NEO BURLESQUE LOCALSSEX / May 2014

NEW YORK’S NEO-BURLESQUE

Photography by Leland Bobbe
Text by Dora Moutot

“Oh yessssss…” is rarely followed by “Ahaha!” In our culture, sexuality doesn’t rhyme often enough with humour. But artists of the Neo-Burlesque scene are attempting to remedy this by inventing a new genre of burlesque. It’s a burlesque where vaudeville and comedy meet the glamour of strip-tease. An absurd kind of strip-tease cultivating the art of ridicule and satire while staying very hot and sexy.

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A FEMINIST VISION

 

But let’s be clear, I already see you making a link between the word ‘burlesque’ and Dita Von Teese. What a mistake! We are by no means talking of retro burlesque, inspired by the likes of the Folies Bergeres and the Moulin Rouge, brought back up to date courtesy of Von Teese.

In the world of Neo-Burlesque, don’t expect to find bodies perfectly chiselled by body corsets or the delicate striptease commonly believed to make men hard as rocks. If Neo-burlesque attracts a predominantly female public, it’s surely thanks to punk and feminist movements that have injected spice into the scene.

 

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“I think neo-burlesque is an art form that allows the performer to use their bodies and costumes to deliver a statement or message. It can be a political, social or comedic statement. The message is up to the performer because they come up with their own act including costumes and music to deliver their message. It’s different from classic burlesque in that in classic burlesque it’s just about a seductive reveal of the body without having a specific message”, explains Leland Bobbé, a New York-based photographer, who is passionate about this movement. Over the course of two years, Bobbé photographed over a hundred contemporary artists of the Neo-burlesque scene in New York.

First surfacing in the nineties, this movement counters the popular idea that women cannot be funny and sexual all at once. “I am sexy, it’s hilarious, let’s laugh together about that!” 1995 saw the birth of the Los Angeles-based troupe “The Velvet Hammer Burlesque”, who spearheaded this movement and philosophy by launching the first erotic-comedy shows.  This new breed of burlesque transcends the stereotypes of perfect, tall and thin girls, with firm breasts and beautiful buttocks.

Neo-burlesque sees free-spirited girls coming to the forefront – they have a wide a wide variety of different female forms, and they’re playful and confident about themselves. What’s more, they’re their own boss, exerting total control over their performances, from the very concept to the costumes and music. “Most performers create their own costumes or work with people that do. You can’t just go to the store and buy these kinds of costumes”, explains Leland Bobbé.

 

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THE RISE OF THE SCENE

 

If we’re talking to you about this on The Other, it’s because the neo-burlesque scene is currently experiencing a revival. New York is said to be the hotspot of this scene on the rise. “It’s very popular at the moment”, explains Leland Bobbé.

“I saw my first burlesque when I was in high school. This was strictly old school traditional burlesque complete with baggy pants comedians. Much later on I went to my first Neo-Burlesque show and thought the performers would make great portrait subjects and loved the performance art aspect of it. We started slowly by putting an ad in Craig’s List and that’s how we got our first performer. Once we started we asked for recommendations and it built from there. Other performers became interested after seeing what I had done on Facebook and after a short while performers approached us. The whole thing just kind of snowballed”, says Bobbé about the process of his work.

 

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And the proof is here: Leland’s photographic oeuvre now presents a collection of one hundred portraits of one hundred different performers. These photographs showcase  women, as well as men, costumed and photographed against a black background. Amongst the hundred portraits, we discover three legends of neo-burlesque: The World Famous BOB, Dirty Martini and Tigger.

“The one venue in New York that is dedicated to great burlesque is The Slipper Room, confides Leland. Get your address book out – this tip shouldn’t go unnoticed.

 

 http://lelandbobbe.com 

 

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One Response to “NEW YORK’S NEO-BURLESQUE”

  1. Omar M'Sai says:

    I am a filmmaker and as such am fascinated with the work you are doing here. More importantly, i am a San Francisco transplant from the 60’s living in Manhattan and longing to socialize with some rainbow brothers and sisters. Please tell me how i can hook up with some events and maybe even do some creative projects involving video, music, etc…..as that is my bag….
    My web-site is undergoing re-construction right now but as soon as i have it set up i will be eager to display my work. Your stuff is awesome….

    Omar M’Sai

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