Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Review: CLASS ACT! The graduate class of Toronto School of Burlesque Sept 12, 2013

ROUND - a great little performance venue & restaurant

On Thursday, September 12th I had the pleasure of seeing CLASS ACT - the debut burlesque recital for the graduates of the Toronto School of Burlesque's VIXEN 101 and VIXEN 102 classes at the newly renovated and renamed ROUND venue in Toronto's Kensington Market. When one goes to any burlesque show with a set of performers one has never seen before he becomes quickly aware that he might be up for anything at all. I'm delighted to say that not only did the evening showcase the skills and techniques taught at the TSB, but introduced a number of performers who will go a long way to keeping the area burlesque shows fresh for a long time.  

In the often uncomfortable position of beginning the evening's festivities, Ms Celladore Violet started the evening off with a jailbreak number (rather a burlesque staple, now) with a smoothness of flow from beat to beat of the performance and looking incredible as a slinky cloud of glitter and silk. There was a fun little signature move that Ms Celladore used where she substituted her handcuffs for gloves for a glove-peel, something I hadn't seen anybody else do before, and this helped the piece be more than just another grind to another rockabilly jail break song. One's given the impression that Knox Harter and Red Herring go a ways to remind their students that floor work is something that usually doesn't translate to burlesque so much as it does to traditional stripping, and although there was a little here, Ms Celladore was quick back up on her pegs so the back row could see her do her strut. Very fun stuff.

Next up was Moxy Misfit in another traditional neo-burlesque scenario, the nudie housewife in the kitchen who goes from batter tasting to tassel twirling.   A lot of beginning burlesque performers give themselves too much business to do with props or costumes, often I suspect, because they're afraid they might not have enough to offer just as a straightforward burly-peel. I heard later that Moxy was a little unconfident when it came to her abilities as a dancer but that wasn't something that came across at all as she steamily posed and peeled, each move clear and clean and confident, then went back to the bowl and spoon. This might have been more evident if she hadn't chosen her music as well as she had, but the kind of New Wave Glam she had brought to the stage matched with the music from the same time period so everything moved very smoothly - I'm curious as to what she'll be showing us next, and that's kind of what every performer works towards. This was a sexy, sexy, piece. 

The notion of a innocent ingenue character who's guilelessly showing you more and more as she loses more clothing during her act, is a character type we don't really have many people doing in Toronto, so seeing Paige LaPearl, the next performer doing a cute "oops - those are my panties!" raincoat number was a welcome change. A cute traditional strip with strong character elements that show her strengths as an actress and dancer while still underlining her Princess persona and leaving you wanting more. 

Next up was the incredibly Amazonian and awesomely booty-shaking Ferrera Rosé, a beautiful coco-buttery hardbody who has legs going up to her ears. She treated us to a basic burly chairdance with a great soul hiphop edge to it. Nice use of the space around the chair and showing the audience different levels as she peeled. Very powerful and grounded when she's on stage - and tons of donk in that badonkadonk

Orchestra - Curtain Lights - This is it, the Night of Nights.

Frankie Harlowe followed with a fun and engaging NeoGatsby dubstep strip - kind of Vegas burlesque-ey but with a bit of the down and dirty stripper grind to give it seasoning. She had one move that I had never seen before where she distracts the audience by tossing a handkercheif or scarf down the front of her body and slowly letting it follow the curve as her body as it dropped to the floor, distracting the crowd from the fact that she was unfastening her bra at the same time.  VERY NICE. 

The lovely Kensie Vicious, a talented burlesquer in her own right (if her "That's Not My Name" number at last month's REVEAL ME is any indicator) was working as stage manager and was seen kittening between acts. The sign of a good stage kitten is that they keep your eyes busy and your mind engaged and still manage to clear the floor of anything that was thrown on it in the previous number. Kensie's put a bit of thought into how she's looking when she's on stage, so her kittening character is funny and sassy and a lot more interesting than some of the dejected laundry collection I've seen in other shows.

The first half ended with a charming group number by a few of the students from both the 101 and 102 classes.  Very nice use of the military call back built into Christina Aguilera's Candy Man with a choreography by Knox Harter. The second half of the show featured more seasoned burlesque students who had finished the Vixens 102 unit taught at the school.

In a deceptively simple but slow and steamy gradual tease, the beautiful Callie Brie was next up. There was something very naughty Summer Camp/BoatHouse Fantasy to this burly-peel. This wasn't specifically in anything that she had done but definitely with the amount of confidence she was exuding and the timing that she allowed herself as she worked from top to bottom with a high back chair as a prop. Again - very nice use of every level of the performance area and a simple but effective piece and definitely one that was considered an introduction to her stage persona. Very impressive work

Graduation Night VIXENS!

Going from the minimalist to the full out Vegas Spectacle, the next performer SlyMaria worked what is another stock burlesque scenario (mousey quiet to vibrant showstopper) in an incredible chrysalis to butterfly strip that began with her fighting her way out of her cocoon to spread her wings and fly in a flamboyant fan dance. Beginning is what was almost a Victorian chambermaid/Carol Burnet charwoman drag into a bodypainted stage diva with a fan-cape and wings that spread out, spinning in a kind of Gloria Gaynor glory at it's finish, shaking her head and letting loose a tumble of rainbow-coloured curls from under her frumpy headpiece. Truly a glorious number that showed how far Maria was ready to go to entertain the crowd - who responded with a sitting goal-arms ovation, cheering at the end. More - please more, Maria.

I had had the pleasure of seeing Ms Gracie Klutz as a kitten at BABES IN SPACE as well as showing her introductory act at one of Red's monthly REVEAL MEs, but Gracie had tightened it and played with it a little more than she had before. Funny and sexy and fun.  The mix of song and performance plays with audience's expectations and acceptance of a young lady who's a little clumsy but may have had a little help getting that way -- a wonderful little character piece that introduces her burly persona and makes you wonder what she's going to do with her next.  There are some fun surprises in this number that I won't ruin by talking about them any more, but would recommend seeing her perform when you could. Gracie has the stuff.

There are certain iconic numbers that are immediately recognizable.  If you're a fan of musical theatre you've probably seen Suzanne Charney's lead RICH MAN'S FRUG number from the movie version of Sweet Charity. This I can honestly say that Ms Beaver Galore has not only managed to recreate the spirit of the original Bob Fosse choreography in her version of the first two parts of the piece while still coming up with a signature piece that will get people's attention. This was a straightforward burlesque solo piece that was energetic and fun, incorporating Charney's pony-tail twirl and general slinkiness while still moving the piece forward into a more and more energetic peel. There was this awesome bra flip maneuver that was synced perfectly to the Cy Coleman not-quite-funky funkiness source music in the second half that was a lot of fun  - simple, sure, but I've never seen anyone else do it, and adding enough of a personal touch to that to make her version of the number something that is unique to her without any over ambitious layers of narrative to distract from it. A great, great number. 

The final performer, Ms. Papavera Smalls has already made her appearances as a stage kitten for both the BABES IN SPACE annual Nerdlesque production that Red Herring produced for immediately after Toronto FanExpo this year but also at Red's monthly REVEAL ME BURLESQUE. A beautiful performer with a bouncy energy to her kitten persona, Ms Smalls flipped that over in her Voodoo Child number, which starts with grinder power-posing and hard body burlesque moves that confidentially strutted its way into a krunk when the time came.  - which again keeps things hot and a more seasoned audience members guessing what else is going to happen.

Go see these people perform! Any one of the many regular burlesque events in town could book them and any burly afficianado could do a lot worse than seeing what Red and Knoxie have managed to do with these already very creative young women and their performances. You won't regret it.

Proud burly mamas Knox Harter and Red Herring

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