that married the grotesque and the sexy. She clambered onto stage in a burlap robe and hood, from which her long bare legs slowly emerged. Feeling both repulsed and attracted to a performer is a delightful mindfuck. Rolle’s seems to have an affinity for such contradictions.

Ruby Rockafella—a favorite in many productions at Red Palace—performed two film-inspired sets, drawing imagery from A Clockwork Orange and Donny Darko respectively. Rockafella is remarkable in that, despite being the shortest person in a room, she somehow oozes a sort of silent charisma that commands attention. Probably helps that she makes her own killer outfits.

There were also performances by Dolly Longlegs, Velvet Kensington /Felon Whoreness, and Mourna Handful herself. What was missing, as with so many burlesque shows, was variety. Emerging from the tradition of early 20th Century vaudeville, burlesque dancing was traditionally paired with other forms popular entertainment like music, sideshow, and comedy. I’m gonna side with Jean Baudrillard here and argue that sexy gets kind of dull when it’s perpetually slammed into 5 th gear. Just think how boring hardcore porno mags are. Seduction requires suspense. When burlesque performers are spaced out between other types of entertainment, they actually become sexier. We’re more excited to see them. Variety is win for everyone.

Overall, this was a fun show. I’d make a trip to see several of these performers again.

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