There ain’t nothin’ wrong with a little bump and grind and Chocolate City’s Burlesque & Cabaret (CCBC) had a whole lotta shakin’ going on. G strings and pasties and a skin show with feathers galore like Pussy Galore created enough bed-lam to arouse a full response (as in full frontal) with CCCB’s climactic third annual review. Burlesque has been around since the Greeks and Chocolate City’s troupe of sexy- mama provocateurs exuded enough sexual energy to shake the Shakti out the gods themselves with their titillating (as in T&A), tantalizing Black Friday strip tease extravaganza at the GALA Hispanic Theatre.
The eternally elegant Tony Elling, an 87-year old living legend ecdysiast (a lovely euphemism for strip tease artist), was guest of honor and co-host. She’s still the Satin Doll namesake of The Duke himself. Tony took us back in time when stripping meant teasing the heck out of the sensual removal of a simple elbow-length glove. We’ve come a long way since then, baby, but the sexy Burl-e-que vibes are still the same. As an American theatrical art form, burlesque has been above ground as in Minsky Theater days and vaudeville and underground during prohibition only to enjoy a neo-revival in the 1990s. Today, burlesque enjoys a cult following that is totally into its rebirth.
Add the exotic shake dance dynamics of Women of Color in Burlesque and you have the perfect concoction for a variety show that is creatively risqué, over-the top raunchy, brashly self-determined with uninhibited raciness and sexual self-confidence. Chocolate City Burlesque & Cabaret was one of the most uniquely entertaining and downright fun times that I have ever spent in the theater.
Remember Mister’s hoochie-coochie love interest in The Color Purple, Shug Avery? Well, she’s still strutting her stuff as Hell O’Kitty performed “Shug’s Night,” a shim-sham-shimmy with glitter and feather boas flying as Shug ripped off her flapper-fringed red dress and diamond headdress down to her red tasseled pasties dancing to an apropos black-bottom musical tune. Talk about black bottoms!
I thought I saw shades of Josephine Baker’s Danse Sauvage in GiGi Holliday’s “Wild Woman” performance. Scheherazade music and GiGi’s slithering, writhing undressing recreated “La Baker”’s wild child dancing with sexy, carefree abandon. The only thing missing was the banana skirt.\
Guest artist Zou Zou, “The Hooping Sensation” pushed sensuality to new delights with the simple addition of a hula hoop. But this hoop was a veritable ring of fire as Zou Zou pranced about skillfully caressing her leopard-skin clad body from head to toe with a burning hula hoop. We always knew that sex and danger were a twosome but who would have thought that real fire had that much sexual potential.
One of the most beautiful dancers of the evening was Fox Martin’s classic burlesque “Bird of Paradise.” Covered by only big, delicately quivering beige-colored feathered fans, Fox teased the audience into her big reveal of shimmering pasties and shining thong. Her own gorgeous beige-colored skin matched her fans and Fox was like an exotic chick emerging from the womb of a sexily feathered nest.
“Grown and Sexy” was an understatement as Ms. Angel twerked off her black and pink polka dotted bustier all the way down to her hanging pearl pasties. And the flamboyant Bunny Vicious bump and grinded to “The Purple One.” Her act was described as bad bunny habits but it was more like her unabashedly expressing an urge to emerge in her birthday suit. Bunny was the sole act that stripped down to the bare elements with full frontal nudity as she slithered on the floor to a catchy Prince tune.
Before the 30-minute intermission break, co-host Ché Monique, co-founder of Chocolate City Burlesque & Cabaret, along with co-founder Dainty Dandridge, emceed a hilarious glove peel competition as Miss Tony Elling taught 10 eager men and women onstage how to take it off with grace and style, using just a glove. And the entire audience was encouraged to come onstage for a dance party break as the GALA Hispanic Theatre’s black box stage was filled with folks doing The Wobble – fully dressed, however.
Ms. Angel and Gigi Holliday pranced and danced as Dainty Dandridge sang to “Chocolate City Love.” Their gold lame dresses flew through the air to a synchronized R&B dance beat as they stripped down to their pasties Las Vegas showgirl style.
The gender-bending, androgynous shadow dancing and audience interaction of Fox Martin’s cross-dressing on “Mr. Love You Down” was full of surprises including Jack-in-the Box popping out of unspeakable body parts. This was one sexually creative show!
Chicava Honeychild, guest performer and brainchild of “Brown Girls Burlesque “of New York presented the elegant “Jezebel” in classic burlesque style. Dancing to Etta James’ “Trust in Me” and tastefully dressed in a refined silver gown and floor-length multicolored tulle evening coat, Chicava stripped down to her dainty silver pasties and fringed G-string as she commanded the stage with her presence and the power of woman who is comfortable in her own skin–clothed or unclothed.
Honeychild has an MFA from Goddard College in the arts is a serious researcher of Black Burlesque. She has written extensively, contributing to the scholarly body of knowledge about this important American art form. Chicava, along with Ché Monique of CCBC are passionately dedicated to celebrating and preserving the art of Black Burlesque. And from the likes of this show, they are doing a great job.
And what better way to close the show than with a doll for a performance that was full of delectable dancing dolls. Eva Mystique’s “Eva’s Doll” brought to life a sashaying painted doll who was unafraid to show us exactly what was underneath her pretty red dress. Not much!
There’s more to burlesque than scantily clad women, however. At its root, burlesque is about women owning their sexuality and defying social norms to tell a story of “body-positive, woman-affirming sensuality.” Burlesque uncovers a uniquely American way of celebrating self; and Chocolate City Burlesque & Cabaret knows how to take it off with class.
Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with one 30-minute intermission.
Chocolate City Burlesque and Cabaret performed for one-night-only at GALA Hispanic Theatre – 3333 14th Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets for future events at GALA, call (202) 234-7174, or purchase them online.
Tonight at 8 PM at GALA Hispanic Theatre: Chocolate City Burlesque and Cabaret Presents the Third Annual ‘Black Friday’ by Ché Monique.
William Powell reviews Chocolate City Burlesque’s Third Annual ‘Black Friday’ on DCMetroTheaterArts.