If you haven’t been to a burlesque show, trust me, you have to go at least once.
On the surface, people think burlesque performances are just women stripping and getting naked. But it’s more than that: Burlesque performers use elements of theater, dance and comedy in their numbers. Yes, they do strip teases, but they don’t go all out. (The go-to “naked” look is always a pair of nipple pasties with tassels.)
I learned about these elements when we at Preen.ph celebrated our third anniversary where Burlesque PH performed and set up games for the guests. I thought I already had an idea about how most burlesque shows go based on the one-hour segment that had lap dancing, lip-syncing and a stand-up comedy session. But all that changed when I watched Bodabil, Burlesque PH’s cabaret show last Feb. 18 as part of this year’s Fringe MNL arts festival.
If you weren’t there, here’s a rundown of that night:
Before the show started, people just waited in their seats and drinking their beers. I was with a friend and I was giving him last-minute explanations on what to expect since it was his first time to watch a burlesque show. While we were gushing over the A+ stage setup in the venue, the music started and the eight performers did a quick number for the opening curtain call.
Host Sabrina Schnabel then came out to greet the crowd and hype them up for the show by getting them to play games. It was similar to the routine during Preen.ph’s anniversary party, only this one had a “longest line” game that encouraged players—two women vs. two men—to use every item on their person at their disposal, including clothing. All of them became so competitive that they did take off their tops and bottoms, one woman took even off her bra. It was a fun watch and we were glad everyone was a good sport about it.
After the games, it was time for the show. As expected, there were lip-syncing, funny storylines (Teresa Tang’s fangirl skit was hilarious!), strip teasing and relatable stand-up segment by Schnabel about periods. But what was new to me were the live performance by their resident Korean-Filipino singer Yui and two pole dancers, Spinning Comet and Paw Fln, doing spinning stunts using the leather strap hanging from a railing. NGL, the latter scared me a little because I thought the strap was going to snap. Thank God, it didn’t.
It was also a treat to be able to watch the performance of Burlesque PH co-founder Lucky Rapscallion and artistic director Antoinette Noir, aka the two women who are considered “legends” in their company. Their performances had a “Moulin Rouge” vibe, from the music to their outfits (flowy dresses, corsets and sparkling jewelry).
As Bodabil came to a close, I noticed a couple of things. First, burlesque encourages empowerment in women and the LGBTQ+ community. Second, it brings together people who love the art form and those who are watching for the first time. Lastly, it teaches people to respect one another and not touch anyone without their consent, especially the performers as they do their stripteases.
If you think you know everything about burlesque, go to a show or two. You’ll most likely see something different every time.
Photos by Jacqueline Arias
Lap dances and outfit reveals: A look into Preen.ph’s burlesque-themed party
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