Dallas Burlesque Fest Recap

Dallas Burlesque Fest Producers (L-R Black Mariah, Elisa Davis, and Ginger Valentine)  Photo: Daniel Driensky
Dallas Burlesque Fest Producers (L-R Black Mariah, Elisa Davis, and Ginger Valentine) Photo: Daniel Driensky

Photos: Ben Britt and Daniel Driensky

Dallas Burlesque Festival, billed “The Sexiest Show in Big D” took place last month at the Historic Texas Theater in Oak Cliff, one of the oldest sections of Dallas. Only two years old, the festival, produced by Elisa Davis, Ginger Valentine, and Black Mariah, grew by leaps and bounds over its inaugural year. While ticket sales for 2010 were about the same as 2009, the festival spanned two nights, which meant all festival goers had the luxury of their own seat. The sold out production grew to host over 50 performers spanning seven states and two countries. The DBF gals also decided to add a featured performer to the line-up, Angie Pontani of New York headlined the festival. Due to the 1000 plus attendees in 2009, the media was ready this year and gave Dallas burlesque lots of attention the week prior to the show.

While Friday night’s showcase was hectic and had some technical setbacks (the wrong music was cued up and took seven minutes of silence to fix, at which point the crowd became agitated, the producers were also thrown a last minute curve ball when the fire marshal was called in due to questions about the venue’s safety, which resulted in ticket holders being turned away.) By Saturday night the Dallas Burlesque Fest crew, in a large part due to stage manager Nick, got all of the kinks ironed out. Saturday night’s performance was nearly flawless, and the energy of the crowd was amazing! Pin Curl was on hand to ask festival attendees to share their experiences. Here’s what we learned:

Jessica Dawn, from the audience perspective:

I arrived Friday night eagerly anticipating the event. Both Pixie and I were excited to attend as audience members instead of working the event, either off or on stage. When I arrived, there was confusion at the door with the different lines you needed to be in and though it was a cold night to be left waiting a half hour for the house to open- it was neat to listen in to those in line with us and what they were anticipating the event. The Friday night showcase was performers bustin’ out the crowd favorites. The show was a little rough with a couple of snags which the emcee, radio personality Jesse- handled with flare and aplomb. I had a friend with me who had never been to a Burlesque event before and she (of course) fell in love.

Saturday night was less line confusion but still a long cold wait for the house to open. A group behind me that had not been to a burlesque event before worried whether or not it would not be worth the wait. I reassured them it would be, but I’m not quite sure they believed me.

I have to say Saturdays showcase was FABULOUS. Many of the acts, routines and performers, were new to me, which was quite a treat. The production on the second night was much tighter and seemed to run very well from the audience perspective. The sound quality this year was a vast improvement from the year before as was the closer attention to crowd control. It was easy to see that the team had learned a lot from last year’s event and applied it skillfully to this one. At the end of the show I did run in to the couple that had stood with me in line and I asked them if they had thought it was worth the wait in the cold. Their faces lit up with smiles, assuring me it had been and they were very excited about next year’s show already.

Roxanne Dale and Amber Deville in the Model Showcase before the show.  Photo: Ben Britt
Roxanne Dale and Amber Deville in the Model Showcase before the show. Photo: Ben Britt

Jessica Dawn’s favorites? Angie Pontani’s veil routine Friday night, and Roxie Moxie’s Saturday night routine, about which she remarked- a Vodun who kills herself at the end- gotta love it!

Jessie, the festival’s emcee

Terror aside I had a ball at Dallas Burlesque Festival. Emceeing such a huge show over the course of two nights was totally out of my realm of experience…as a dj I am usually hidden in a small studio where it is just me and a mic. It is a totally different animal to be thrust in front of a paying crowd AND have to be entertaining; which is probably why I spent both days TREMBLING and slightly horrified. But once I was in the Dirty Martini/Ellingson inspired Wonder Woman gown it was all right.
Highlights for my role include the Cat Butt Gum intro for Athena Fatale, seeing Angie Pontani’s dazzling bongo number live, ohhhhh and Lily Wilde’s explosive dance routine…. that was MOM upside down for sure….WOW! Small wonder she earned a standing O. 

Headliner Angie Pontani of New York in her Bongo Routine  Photo: Ben Britt
Headliner Angie Pontani of New York in her Bongo Routine Photo: Ben Britt

Mostly I LOVED the goofball Jigglewatt boys who kept screaming “GOD BLESS AMERICA” during Fridays show. That was actually helpful because the crowd was kind of rough and unresponsive. They gave me someone to focus on and to play with.  I got them good on Saturday when I wore the lacey see-thru Immodesty Blaize gown with the Swarovski merkin. They were screaming again as I came out on stage so I looked down at my bedazzled merkin and then, stared right at them and said “you know… if my cooch were a rifle it would go BLANG BLANG!” and I blasted a few very pronounced rat-a-tat-tat pelvic thrusts in their direction…the incredulous yet radiant look on their faces was worth its weight in rhinestones. Hilarious. They were cool too because they helped us raise some additional money for Patriot Paws Service Dogs and comedy attempts aside, that was really the passion that fed my participation in this wonderful event.
I am eternally grateful to Ginger Valentine, Elisa Davis & Black Mariah for inviting me to be a part of Dallas Burlesque Festival. I would love to do even more on the scene and in any capacity be it as an emcee, pantie wrangler, seat-pointer-to-er, program hander outer, dressing room fixer upper etc… the ENERGY and the art of burlesque really captures the primal essence of what it is to not only be feminine but also to be powerful without having to apologize or downplay it. Burlesque celebrates the female body in ALL of its forms and that is an electrifying combination that is as beautiful as it is intoxicating. I am woman hear me RAWR!

Vivienne Vermuth, performer in Friday night’s showcase and make-up artist Saturday night

Vivenne Vermuth of Dallas Performs.  Photo: Ben Britt
Vivenne Vermuth of Dallas Performs. Photo: Ben Britt

At 6 pm on Friday Feb. 5th, the Texas Theater was fairly quiet, except for the low hum of crew bustling about setting up. The only signs that the biggest burlesque event in Dallas was about to happen was a white screen, that had clips of Bettie Page and Tempest Storm rolling. They smiled their Mona Lisa smiles, as if they knew the festival was going to be amazing – and they were right!

Burlesque festivals – To the dancers, it means a chance to hone their skills, strut their stuff, and meet other like minds from other parts of the nation/world. To the audience it means a chance to see a WHOLE LOTTA STRIPPIN’ GOIN’ ON, and a lot of different interpretations of burlesque, from classic to modern and beyond. This was my second run at DBF, having performed in the inaugural fest the year before, and I was determined to leave my big, glittery pawprint! This year I performed in the Friday night showcase with a new sea-inspired routine to Styx’s “Come Sail Away”, complete with glittery Guitar Hero controller, and helped backstage as a makeup stylist alongside LaDonna Hearne and Ruby Redlocks for the fashion show models on Saturday. This allowed me to enjoy the fest from all angles, and meet people on all sides of the show, as well enjoy the entire showcase on Saturday.

Without a doubt, this years’ fest certainly had something for everyone. There were great local artisans showing off their wares . Being in line with offering all side of burlesque, the fest featured pole dancers from The Girls’ Room in Dallas on stage before the shows, and local models took the stage in fashion shows both nights for Electrique Boutique and Jupiter Moon 3 custom corsets. The burlesque acts also varied greatly; some of my favorites included Viva La Muerte’s (Chicago) tribute to Creepshow, Angi B. Lovely’s (Dallas) aerial silks, …The emcee for both nights was the lovely Jessie Jessup, and she kept the audience laughing and cheering on the ladies onstage. The audience was outstanding, and I think Dallas has gained a new legion of burlesque fans!

The biggest and sincerest applause goes out to the entire cast and crew who put this together, and to the three producers (Elisa of the Ruby Revue, Ginger Valentine, and Black Mariah) for putting on this fest and upping the ante with each year. All in all, the show was a rousing success, and I know I walked away from it feeling fantastic! Met some great performers, got to talk to a lot of fans, and generally had a great time! Can’t wait til next year – can you?

Rouby Joule, Performer

Roxie Moxie of Seattle performs.  Photo: Ben Britt
Roxie Moxie of Seattle performs. Photo: Ben Britt

I was honored to perform in both the 2009 and 2010 Dallas Burlesque Festivals, and though the 2009 show was a smash hit, I thought this year’s show took it to another level.  I love how the Dallas community of photographers, producers, designers, models and performers comes together to support this festival, and this year it seemed more focus was channeled toward the performances themselves. It was wonderful to have such a seasoned and capable tech crew running sound, lights and stage managing.  The theatre itself was a bit on the chilly side, especially in the dressing rooms, but it’s a historic building after all.  It was a small price to pay for such a beautiful stage. Having some reserved seating for the performers was a big plus, as we learn so much from watching each other, and from feeling the energy of the crowd all around us!  The audience was very enthusiastic and responsive, seeming to gobble up every act like candy.  I got to perform both Friday and Saturday nights, and the show and crowd on both nights was outstanding.  Some new fans even made the trip from Houston for the show.  I must say that having female producers who are also performers gave a rare spirit of camaraderie and heart to the entire event.  We were all invested in it together, body and soul.  

Jennifer, Jupiter Moon 3 Corsets, Vendor

Elisa Davis of Dallas Performs 'New York, New York'.  Photo: Ben Britt
Elisa Davis of Dallas Performs 'New York, New York'. Photo: Ben Britt

Dallas Burlesque Festival was an absolute blast.  Even as a vendor, I had a great time.  The energy was fantastic, people were really enjoying themselves, and the performers were top notch.  I am so glad it was a two night event, because with that many people in attendance, it would have had to run all day to cram them all in to a one day event!  I personally had my best night vending, twice over; I was a happy camper!  I also had a fashion show to kick off the evening, and I couldn’t have been happier.  I had eight great ladies modeling for me, and it went off without a hitch, especially for not having a single rehearsal!  It was a great little fashion show, and the crowd really seemed to enjoy it.  All in all, it was a fabulous show, I have only heard wonderful things, and I sincerely hope to do it again next year!

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