The Variety Ball

The Boomb Funk Variety Performers
12 & 13 October 2018, Fringe in the ‘Stings
By Nadia Kersel

I’ve seen plenty of striptease, exotic dance and drag. But I’ll admit, I’m pretty much a burlesque virgin. So far my only experience of “live” burlesque is when I watched that snore-fest of a movie and barely came out of it alive. Maybe it was the connotation of the event being a “Ball” or the tension of wonder that saw me scribble these anticipatory notes:

Pre-Ball notes

  • hmm, the description of the show says kooky.  I don’t really trust this word, or fully understand it.  It’s like what my parent’s generation would say when they’re trying to work out their iPhones…
  • The performers names are awesomely pun-tastic, what would my burlesque name be?
  • Where is the line drawn between sexy and, well, smutty?
  • Expect a drunk crowd
  • Please God, let there be tassels … please?

In an appropriately cheeky mood, I bound into Common Room.  It’s been stormy and maybe this is why there are seats to spare.  Having the space to choose a vantage point feels luxurious so I give my handbag and wineglass their very own seat.

The night’s hostess is Cherry Boomb, Hawke’s Bay’s very own Miss Burlesque, fresh off the stages of London and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  Styled with pin-up flair she’s confident and casually witty, but with an edge that suggests a performer who is well practised in her character and at ease with her skill.

The troupe of entertainers perform solo or double acts which range from burlesque and belly dancing to silk fans and a sexy solo ballad. Exquisite costumes swirl, shimmer, and clink as each act displays their form.  They don’t just wear the costumes, they bring them to life. The dancers themselves are a deeply gratifying variety of age and body shape. Being a woman in the crowd, I feel this as a warmly appreciated smile and wink, just to me.  They don’t perform for the male gaze, they seem to play with the very idea of it. As such, my own gaze softens, and that inner virgin of mine settles.

Like many in the crowd, I start out with modest responses to the acts, clapping and whistling. But by the end of the first half these grow into whoops of exhilaration and encouragement. Inter-sped with these are moments of quiet leaning-in where we simply behold the sight and sound of bodies moving in expressive sensuality – curvy fish-netted-legs performing splits, serpentine movements of spine and abdomen, a shimmy of shoulder, a tasseled shake of breasts or the rousing jiggle of buttocks. All ending in an open invitation to dance, smile and have fun.

 The Boom Funk Variety Performers are composers of glamour and playful expression.  They perform again tonight and really do deserve a full house. Definitely worth the trip out.

Post-ball notes

  • If that’s what kooky is, sign me up!
  • Where can I buy some tassels?

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