Opening Gala @ Bush Hall, May 10th
Burlesque is a funny one. Let’s be honest: it is essentially women getting their kit off in front of an audience. Although I’m not here to embroil in feminist debate it is hard to attend a burlesque night without considering whether by merely being in the audience we are a part of either the empowerment or degradation of women.
One thing that is always clear is that a good three quarters of the audience are women, something that suggests some kind of sisterhood, and the same was true of tonight’s crowd at the Opening Gala of the London Burlesque Festival.
Taking place at the unassuming from the outside, glorious from the inside Bush Hall, the night was one of glamour, gloves, corsets, stockings, pinned up hair, fans, glitter, feathers, and sequins, and it is no joke to say that this was just the audience. As the night progressed we learned a valuable lesson: cellulite and wobbling thighs can be sexy – all that is needed is confidence, and that is what these performers have in abundance.
The largest burlesque festival in the world, the carnival is now in its seventh year, and programmer Chaz Royal shows no signs of taming it down, the schedule featuring local and international burlesque stars, boylesque, twisted cabaret and much more.
More than just twirling tassels, the gala was one of captivating cabaret, with everything from magic and circus wizardry performed by Florian Brooks, mesmerizing and magical flaming hula hoop swirling courtesy of Anna The Hulagan performing to raunchy rockstress Florence & The Machine to utterly beautiful illuminated dance from Riuchi who sensually and gently danced with electric lights in an elegiac performance. More traditional burlesque came from the ‘Tarantino of Burlesque’ Strawberry Siren, the disarmingly genteel Velma Von Bon Bon, and countless other perfomers, all building up to the finale in which Angi B Lovely executed a daring and dazzling performance as she was suspended from the ceiling by sheets.
Each act combined humour and choreography with very tantalizing and seductive dance, all executed with poise and grace. The festival is widely acknowledged as the most prestigious event in the international burlesque calendar, and based on such dazzlement, it is not hard to see why.