The resurgence of burlesque discovers an unlikely gay following
TEASE AND ‘CAKE
THE CRYSTAL PALACE BURLESQUE REVUE
1827 Abrams Road. Jan. 23 at 9 p.m. $15-$30. LaDivinaBurlesque.com.
Everything old is new again. That happens every few years as trends take on a retro look. Whether it’s rockabilly couture or old soul music revamped, what goes around comes around. And for the past few years, burlesque has made an impression … and it looks like it could stick this time.
La Divina Productions is all for it.
You might think with beautiful girls stripping down to almost nothing, frat boys and businessmen with dollar bills in hand are the main audience. Nope. Burlesque may be erotic, but it’s not creepy. In fact, it’s gayer than people might think.
"Straight men don’t get it," says "Diamond" Jim Guinan, who serves as both producer and M.C. of The Crystal Palace Burlesque Revue. "Men’s clubs have become places to get dry-humped. But we get lots of lesbian women. Lesbians may want to go to a strip club but it’s very hetero. With burlesque, women can go see other women celebrate the sexual form."
Guinan’s upcoming show is just that, a showcase featuring renowned exotic dancer Catherine D’Lish. Despite a stage full of beautiful, sexy women, Guinan was surprised to learn the audience demographic was mostly women 25 to 50. Then one day it all clicked.
"Burlesque has become a safe thing to women. It’s a sensual, erotic environment but also tasteful," he says.
La Divina, the dancer and other half of the production team chimes in with her take. In burlesque, she says, the dance glamorizes women, and women enjoy that.
"Sometimes its a fantasy or even reminiscent of grandmother’s days. We’re paying homage to this classic image and we do it with elegance," she says.
Although the production team doesn’t act as a troupe, Guinan selects his cast from a strong slate of experienced dancers from Texas and California. For the upcoming performance, he expects the complex costumes and staging, along with the modern fetish stuff, will capture an audience’s attention. And for a straight man, he is fond of the fact that the LGBT community has embraced burlesque.
And not just from the audience point of view. Bisexual dancer Bunny Bailey is on the roster to perform this weekend and she finds a certain artistic comfort in her work vamping. The Fort Worth native sees it more than just dancing.
"With burlesque, I can really be an out bi woman and an artist. I’ve been waiting a long time for this. With my dancing before, I felt oppressed to express my sexuality," she says.
And where do the boys fit in all of this?
Guinan and La Divina both say their gay male audience is drawn to the camp qualities, with fashions and makeup reminiscent of a drag show. But the team isn’t planning on ignoring this particular fan base.
It turns out there is a whole other world to male dancers that isn’t quite Bill T. Jones level but is a step above the go-go boys at BJ’s NXS! Guess what that’s called?
"We’re working on a boylesque show, " Guinan says. "Oh yeah. We’re seeing a lot of that now. Muscular men doing these sensual dances creating a different type of persona."
Adds La Divina, "It’s over the top — but that’s what burlesque is."
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 22, 2010.