When one hears the word “burlesque,” many sultry and diverse images come to mind. From a seductive dancer with feathers to a vaudevillian performance, there seems to be a little bit of something in each burlesque show.
“A burlesque show is a theatrical variety show featuring striptease dancers, a comic emcee, and a variety acts such as singers, magicians, aerialists, contortionists and other circus-type acts,” Rick Delaup, the founder and producer of the New Orleans Burlesque Festival said. “But the main attraction is the striptease dancers. Characteristics include elaborate costuming, props and mood lighting.”
Burlesque rose as a popular form of entertainment during the 1940’s in New Orleans, featuring personalities like Evangeline the Oyster Girl and Blaze Starr. In an attempt to “clean up” Bourbon Street nightclubs, the 1950-60’s reform looped striptease in with organized crime, prostitution, b-drinking (where strippers tempted men to buy them drinks for a cut of the profit) and other problems associated with the area, causing burlesque shows to be replaced by go-go dancers and record music.
Since the mid-1990’s, Delaup has been an instrumental figure in the burlesque revival of New Orleans. He is also the producer of the producer of numerous shows like the monthly premiere of Bad Girls of Burlesque at the New Orleans House of Blues.
Yet, one thing remains the same in each burlesque dancer’s number – it’s not about the strip but the tease and how it’s presented to audiences.
What festival goers can expect for this year’s event (held September 15-18) is three nights with numerous performances, seeing who will be crowned the Queen of Burlesque and a chance to meet Rita Alexander the Champagne Girl, a starlet from the 1960’s who headlined at the Sho-Bar on Bourbon.
Queen of Burlesque – Fri. September 16, 8 p.m., Civic Theatre, 510 O’Keefe Avenue
Starting off the night is the Queen of Burlesque contest at The Civic Theatre. For this 18 and older show, the doors open at 7p.m. and the pageant starts at 8p.m. Contestants will demonstrate their ability to perform a choreographed routine to the accompaniment of a live jazz band. The panel of celebrity judges look for personality, originality, glamor, sex appeal, finesse, dance ability and other attributes that highlight the fine art of striptease. The 2015 Queen Miss Stormy Gayle, a New Orleans native, will also perform this night. This year’s hopefuls are the “Texan Tigress of Tease,” Minxie Mimieux; “NYC’s Delicate Flower” Hazel Honeysuckle; “The Puerto Rican Jessica Rabbit” Racquel Reed; Betsy Bottom Dollar who’ll “give her two cents”; “Top UK Burlesque Performer for 2014 and 2015,” Havana Hurricane; award-winning burlesque artist and model Puss-N-Boots; and the “dancing sensation from the Mohawk Nation” Lou Lou La Duchesse De Riere. Tickets prices range from $40-$50, and attendees are encouraged to purchase these early.
Bad Girls of Burlesque – Fri. September 16, 11 p.m., House of Blues, 225 Decatur Street
Not to be confused with the monthly show at the House of Blues, this festival performance features the “luscious and lascivious ladies of burlesque” who will entertain guests in a “celebration of the wicked, the wayward and the wanton.” Joining Mistress of Ceremonies Gogo McGreggor (a local dancer known for her feather dancing and death-defying Bed of Nails act), are 2014 World Champion of Exotic Dance, Roxi D’Lite; 2015 Queen of Burlesque Stormy Gayle; “easy on the eyes and hard on the tease” Puppie Buffe; regular cast member of the monthly Bad Girls of Burlesque and Bustout Burlesque shows, Chere Noble; award-winning artist Puss-N-Boots; the belly dancer and burlesque performer, Nikki Le Villain; 2015 Queen of the New Zealand Burlesque Festival Dahlia Dangerous; the opinionated Betsy Bottom Dollar; queen of obscene Xena Zeitgeist; 2014 Queen of the New Orleans Burlesque Festival Elle Dorado; HOB cast member and newbie Juno; and Lili St. Byr, the other half of the Cherry Poppins duo. General admission is $22, limited reserved seating is $37, and table and balcony seating costs $52.
Mondo Burlesque – Sat. September 17, 8 p.m., Harrah’s Theater, 228 Poydras St.
Attendees ages 21 and older are in for a traditional burlesque show with a variety of acts. Held inside Harrah’s New Orleans Theater, the lineup for this event includes the 2013 Queen of the New Orleans Burlesque Festival Medianoche, Elle Dorado; two-time Miss Exotic World winner Stephanie Blake; comical twins Circus de Moccos; Canada’s “Tall Glass of Bad Ass” Lady Josephine; worldwide entertainer Candy Applebottom; vaudevillian theater troupe Cirque du Risque; acrobats Gabe and Martina; California newbies The Vaudeville Vixens and their leader Valentina. Ticket price is $38.
It’s Burlesque – Sat. September 17, 11 p.m., House of Blues, 225 Decatur Street
For the late night crowds, the pageantry continues with a multitude of international and local acts at the House of Blues. The show will feature Canadian sensation Audrey Ivory; voted one of hottest acts to follow by GQ Magazine Mika Romantic; resident dancer of Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret in Denver Champagne Shuga Nova; member of West Australia’s troupe Kitty Litteur; the comical twins of Circus de Moccos; Secret Burlesque Society co-founders Violette Coquette and Dame Perignon; California bombshell Dasha Cayenne; British-born model Miss Miranda; founder of Montreal Burlesque Festival and authoress Scarlett James; magician Nathan Kepner and hula hoop performer Morgan Tsu-Raun of Crescent Circus. General admission is $22, limited reserved seating is $37, and table and balcony seating costs $52.
Closing Night Party – Sun. September 18, TBA, One Eyed Jacks, 615 Toulouse St.
Join the burlesque beauties and performers for the last hurrah at One Eyed Jacks. Elle Dorado, past New Orleans Burlesque Festival queen, is producing this year’s parties beginning on Thursday, September 15. For the grand finale, guests can also expect a show as well. Tickets for the closing party can be purchased on One Eyed Jack’s website.
For more information about showtimes and other events, visit the festival’s website at neworleansburlesquefest.com.