Lazy Luddite Log


Burlesque At Butterfly

Last week I attended a burlesque show at the Butterfly Club in South Melbourne. I had seen the performer – Lola The Vamp – on another occasion and commented on that gig here. This time was a much better experience and just shows how the right setting and audience can contribute to a show. It also demonstrated how the artist had developed over the last two years.

The Butterfly Club itself deliberately cultivates an old-world vibe with its rabbit warren of pokey halls and rooms over two floors which are filled with the flotsam and jetsam of past decades. This was much better than the nightclub setting in which I last saw Lola The Vamp.

Then there was the audience. In the small performance space we were crammed into was a ‘full house’ of appreciative fans who went expressly to see the show. I went with a half-a-dozen friends which helped my enjoyment of the night. The audience was an interesting mix of ages and genders – there were more women than men which says something for the acceptance of contemporary burlesque as a non-sexist (if rather sexy) form of expression.

Then there were the performers themselves. Lola The Vamp was supported by Buella Blue – a singer and pianist with a distinctly melodramatic style. She would sing a few numbers and then introduce Lola. This interplay and alternation between two different yet complimentary forms of entertainment worked very well and I am sure helped Lola to do her job. It allowed the time necessary for the dancer to prepare between dances while still giving the audience something to take in.

And then there was Lola herself. She is pretty but that is only the start of it. This performer is herself a fan of burlesque – a burlesque nerd even who has made the art-form the subject of her postgraduate studies back in Brisbane. As such there is authenticity and precision to her act. The major prop for this show was a curtained sedan chair which served both as a changing room and a kind of – um – exercise frame. Other items that facilitated a playful old world flavour included two twirling parasols (utilised much as one would utilize fans in a fan-dance), a Venetian mask and matching velvet cloak, ribbons, a tutu, ballet shoes, a cute bonnet, and finally bejeweled pasties and a g-string (these last two items being the least dressed the performer ever becomes).

The focus was on a rather slow form of tantalisation. The first appearance of Lola was nothing but gesturing arms and legs from behind the curtains. Most of the dances were more playful than provocative. And often it was more the gestures and expressions that defined a dance rather than the lack of clothing. Sometimes it seemed like Lola was sharing some private joke with one or another audience member. Sometimes it even seemed like she was a bit surprised to find herself dancing almost naked in front of a bunch of strangers. I think a big part of her act is making the audience themselves feel safe and comfortable in what they are seeing. By the end however we were left feeling rather hot-under-the-collar by the final dance which was suggestive of a sex-act – but the kind of intimacy found only in a private bedroom rather than on the set of a porn movie.

All in all it was a fun night out and left one feeling that watching someone take off clothes for entertainment purposes is a perfectly normal thing to do for a change. Lola The Vamp deserves to be showered with flowers as well as cheers.

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