Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The World Famous *Bob*'s !BadAss! Birthday Bash

photo by Stacie Joy

In case you’ve been in a cave for the past ten years, the art of burlesque has experienced a vast revival, pervading not only popular culture but the high brow halls of museums. This Neo-Burlesque is not your classic striptease but a theatrical, humorous, dramatic, intelligent, political, and sexy revision that is also a new brand of performance art. A combination of satirical sketches, modern dance, classic striptease, and avant garde theater, the end product is entertaining, thought provoking, and diverse depending on the venue and the performer.

New York City is the center of the burlesque revival, and any given day there is bound to be a performance occurring somewhere in the five boroughs. While many troupes practice a more traditional form of burlesque (stripping+comedy), a few are intent on breaking rules and expanding the definition of the nearly lost art. !BadAss! Burlesque describes itself as the underbelly of the New York burlesque scene, bringing together performers that push boundaries and are often too unusual for mainstream audiences. Producer Velocity Chyaldd has organized a monthly show for the past three years at The Bowery Poetry Club that is dedicated to politically and socially conscious performance art where almost anything goes. If you have a weak stomach, a vanilla outlook, or want to ogle perfectly proportioned bodies, you’d be in the wrong place.

This month was the third annual birthday bash for The World Famous *Bob*, whose name says it all. Perhaps the most well-known burlesque performer in New York City, the blonde bombshell chose fifteen of her favorite performers to wish her well in celebration of her 36th year (which she calls “thirty-sexy”). Hosting in a sheer, black nightgown and displaying her gigantic sense of humor, Bob proved that it is her razor sharp wit that has catapulted her to pastie stardom.

The most prominent member of the line-up was certainly high art sweetheart Julie Atlas Muz, a Whitney Biennial 2004 and Valencia Bienal 2005 artist. For her act at BadAss, Muz performed a parody of the disturbing and now infamous You Tube sensation “two girls and a cup.” First stripping with the cupcakes in front of her and then perching on top of a stool, the nude Muz somehow shat (chocolate pudding) onto the cupcakes. She then turned around, stuck her finger down her throat and puked onto both of the pastries (she had a balloon full of vomit-like material in her mouth throughout the performance which she punctured with a pin). With a big smile on her face, Muz ate the two cupcakes at the dismay of the audience. After applause, one girl in the front shouted “Oh! I get it! One girl, two cupcakes!” Bob then congratulated her for finally catching on.

Another standout was Tigger! (there’s lots of exclamation points in burlesque). Dressed as a Frenchman, the male burlesquer began his act by parading around the stage telling jokes about Americans into the microphone. Keeping in character, he began stripping and dancing in a comical yet highly skilled fashion until he was fully nude, doing what looked like horizontal jumping jacks on the floor. Combining politics, comedy, intellectual banter, modern dance, and striptease, Tigger! proved that while burlesque is traditionally a woman’s game, men can create just as dynamic of a performance.

A disappointment of the night was the usually jaw-dropping Jo Boobs, who runs the NY School of Burlesque. Jo most certainly understands the dynamics of traditional and non-traditional burlesque alike, but her short performance at BadAss did not convey her strengths. A chair was set on stage with a dildo strapped on, facing conveniently upward before Jo pranced out, quickly stripped, lubed up the phallus, and sat on it for about five seconds. Penetration for penetration’s sake is not very artful and today’s desensitized audiences expect a more dynamic act, especially from the anointed high-priestess of burlesque instruction.

The World Famous *Bob* is a practitioner of a more traditional burlesque, so most of the performances at her birthday party were less unorthodox than is typical at a BadAss show. There was plenty of comedic striptease, provided by the fat-positive newcomer Della Dare, the young Kit Cat, and the beautiful Legs Malone. Although the avant garde was pushed to the side by most performers, the night was cohesively light, funny, and fitting for the celebration of the larger than life Bob.

What makes the Neo-Burlesque movement so important is the blurring of lines between high and low art, theater and performance art. Existing somewhere between the poles, the unique art form brings together humor, talent, entertainment, and creativity in a way that can expand to fit mainstream interpretations, underground sensibilities, and high art interest. So, chose your venue according to your expectations, but be assured that BadAss will provide an unusual mixture of all the spheres of burlesque, although it might not be suitable for everyone.

No comments: