Review: Exotic World & the Burlesque Revival

Dear Constant Reader,

While the rest of the burlesque world was in Las Vegas at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend, I stayed home and watched this documentary. It’s become an annual ritual for me.

Exotic World and the Burlesque Revival by Red Tremmel (2012)

Quick explanation for my non-burlesque readers: Exotic World was founded by Jennie Lee, The Bazoom Girl, as a burlesque museum and retirement home for former strippers. The museum was originally a goat farm in the Mojave Desert and as you might imagine, it was not over-run with visitors. After Jennie Lee’s death, Dixie Evans (The Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque) took over the place and then created the Miss Exotic World pageant to bring more people in.

The film chronicles Exotic World’s struggle to stay afloat and its rise as a place of pilgrimage for neo-burlesque performers. It’s full of interviews with Legends, more precious now that some of them have since left us, and with some of the pioneers of the burlesque revival. The documentary was shot over the course of several years, so you see the how the pageant grows, but also how the museum decays. It ends as Exotic World is packed up for the move to Las Vegas and the gates are closed.

It’s always a bittersweet experience watching it. The clips of the pageant are a delight to watch. There’s so much energy and excitement amongst the performers. It’s marvelous to watch the early days of some icons of the modern burlesque scene, like Dirty Martini and Kitten De Ville. Then there are the scenes in the museum itself. The newer performers treat it with reverence and awe. The Legends are more nostalgic: these were their friends, their youth, a lost past.

It’s hard seeing this amazing collection in the crumbling surroundings. There was something wonderful about this gem in the desert, but it was also delapidated, leaking, and insect-infested. Dixie tried her best, but there’s only so much that can be done on volunteers and hope. It did my museum-trained heart good to see the collection being packed up in acid-free tissue by white-gloved workers, even as I got weepy seeing the end of an era. Someday those treasures will see the light of day again.

Occasionally in watching the documentary I would pull back and try to watch it as someone from outside our Glitter Tribe and think “who are these half-naked freaks in the desert?” But for the most part the love from the young performers and the filmmakers comes through.

Exotic World is an important part of our history and we can never again visit that old goat farm in Helendale (I missed it by a year). The film immortalizes the words of Legends now gone (including our beloved Dixie) and the leaders of our current revival. A taste of what Exotic World once was is preserved. It is so, so important that all modern burlesquers see this documentary.

To that end, I’m going to give away a copy of the documentary. Just leave a comment here naming your favorite Legend of burlesque (living or not) and a short explanation of why. You can leave a comment here (not on Facebook or any of the other places I post this link) up until 9AM on June 14, I’ll pick a commenter at random and the DVD is yours!

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 7 June 2017 at 2:32 pm  Comments (5)  
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Review: Best Assets & Rock Bottom

Dear Constant Reader,

New review! I recently subjected myself to the “Burlesque Booty Workout” DVDs and this is what I found…

Best Assets and Rock Bottom by Gal Friday and Peekaboo Pointe (2013)

Each DVD follows the same format. There’s a stretching warm-up, then 3 segments each teaching a couple of burlesque moves which are good for toning your bum, each set of moves is followed by a 10-minute workout using those moves, plus others. You can also select the continuous 30-minute workout of all three workouts. Each disk ends with a toning workout from one of the instructors. On “Best Assets” that’s a Pilates-based core & leg workout (with a little upper body works) from Peekaboo and on “Rock Bottom” it’s a squats routine with Gal.

The instructors trade off teaching the individual moves, but they both do the workout, with one taking the lead. Sometimes the other one offers a side view which can be really helpful to see what your backside is supposed to be doing. They wear cute go-go outfits with spangly sneakers to add some burlesque appeal to the bumping & grinding workouts.

However, the toning workouts are all business. Gal’s has a lot of teaching about the different kids of squats. Peek’s is 24 minutes (yes, I was watching the clock) of pure ass-kicking. I enjoyed both and will probably incorporate aspects of each one into my usual fitness routine.

There’s quite a bit of overlap between the two DVDs with a couple of the same burlesque moves being taught on both disks. However, despite the repeated instruction, the workouts associated with those moves are very different. Also, there are moves that are taught on one disk, but then used in a workout on the other. If you do “Best Assets” first, you’ll learn some moves that appear in the “Rock Bottom” workouts, but not in its instructional sections.

Although the workouts are mostly focused on hips & glutes, there are still some moves for the upper body (stripper pushups, anyone?). Most of the workouts are done standing, but there’s some floorwork too, so you might want a yoga mat.

I would have liked to have had a cool down as well as a warm up, ’cause I was sweating by the end. A little less chitchat during the workouts would also be nice. There was a little teaching during some of the workouts, which slows everything down and I didn’t want to stop moving. Lastly, I do wish the 2 DVDs were completely independent of one another or had been packaged as a 2-disk set. I bought both of them, but someone who only bought “Rock Bottom” might be lost when the moves taught on “Best Assets” came into play.

The production values were very good, which I have come to expect from World Dance New York projects. I think these workouts were a lot of fun, a good workout, and you’re going to get very familiar with the butt isolation. Trust me.

M2

Published in: on 23 April 2014 at 3:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Review: Crazy Horse

Dear Constant Reader,

Crazy Horse, directed by Fredrick Wiseman (2011).

The good people at Zipporah Films sent me a copy of Crazy Horse to review. When I started watching the movie, I knew of the Crazy Horse in Paris, although I’ve never been.* Beyond that, I went into it a tabula rasa.

Unlike your average documentary, there are no voice overs, no captions, and no focal point. The camera roves around the Crazy Horse while a new show, Desir, is in creation. It’s almost entirely in French, with subtitles, so I found I had to pay close attention or I’d get totally lost**. We jump between rehearsals, performances, back stage, and conversations. There are too many establishing shots of Paris and the camera frequently lingers on stage lights changing colors. Honestly, I found it tedious — 2 plus hours was a bit much.

After watching it, I learned that Fredrick Wiseman is famed for his fly-on-the-wall style of film making***.

Also, I learned that I am a philistine, because all the critics absolutely raved about this film and its brilliance.

What did I like? The performance footage. It was quite inspiring. Many of the acts involved fabulous lighting effects, either silhouettes or colored images projected on the dancers. And It’s nice to see that a big-budget show has some of the same problems as our little shoe-string productions.

After a while I did get used to the fact the film had no overt adgenda, like many documentaries, but just sort of drifted around. Eventually I figured out most of what was going on, but I’m still not sure who some of the people were or their roles in the show.

M2

* I have been to the Moulin Rouge, but that’s neither here nor there.
** My French is okay, but not good enough to only listen and still follow along.
** Sometimes called it “observational cinema” or “cinéma vérité”, but apparently he dislikes those terms.

Published in: on 14 August 2013 at 11:35 am  Leave a Comment  
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