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Fifth Annual NYC Burlesque Festival

Nybf5_01 The Fifth Annual New York Burlesque Festival opened last night with a “Teaser Party” hosted by Albert Cadabra at Corio Supper Club (337 W. Broadway at Gran St.), featuring jazz singers, go-go dancers and good old-fashioned burlesque strip-tease. The faces of the modern burlesque revival, from NYC stars like Angie Pontani and Miss Delirium Tremens to international performers Lily De Luxe of Sweden and Honey DeVille of London, were on hand to meet and greet and launch this year’s fest.

Burlesque emerged in the late 19th century as a mix of satire, performance art and adult entertainment, featuring striptease and comedy acts. New York City was burlesque's first home, with its epicenter on the Bowery, the Lower East Side and Broadway. And while the mid-20th century saw a decline in its popularity, New York today is again at the heart of the burlesque revival, dubbed "Neo-burlesque," encompassing a wider range of performance styles. As always, the focus is more on the "tease" than the "strip," and burlesque performances range from campy homage to classic 1930s or ‘50s-style dances. Side show acts like fire-eaters and sword-swallowers are even included in some shows.

This weekend’s festival draws performers from all over the world, from Chicago and San Francisco to Sweden and Australia, where burlesque is having its own revival of sorts.

“It’s funny, burlesque doesn’t have the same reputation as ‘stripping’ in Australia, like it does here,” said Honey DeVille, who has performed in Australia and London and is making her first appearance in the NY festival. “Everybody knows what it is. But my mom did find my website, and she wasn’t very happy.”

Miss Delirium Tremens’ mom wasn’t too pleased with her daughter’s chosen performance style at first, either. But this weekend, she will be attending the fest to see her little girl in action.

“My mom is coming,” said Miss Tremens, who performs in venues around NYC and travels to some other national burlesque festivals. “She’s seen me perform before. I think the best thing was that the first show she came to was one I wasn’t performing in, so she could see what it was all about. The truth is, we get a lot of couples in the audience, or groups of women, or even kids. You don’t often see a group of six or seven men together like you would at a strip club.”

Miss Tremens and NYC’s unofficial burlesque “house photographer” Don Spiro also revealed that for most girls, burlesque is not a full-time gig.Angie_blade

“It might be enough to pay for itself, or pay a few bills,” Spiro said. “But no one really makes a living at it. Most people have a day job.” More important, they stress, is that people are able to do what they love, and continue to perform and express themselves in new ways.

One performer (who preferred to remain anonymous) teaches art history at a northeast university, while another works as a graphic designer. Some are married and have children (or even grandchildren), but for the most part, personal lives and identities are kept under wraps with more than just some glittery pasties.

“I never tell people my real age,” said Miss Tremens (a stage name, of course). “But I think Delirium is about 27 years old.”

Maybe the most striking thing about the burlesque scene in New York, and around the world, is how “normal” it all is. The act itself is more akin to performance art or dance than stripping, and the atmosphere – even among the red curtains, velvet couches, and candle-lit corner tables – is welcoming and comfortable.

Delirium_01 “I love to photograph any of my friends’ performances,” Spiro said. “Whether they’re in a band or on stage. It just so happens that my friends do burlesque.”

Tonight, check out the festival’s official Premiere Party at Element (225 E. Houston), hosted by Scotty the Blue Bunny and featuring Nasty Canasta, Creamy Stevens, Darlinda Just Darlinda, and more. Or go to tonight’s performance of Filthy Gorgeous Burlesque at Corio. Miss Astrid hosts, and Angie Pontani, Jo Boobs, San Francisco’s Kellita and other international stars will perform.

The Saturday Spectacular at the Highline Ballroom (431 W. 16th St.) starts at 8 p.m. and is hosted by “drag king” Murray Hill. All of the biggest names in burlesque take the stage, from Australia’s Tigerlil to Nashville’s Panty Raid, as well as all your favorite NYC acts like The World Famous *BOB*, Bonnie Dunn, Little Brooklyn, Miss Delirium Tremens, Amber Ray, and many more.Nybf5_02

The festival closes on Sunday night with The Golden Pastie Awards, an award presentation at Comix Night Club (353 W. 14th St.). Honey DeVille, Vivian Velvet, Gal Friday and more will perform to finish off the fest.

If you can’t make it to this year’s NYC festival but want to know more about other places to catch a burlesque show in the city, click here.

-- Daniel Lehman

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