I’ve always imagined the Burlesque as a feast of firm bodies of seductive dancers who wave feathers, unlace corsets, flutter eyelashes and twirl breasts making the nipple tassels move to music. A choreographic mixture of femininity, eroticism and sensuality, that catches the curious eyes of attendees waiting for the next inches of skin to be unveiled.
On the day a friend gave me a ticket for a Burlesque show to be performed on the Christmas stage in Leicester Square, I knew my moment had come.
The framework was perfect: a London crawling with people willing to make a gently fresh Saturday night of November memorable; a Christmas version of Leicester Square, filled with the aroma of pancakes and the steam of mulled wine; a ’20s style Spiegeltent ready to collect the applause and cheering of an enthusiastic public.
The leaflet featuring a showgirl silhouette outlined by the fluorescent details of the costume and the title House of Burlesque 2.0 got me ready for a non-traditional show.
House of Burlesque: 2.0 show presentation
I was prepared for a neon futuristic retelling and, in fact, the show was opened by a digital woman’s face in robot voice and included some performances with the lights off and glow in the dark hula-hooping to dubstep music.
What I wasn’t ready for was an army of feminist showgirls directed by Miss Tempest Rose, the audacious queen of the show, well determined to redeem the Burlesque as an art form and fight for the rights of all the women in the world to the cry of F*ck That Sh*t.
Mastering the art of oratory, singing and dancing, the voluptuous presenter run the show as a satirical/cabaret-like performance confronting today’s big issues with provocative, sassy tones.
Her flamboyant costumes, sensual lingerie and nipples tassels encrusted with rhinestones, were charming the spectators’ eyes, while her deep and penetrating voice was awakening their minds by reciting a biting monologue.
The message spread loud and clear to the back row: the Burlesque is not just a mere striptease but a spectacular celebration of womanhood, regardless of body shape or skin colour; a show performed by sensual, intriguing and also smart women who shouldn’t be judged by the inches of skin they decide to expose. F*ck that Sh*t!
Miss Tempest Rose 
Bowing out, Miss Tempest Rose left the stage to her army of showgirls who, while stripping off the layers of ruffles, feathers, sequins and laces, got the little things off their chests; while advancing toward the audience, they twisted the stiletto heel into the scourges of our time.
First, it came the time of an animated Botticelli’s Venus who, tired of staying passively still to be stared at, dismounted off her shell.
Then the one of a Jack Sparrow’s sexy alter-ego hiding a semi-transparent jumpsuit with a glittered skeleton under her pirate costume. She was dancing, deliberately graceless, to the Hip-Hop/rap sound of Opulence, repeatedly interrupted by promotional claims, till she rebelled against the intrusive nature of advertising with a blatant This is bullsh*t!
For a few minutes, the show pushed to the brink of good taste and blocked the cheers (mine, at least). A curvy red-haired, white-(un)dressed showgirl started to undress to the sound of She’s a Lady miming menstrual cramps and breast pains, showing to the audience red-stained glove and brief. The performance ended to the strains of a non-random Bad Blood, drawing attention to the tampon tax, a contemporary target of global protests.
Then it was the calm after the storm: applause broke free in front of the energic performance of a talented dancer playing Josephine Baker in her best-known version, dressed in a banana skirt.
Alix Ross playing Josephine Baker 
Close to the end of the show, the whole crew performed in military attire, equipped with batons, prising the suffragette’s efforts to the fight for the recognition of women’s rights. Looking fierce at the public, they dusted off the claim ‘Deeds Not Words‘ written inside the jacked pulled off Miss Tempest Rose.
The closing parade in a minimalist outfit and feather fans waved to say goodbye to the audience, cooled the spirits and toned it down. Almost as if it was a Burlesque show with no 2.0 at the end.
I got up from my chair weirded out and incredulous.
I sat there hoping for being projected into an old-time scenario but instead I’ve been catapulted into the big issues of a still strongly male-dominated and patriarchal society, being called to join the battle cry/hashtag #F*ckThatSh*t.
Sunday morning, in front of a British pancake topped with Italian honey, I gathered my thoughts about the night.
No question about the content and the importance of the message: never more than now, we need bold and self-confident women who go get that gender equality they deserve, marching on killer heels or in comfortable sneakers, dressed how much they wish.
I just wasn’t expecting a Burlesque show to be used as a media for spreading that message. All I ever asked for was to keep the mind off and indulge the pleasure of seeing rotating breasts and glutes separated by a rhinestone string.
Sunday afternoon I put my lingering/remaining doubts in the hands of Mr Google and my disappointment turned into a symptom of ignorance in front of the responses of Miss Wikipedia.
The free and collaborative encyclopedia reminded me that the Burlesque was originally born, right there in England, as a satirical show, and acquired a more comic and parodistic (burlesque, indeed) character over time. Then the ’90s vintage wave which dust off Victorian girdles and feather fans, made it turn into a more and more light entertainment, performed by less and less dressed dancers, sometimes called Neo-burlesque.
Lightness was exactly what I wanted to be inebriated of by attending an erotic show able to make me smile, and not only to dramatically remind me that being a woman means bleeding once every 28 days. F*ck that sh*t!
  Photographies by The Burly Photographer