The art of burlesque has been popular for decades, but its peak was from 1900’s – 1940’s. During this time, there were hundreds of touring burlesque shows, and the performers were revered almost as celebrities. There are few current names that come to mind when on the subject of burlesque, and Dita Von Teese is the biggest of them all. Though popularized for her marriage to shock-rocker Marilyn Manson back in 2004, this talented beauty is known around the globe for her top-notch performances and tantalizing figure; some even credit her as reviving the burlesque culture entirely. Having been a performer since 1992, Teese has perfected sexy and genuine routines of her own, while putting the ‘tease back in strip tease’, according to the dancer. Her tour, ‘Strip,Strip Hooray!’ was kicking off at the House of Blues in Dallas for two nights, April 1st & 2nd, and I couldn’t wait to see her live. Having previously seen the Blackheart Burlesque tour, featuring the Suicide Girls, I had been dying to get my craving for burlesque satisfied since. Once settled into the crowd at the House of Blues, I could see everyone else had been anticipating this just as badly as I. All eyes were locked onto the stage, and Dita wasn’t even due for another hour.
The show’s host, comedian Murray Hill, opened the night up by rattling off the ‘Do’s and Dont’s’ during the performances. “No photography, absolutely no videos, sketches, paintings or sculptures of ANY KIND are allowed… but you are encouraged to have sex with your partner or a complete stranger.” The crowd erupted in laughter, and a feel-good atmosphere commenced as a burlesque classic, Mae West’s ‘A Man Who Takes His Time’ came through the sound system, and Dita finally took to the stage.
Plopped into a large martini glass embellished with over 250,000 Swarovski crystals and complete with an olive sponge, Dita Von Teese looked every bit of an appetizing star as she removed her tuxedo to reveal a custom-made Mr. Pearl corset and crystal-studded thong. For the very first time since the show had started, the crowd was awestruck in silence. Following Dita’s first act was New York based dancer Dirty Martini, who is famed for her tassel twirling (she won first place at the Miss Exotic World Awards back in 2004) and had no qualms showing off her skills, even giving our host’s face a ‘titty tassel helicopter’, as he called it. The liveliness and spontaneity associated with burlesque was in full swing as the revue rolled along the line of performers. For Dita’s second act, she became a Rhinestone Cowgirl, completely decked in pink, and of course, more Swarovski crystals. Straddling an all pink mechanical bull, she simultaneously performed a scintillating strip tease, drawing whistles and cat calls from the crowd.
Shortly after the Cowgirl had left the stage, we were pleasantly introduced to another staple in the burlesque scene, Catherine D’Lish
. Her salacious routine, involving several contortionist moves in a gigantic spider’s web, left the audience begging for more, with some calling out for encores. Finishing her romp, Catherine D’Lish cleared the stage as Murray Hill took over once again. In favor of an impromptu dance party, the host selected three radically different people from the audience (one a flamboyantly gay male teen, a ‘Butch’ lesbian, and a polo-wearing older man) to have a dance off, providing hip-hop as a soundtrack.
This was one of the most entertaining aspects of the show, with nearly everyone on the stage crying with laughter, as well as loud shouts of encouragement from the crowd. By unanimous vote, the host crowned the young male teen as the winner, and after proclaiming his love for Dita, he was also rewarded with a meet and greet with her following the show.
Choosing her famed routine, Bird of Paradise, as her third act, Dita Von Teese appeared inside a glittering cage wearing a costume made entirely of exotic magenta pheasant feathers. Reinventing the traditional fan dance, she playfully strutted the stage, flirting with the audience as she ended her dance perched inside of the cage, which was now spinning, on a swing.
As the 90 minute revue came to a close, Dita ended with her newest addition to her touring routine, The Opium Den. Donning a traditional version of a Geisha costume, custom made by fellow performer Catherine D’Lish, the curtains opened to reveal her lying on a bed hanging with light lanterns and covered in pillows, taking long puffs from a beautiful Swarovski covered Cheongsam. Stripping down to only a thong and tassels, she pulled out her most stunning prop of the show, a traditional Oriental fan covered with, yes you guessed it, Swarovski crystals. Walking the length of the stage, she used the fan to silhouette her body enticingly, as smoke billowed from behind the curtains. From behind Dita, four mysterious hands began to caress her teasingly as she gives in to their pleasures. In what was without an argument the climax of the night, the audience was then showered with flower petals as the lights dimmed and curtains came to a close. All in all, Strip Strip Hooray! was exactly what I had wanted it to be; Dita in all of her glory, showcasing just what American burlesque is about – sexy routines, good humor, and innovative techniques. The return of this tour, as well as having aboard the entire original cast, only further proves Dita Von Teese’s role in the burlesque scene as one of the best.
The tour is running until Summer 2014, through New Orleans, Atlanta and Ft. Lauderdale! [Tickets]
Photos from the show are in the gallery below!