Real women do burlesque

By SARA FAITH ALTERMAN  |  February 17, 2007

Scratch is a little more forthcoming. “The burlesque world is a funny, small pond. I’d like to see it get as big as possible, but there are people who want to keep the pond small because they’ve worked very hard to become big fish. They resist expansion of the pond because they’d rather stay big fish than risk the chance that someone or something is going to come along and eclipse them.”

The Great Boston Burlesque Exposition will unite most of these troupes at the same event for the first time. Whether the venue morphs into grounds for a love fest or a catfight remains to be seen.

“It will be interesting to see how everyone reacts when we’re together backstage,” Thru the Keyhole’s Tallulah muses over a chai latte, chewing on a ruby-painted lip. “The community is very disjointed. I don’t think there’s a lot of back and forth. I would like to see everyone be very supportive of each other, come out to each other’s shows, but I think we are very different, so it might not make a whole lot of sense.”

“Right now, it’s just sort of a smattering of troupes,” Devilicia, the Black Cat, says. “I think both as a community and also [in terms of] really grabbing a dedicated, regular audience, Boston still has a ways to go.”

It could be that this lack of cohesive community bond is consistent with the nature of burlesque itself. Most of these women stay completely in character even while offstage. Just sitting in a Central Square coffeehouse with a fire eating, raven-haired pixie is unbelievably intimidating. It seems that the closer the public gets, the more guarded these women become — hence the lack of off-stage names in this article. It makes sense that they’d be reluctant to bond outside their troupe. These women are not mother-hen nurturers.

Personally, I’d love to see a West Side Story kind of dance off, right in the middle of Comm Ave outside the Paradise. “When you’re a Doll you’re a Doll all the way . . .” Sorry. Got caught up there.

Laces teased through tiny eyelets, she shrugs her corset from her shoulders and allows it to dangle from her fingertips, shaking it at the audience as if daring them to protest. The corset drops to the floor but a feather boa instantly takes its place, shielding prying, hungry eyes from her pièce de résistance.

A name like Sugar Dish promises pink, delicate sex. Think about it. Think lower. It’s a euphemism for — there ya go. Sugar Dish herself, though, ain’t no fragile flower. A professional ballerina for 20 years (some of them spent with Boston Ballet), she formed Babes in Boinkland as an offshoot of the locally based, Boston University–started Boink Magazine. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It’s a sex magazine made by and for college students, and it’s sizzling hot. Makes sense that it would jump on the burlesque mechanical bull. Initially a promotional tool for the magazine, Babes in Boinkland has taken on a life of its own. The troupe prides itself on its contemporary music and thematic material.

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