Foxy Tann was one of many great performers at WCBF. (photo: Michael Albov)
Read on for a rousing response to this weekend's Windy City Burlesque Fest, via Centerstage Chicago's Sarah Terez Rosenblum.
During my time as Centerstage's Theater Listings Manager, I’ve grown increasingly cranky about burlesque. Seems every third e-mail to land in my inbox has a subject line like “Titty Titty Boom Boom,” or, less creatively, “Tits and Ass.” It’s getting so I can’t discern press releases from spam, I don’t know what to huffily delete and what to post. More than that, I’ve found burlesque’s trendy nostalgia depressing, symptomatic of a culture driven to mine decades-old entertainment, rather than generate anything significant and new.
But last weekend, I attended the 2010 Windy City Burlesque Fest and realized I’m a hypocrite.
Ever since seeing Gypsy at age 10, I wanted to be a classy stripper. But Natalie Wood was dead, and who knew if such a thing existed? Still, in sixth grade I wore fishnets to gym class, at 19 I played a stripper (sans class, however) in a terrible low-budget film. At the audition, I was the only woman with a choreographed routine; all the others just took off their shirts and wriggled. Amateurs, I thought. But that’s what stripping is, deadpan undulations, cocaine and a blow job on the side. Not so, burlesque, which brings me to WCBF 2010.
Attending the 8 p.m. Friday performance, I was poised for an evening of awkward dancing punctuated by the occasional breast, but found myself instantly riveted. From Foxy Tann’s audacious blend of comedy and coochie to the tightly choreographed mincing of Chicago’s own Vaudezilla, the show was heavy on innuendo, light on actual skin.
Dazzled by the performers’ homemade yet flawless ensembles, jazzed by their creative music choices and flabbergasted by their unique routines, I was forced to confront the true source of my burlesque aversion. I was jealous. After resigning myself to a featherless, sequin-less life in flats, after years of subliminating my desires through compulsive, sometimes simultaneous viewings of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" and "Coyote Ugly," to find that all around me women were moonlighting, even making a living shaking what their mama (or their plastic surgeon) gave them, was indeed a bitter pill to swallow. Better to grouse and grudgingly list Nuts and Cherries’ events than to admit they were doing what I still believed I couldn’t.
Well, no more. I’ve been perusing websites, and even though the acts which both performed and taught during the weekend-long fest have gone home to Los Angeles, Minneapolis, San Francisco and the like, Chicago fairly bursts with performers and teachers. Natalie Wood may be dead, but thanks to WCBF2010, my childhood dream has been reborn!