Can’t help loving that tease

Burlesque Fest thrills a jaded world

Nathan Hall

Not so long ago, a glimpse of a bare shoulder or a hint of inner thigh was the absolute height of titillation in this fair land. Times have changed, so that film actresses now look like porn stars and vice versa. As comedian Dennis Leary put it, though, exploitation and shock can only get you so far and eventually you have to come back out again the other way.

Enter the rejuvenated underground neo-burlesque scene, freshly consecrated by the cultural Mafiosi at MTV as “cool again.” We should keep in mind that prior to World War II, trailblazers such as Gypsy Rose Lee and her tassel-twirling stripteases or Florenz Ziegfeld’s extravagantly costumed follies, were almost universally dismissed by the arts community as nothing more than prurient rubbish. Pop-cultural mores have obviously metamorphosed significantly since then, permitting a national Burlesque Fest tour to be overwhelmingly supported by both die-hard feminists and sweaty-browed retro hipster cats.

A great deal of credit for keeping the dream alive rests with hosts Catherine D’Lish and Miss Kitty Crimson. D’Lish is known primarily for dancing on ornate, highly detailed props such as gigantic glasses of champagne, whilst Crimson is now all but a dead ringer for an early, less depressed Marilyn Monroe. Burlesque Fest is bawdy theater and circus freak show all wrapped up in a campy red bow. The spectacle comes complete with a defrosted flapper band and tasteless puns transposed between numerous costume changes. Imagine Cirque du Soleil with a surplus of cleavage or “USA Up All Night” hosted by MFA graduates. Who would have thought that the new millennium would make not taking off all your clothes rebellious again?

Burlesque Fest, 7 p.m. Thursday, The Quest, (612) 338-3383

Nathan Hall welcomes comments at [email protected]