My review of a review of Yvonne Rainer’s Dance Works at Raven Row has been published in X-tra Art Quarterly.
I clocked off from my research for two weeks, during which time, Samantha Brick-gate happens. I don’t want to add to the sheer volume of words generated by the incident, instead, I wanted to blog the final encounter with the showgirl in my second chapter. My research, to reiterate, investigates both my own feelings of loving showgirls and the experiences of showgirls themselves. It is my hope, wish, intention, that through opening up my feelings of sisterhood and respect for glamorous women, that I may potentially add to a rich, healthy discussion and how women relate to one another in positive, sisterly ways. I am completely fed-up with the trite worn-out trope of women’s competition amongst each other. It is not what I feel or experience.
In a tiny bar, Cellar Door, underneath the Aldwytch, London, I put cocktails I could not afford on my credit card. As it was a bar, a middle-aged man chatted to me, asking what I do. I told him. He began to tell me what he thought about burlesque, informing me how little affect it could have. I began speculate a politics of burlesque, perhaps, femininity and the potential for collectivising around specific issues, citing the Slut Walks as an example. He responded by telling that as he could not see what all the fuss was about with the Slut Walks. As he saw it, it was a good idea to avoiding dress like a slut and going to bad areas, in reference to the initial comments by the police representative, who addressing a group of students in Toronto, which hard sparked the initial protests. Hearing his prejudiced, short-sighted views, in which his sense of entitlement had blinded him of other peoples’ experiences, caused an internal incandescent rage. I did not want to have tell him how totally ignorant, misogynistic he was and his sense of entitlement to tell me about my research and experience as a woman in that specific context, so instead I died a little inside. I was gradually able to disassociate from him as the performers did their turns. Hannah Friedrick, sang jazz interpretations of pop songs including Material Girl, Wild Thing and songs from Jungle Book, to hilarious effect. I was singing along and I was able to relax and make a few notes in my notebook. I drank another cocktail and started to chat to Beatrix Von Bourbon, the burlesque dancer, before she performed. We had tweeted each earlier in the day. Then, as Beatrix started her second and final strip of the evening, I stopped writing and I closed my notebook, so that I could be present in the moment.
The strip was a perfect moment and the performer owned the room. She performed for the audience, as an act of generosity. She was experienced and educated enough to be aware of what she was doing. It did not feel sleazy or uncomfortable despite the number’s conclusion in which the performer’s nudity was in close proximity to the audience. She was prepared to be our object of desire for a moment, because she chose to be. And as I watched, still, not far from the middle-aged man, I thought, yeah fuck you, you have no idea what this means, what pleasure the performer is generating. You have no idea what this means!
Amongst the pleasure-experiences I have described, this was a very simple encounter: a tiny bar and a dancer with a fabulous heavily tattooed body in a great outfit. During the short act, my attention was focussed and nothing else existed. The formula was minimal, but completely accessible to me. I just felt happiness. I felt happy a woman could produce the moment. I felt sisterhood for the performer.
In the dark theatre, I could not make notes. I make notes in the pub afterwards:
I also visited Paradis Latin, and here are my notes from that show. At the end of the evening I rode a ‘velib’ – a bike you can rent in the street, to my friend’s flat to say goodbye to her before she travelled back to Berlin. Just some context for you!
Audience: tourists, families – large Indian family. Middle aged couples, girls aged 10, boys aged 13? Australian student group. Young smart couple, 20? Middle aged large group, breaks up into men and women. Two German women in 60s. Everyone dressed up smart. American father and son. Preppy Americans in front of me. Opening number, 10 women, 4 men. Is this chorography dated? Disco-ball entrance, blonde-singer, g-string. 5 girls techno-beat number, red top with cut out heart on sternum, more commercial dance. 4 boys enter, girls leave. 3 girls back – smiles! Topless dancer, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Sparkle sleeves, original. I like the dancers, personality. Head-dresses, just hair up, understated. Blonde-singer comes on with very Moulin Rouge headdress. Topless, singing. She doesn’t have ‘it’ fully. Two men juggling with hats. Black waistcosts, white shirts and trousers. Australian audience member pulled up on stage – juggler speaks English – tourist language. Cancan – three boys in red and black, two girls in pink. Ten-girl line, multicoloured costumes. Lots of yelping, like wildcats. Boy cartwheels and tumbles, takes centre-stage, why? Kicking music, same as Constance Grant Dance Centre uses (my dancing school). Three boys come on. Boy doing jumping splits – why? All girls in twos, 2 girls dancing together. Mr Bean type clown enters. Physical comedy. New number, 4 girls in trousers and 2 boys – all in the same costume, 5 girls in floppy drop-waisted dresses, 2 couples come on. Feels fresh, dramatic tango-like. Girls are boys in the choreography. Nice use of back. Cuban-heeled Oxfords on girls as boys, boys in a flatter heel but that’s the only difference in costume. Music is a bit Eurovision. 4 boys from Grease, 2 girls on ribbons, topless in S & M harnesses. They leave. Black strap costumes – nice. Blonde singer is ‘Arta’ the star girl/compère is a better dancer than singer. No singing. Topless male, more manly. White costume dancer with ballet-flats and thong. Enigma type music for ballet. Arta back in long backless frock. Good set of lungs on her. I don’t like her bottle blonde bob. Jazz Hot Baby – blue leotards and bows, pillbox hats. Great costume, not used enough. Jazz Hot – great song, would love a bit more tapping out. Arte talks in every langue – she’s like a flight announcement. Frothy, needs balls. Arta gets 4 audience men to dance on stage. Really?? A bride as a prize?? Bit weird. Bit buy-a-Russian-bride. Man comes on stage with showgirl holding a baby. Weird. Like Fire number, film Showgirls hand-move. Arte, she’s good, but I want a larger personality to carry the show, she’s slightly lacking in charisma. How do shows queer themselves? Finale black and pink. Love Me, 6 girls, topless, platform shoes for shorter dancers. Oui Je T’aime finale number.
Winkle pickers, black shirt white waistcoat. Silver ballet flats, hookeresque platforms, red patent t-bar, 2 flapper head bands, 3 feather hair clips, fishnets, patterned tights, lots of black, feather boa, 1 scruffy couple, top hat, red stilettos, puff ball skirt, patterned dress with leggings with pixie / cowboy boots, stiletto platform oxfords, jarvis cocker with longer straggly hair, plaid shirt, jeans and doccers, purple chiffon wrap dress with boach, mini top hat, blonde dreadlocks (girl) with duffel coat, black trousers, Eastpak and trainers. Fishnet stockings with visible suspenders, sparkly puff sleeves, man with dreadlocks, red and black corset with puff ball skirt, gatenet tights with patent black shoes, black dress with silver sparkles, red lippy with hair band, pin strip suit with waistcoat, shiny suit, grey suit, black shirt, purple tie and bald head, red tennis shoes, slacks and stripped shirt. Green strapless dress matching shoes and black jacket, 15 denier black tights. Sloochy top, mini skirt, leggings, big biker boots, addidas trainers, brown leather jacket and jeans, tartan skirt and black corset. High necked slinky dress with red and white corset, pink beanie hat, black layered frilled skirt, gothic flouncy coat, curler-ed hair. Flat shoes, vest top, satchel, curly mop over one side with stripe shirt, black waistcoat, converse with suit, glitter beanie, white thin cardie over dress, red corset with black lace, pencil skirt exposing hip bones.