26 October, Spiegeltent, HBAF18 By Rosheen FitzGerald
The ladies enter from behind, in black masks and hair pulled back – a look that exposes the eyes, in a pastiche of the hijab. Thigh-high boots reference Rihanna or Pretty Woman, depending on your vintage. Like much of the crowd, they wear black dinner jackets.
Oh, and there are buttocks. Ten in total. Two apiece. Bare, but for the five flosses which bisect them. There are breasts and bottoms aplenty in this show – trussed up, taped, accessorised by tails and frills and flounces. Yet the pudendum remains shrouded in mystery, oft alluded to, never revealed.
A series of vignettes ensue. Many minimalist costume changes. A variance of styles, from desperate hausfrau to militaristic majorette to magician’s assistant. The content is a sort of entry-level burlesque – über-vanilla in today’s pornography saturated society.
There’s a sense of untapped potential to the choreography. A prescribed range of movements in the earlier parts of the show harken to a malfunctioning Stepford wife, coiffed and clad in matching catalogue chique. These are contrasted with the can-can, towards the end of the piece. In daisy dukes and mismatched skirts, the girls let their hair down and allow a natural joy and liveliness to permeate their motion.
These dancers are clearly capable, as evidenced in moments of breathtaking brilliance. The solo, evoking a fantastical primordial race of birds and the birth of memory, contrasting the freedom of flight with the confinement of living in a form without a sense of past and future. The pas-de-deux between a near naked dancer, tethered at the wrists to her clothed captor. Her writhing and straining at her shackles is juxtaposed with the steady voyeurism of she that holds the strings, an exploration in power and control.
There’s humour too, a cornerstone of burlesque. Dancers break character to divest arses of g-string. The world’s least sexy striptease is accomplished with slouched shoulders and allusion to body odour. A landing strip merkin is repurposed as a Hitler ‘tache. An aural orgasm to rival When Harry Met Sally is achieved in response to a recipe for pikelets.
The most radical act in the piece is to unveil the prospect of female sexuality in tandem with the concept of female humanity. But none are so subversive as a roll of flab, a shadow of body hair. Poe’s law remains true – that it is impossible to create a parody that some won’t perceive as straight fact.