Here are some photographs from the exhibition I recently put together, based around my book, Viewing Pleasure and Being A Showgirl, How Do I Look? Thanks to the artists who took part: Sophie Lisa Beresford, Julie Cook, Nwando Ebizie as Lady Vendredi, Alice Finch, Laura Gonzalez, Lucy Halstead, Sharon Kivland, Britten Leigh, Chloe Nightingale, and Isabella Streffen.
I’m putting together a group show for the Market Gallery, Huddersfield. It is based on the conclusion of my recently published book. Come join me for the opening 11th October.
My book has been published, Routledge.
About the book:
Drawing on interviews with a breadth of different showgirls, from shows in Paris, Las Vegas, Berlin, and Los Angeles, as well as her own artworks and those by other contemporary and historical artists, this book examines the experiences of showgirls and those who watch them, to challenge the narrowness of representations and discussions around what has been termed ‘sexualisation’ and ‘the gaze’. An account of the experience of being ‘looked at’, the book raises questions of how the showgirl is represented, the nature of the pleasure that she elicits and the suspicion that surrounds it, and what this means for feminism and the act of looking.
An embodied articulation of a new politics of looking, Viewing Pleasure and Being a Showgirl engages with the idea (reinforced by feminist critique) that images of women are linked to selling and that women’s bodies have been commodified in capitalist culture, raising the question of whether this enables particular bodies – those of glamorous women on display – to become scapegoats for our deeper anxieties about consumerism.
Over the summer I became an expert showgirl-spectacle viewer.
During one show in Paris, my mind wandered and I began to develop a future consulting job for myself in which I get invited to view shows at rehearsal stage in order to advise how pleasure might be best generated in the show. I pictured my business card, ‘Dr Alison J Carr – showgirl consultant’. I mean, I think I could really help shows out, despite their wonderfulness, they really can make some bad dubious directional decisions. I could help them avoid that and enable them to create appeal for the broadest possible audience. And I could get to see the shows for free.
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.