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Vaudeville vixens perform

BY JUSTUS FLAIR | FEBRUARY 13, 2014 5:00 AM

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A small group of four, with none of the members more dressed up than swingy skirts over leggings, will soon transform into vaudeville vixens. Practicing steps and comparing different versions of songs, they are a mass of hair and sweatshirts, but they will soon be glittery, glamorous, and polished.

The women, members of Les Dames du Burlesque, will be joined by a member of I.C. Kings, comedians, and dancers at 8:30 p.m. Friday as they present the “Big V” at the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St. Admission is $8.

“For this show, our ambition was a little bit more of a vaudeville show, old-school burlesque,” said Les Dames Director Bonita Applebum. She has been with the group since it was founded in 2009 by Nelle Dunlap (a Daily Iowan alumna). “I think it’s important to remember where the roots of burlesque came from, that it was more of a community, family-based show, and it was not just the girls dancing down to their pasties. It’s about the tease, the entertainment, the atmosphere.”

That’s not to say the show isn’t sexy. It opens with a song from Cabaret, which covers (so’s to speak) how the performers are virgins. And two of them are. Virgins to burlesque, that is.

Scarlett Temptation and Vivi Phoenix will make their burlesque débuts in this performance.

“For me, I am a very introverted person, and this is an opportunity for me to contribute something outside of my comfort zone,” Temptation said. “I can’t even talk about sex at all with anyone, and this is an opportunity to experience something I’ve never done before.”

Though Phoenix has a bit more experience with burlesque, this will be her first time on stage.
“I own a burlesque studio in Cedar Rapids, Vitality Fitness and Dance Studio, and I reached out [to Applebum] because I was hoping to collaborate. Cedar Rapids is taking a while to catch on,” she said.

“I love burlesque, because I think it’s empowering for the women — you can be any age or any size. I’m going to be 40 soon. So I felt honored when [Applebum] asked me to perform.”

This show could change their lives. Midnight Roulette, a dancer with the group for the past year, believes her first show did.

“I think that there are a lot of stereotypes surrounding burlesque, drag, etc., and all it takes is one show to change that,” she said. “I was very skeptical attending my first show, and now I love it. You won’t leave unsatisfied.”

Franky D. Lover, a member of I.C. Kings participating in the event, has noticed the audiences’ hesitation.

“When people hear burlesque or drag, they might feel uneasy for all these reasons, when they don’t have to,” he said. “Everybody brings a different element. You’re going to have some stuff that’s sexy, you’re going to have some stuff that’s funny and goofy, and some amazing dancing. People shouldn’t think they know what to expect.”

The audience especially won’t know what to expect with this performance — it incorporates a wide variety of performers and styles.

“[The Big V] is nice for collaboration. If it was just the burlesque, I wouldn’t be in it, the tap dancer wouldn’t be in it, the comedians wouldn’t be in it,” Lover said. “Each group knows what it’s like to do its own show, so it’s nice to kind of break out of that. It allows you to do things you wouldn’t usually be able to do.”

While many people watching these dancers may not think they could do this, Applebum is confident they could, if they tried. Anyone, she said, can feel strong, confident, sexy, and beautiful.

“People take sex too seriously,” she said. “Sex is awkward and funny, and as a woman, it’s very freeing to know that I can embrace sex at all the levels. Sex, and the topic of sex, shouldn’t be scary.”

Midnight Roulette believes society has somewhat robbed women of their ability to freely embrace sexuality.

“Burlesque is all about self-love,” she said. “As a woman of 22, especially growing up in such a sexually driven culture and working in a bar, you feel the male glance taking away a lot from you. Being on stage, I finally felt control. They weren’t taking; I was giving.”


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