Boulder Burlesque: Love and Loss
Jenn Zuko • August 23, 2016 • Boulder Fringe Festival •
The audience files in quietly, taking in the beauty of the church sanctuary, admiring the peaked, mullioned windows and the propensity of warm wooden surfaces everywhere: floors, wall sconces, pews. The audience spaces itself out in said wooden pews, knees resting inches from Bibles, hymn books moved aside to have room to sit. As the congregation admires the near-sunset sunshine, streaming in from the translucent windows, a lean, lacy-legged woman strides out onstage in impossibly high heels that tie up her leg, and awkwardly cracks a whip down center. Smiling easily, she tries another couple of times before getting a really satisfying crakk! sound, and the audience shows its approval with startled but delighted applause. She greets us, and remarks that it always takes a few tries with those things…
The woman is Madame Merci, the emcee of Boulder Burlesque’s evening called Love and Loss. She serves as an anchor of sorts throughout the hour of sexy dance pieces. And although she does perform a couple of times herself, is more of a travel guide for us through the journey of powerful sexuality, sensuality, beauty, and exploration. A strip club this is not, as the evening stays under the theme of the title. Madame Merci narrates for us in between each piece of autobiographical anecdotes, brief performer bios, philosophical ruminations on the burlesque arts, and the dancers are both less nude and more sexual than you’d find at a strip joint.
Things that stand out about this group include Merci herself, as she opens the evening discussing the fact that we are in a church, and that in some countries doing such a thing would be punishable by death. To be reminded of privilege is a very good thing, and Merci proceeded to give the audience permission, for many things, throughout the evening. The performances were lovely, with ladies and gentlemen of various body types and shades. This was nice to see: a much wider spectrum of real sexy beauty than one would normally find in a strip club. What was missing for me was a high level of dance ability that I (for some reason) came expecting. Sexy and fun, lovely and creative, they all were, but technical excellence in dance I didn’t find. Thing is, that’s really not the point of this show. At all.
And there was audience participation. Not only the catcalls and applause, which were whip-encouraged by Merci, but in one group dance, any audience members that felt the impulse were allowed on stage in whatever state of undress they felt comfortable in, to join the dancers in one very tribal piece.
Overall, I recommend Love and Loss wholeheartedly. It’s a lovely, sexy, fun, heckuva time.
You can experience Boulder Burlesque’s Love and Loss at the Pine Street Church Sanctuary