I saw the show at the Lido (http://www.lido.fr/us/cabaret-paris.html) and had great fun. It was so camp its indescribable. They feature showboys in their show as well as showgirls, and I have to say they just made me cringe (I’m cringing so much I cannot bring myself to type a description of their worst costume). A featured act was a male acrobat who performed on two long bits of material. He was incredibly strong and flexible and his costume was a small pair of white shorts. I was interested to think about this. Through the use of his body, he displayed both a masculinity (strength) and femininity (fluidity in his movements and flexibility), this routed his performance outside of camp, somehow and located him in some sort of more serious object-of-desire place, in a way that the showgirls operate. The showboys, on the other hand, are total camp, in a way that sort of negates their skill and makes them look like a Butlins act. They are not any sort of object of desire, they are, as far as I could tell, a tacky joke. Of course, I have no access to the spectrum of responses that a gay male spectator might have, and who knows, perhaps they function as an object of desire for them. My point is, for me, showboys, no. (From other performance instances I can say, male showgirls, yes).
Watching Crazy Horse (http://www.lecrazyhorseparis.com/) I lost my visual innocence. The cabaret featured a troupe of female dancers, who performed butt-naked except for a very small strip of what looked like black gaffer tape, strategically placed. Although there was an audience roughly evenly split between men and women, I felt transgressive watching it, as though the whole spectacle was directed towards a male spectator and not me. It was by far the most knowing caberet-revue I have seen. It reputedly crosses over with burlesque as earlier this year Dita Von Teese was their featured artist. However, I think this says more about Dita’s hetero-normative position within burlesque that she can cross over into more overt stripping contexts, rather than Crazy Horse’s closeness to burlesque.
I felt that the show did a number of things in terms of styling and choreography that took the whole thing far closer to a gentlemen’s club dance context. For example, the lighting and choreography dissected the bodies so that we saw perhaps, only legs performing. I found the amount that we did not see the faces of the performers quite shocking. There was no opportunity for the performers to ‘send-up’ the performance with their faces in darkness or out of view. I found this the hardest aspect to handle. I also felt that the repetitive use of the arched-back position that pushes the bum out moved the performances away from mainstream theatrical dance technique (which is often clearly visible in burlesque performances and particularly at the Lido) and more towards of gentleman’s club stripping. I realised watching the Crazy Horse that I actually need to watch strip shows featuring lap and pole dancing so that I can write about the gaps and overlaps between the different styles of performing I’m interested in. The show also featured some numbers that felt really disturbing and uncomfortable, for example a solo performance with a dancer who commenced her number tied up in ropes, and then used the ropes as props to perform on. It’s S&M references felt shallow and quite frankly, anti-women.
The featured act was a male tap duo, which came as a blessed relief. Fully clothed, the two were fully spot-lit, used their faces, audience interaction, humour and a number of different tap dancing ‘quotes’ to create an entertaining number. And then we had to return to the strobe-lit naked women. It was like our one moment of fun. The seriousness of the naked women was alienating, I longed to see some smiling faces!