Burlesque is known for its tongue-in-cheek kitsch and over-the-top glamorous glittery corseted ladies who bare just the right amount of flesh. But this Christmas Burlesque Cardiff are bringing an alternative element to burlesque with their horror-themed show, The Nightmare before Christmas.
Burlesque remains one of the most popular forms of performance art in the UK since its revival in the 1990s. There is talk of a new burlesque club coming to Cardiff, and from shows like Club Noir in Glasgow to London Burlesque to the UK’s very own Burlesque Magazine, it looks like the act of the sultry tease is here to stay.
The brains behind the burlesque
Stephanie Gawne, aka Miss FooFoo La Belle, is a bubbly buxom blonde who created Burlesque Cardiff three years ago. Stephanie’s background is in musical theatre, and she has a pretty impressive resume: she has ridden elephants in circuses, performed in pantomimes and taught classes in everything from pilates to bellydancing. It was her background in cabaret and bellydancing that led her to become interested in the burlesque revival.
Stephanie, aka FooFoo la Belle, of Burlesque Cardiff at rehearsals for the Christmas show
“I like the idea of having the themes and characterisation,” says Stephanie on her reasons for loving burlesque. She decided to set up burlesque workshops in Cardiff for Dita Von Teese wannabes. “There was a definite niche in the market,” Stephanie remembers, “for somebody who could set up classes that people could come to and do routines for any age and any body type, to make up a kind of crazy completely eclectic little chorus.” Stephanie’s ‘eclectic little chorus’ of students now join her onstage as the stars of Burlesque Cardiff’s live shows.
The ladies of Burlesque Cardiff finish up a day of rehearsals
Stephanie relishes picking themes for Burlesque Cardiff’s performances. “We started off doing generic themes, but I realised we were repeating ourselves, and Cardiff is quite a small place,” says Stephanie. This led her to make the themed shows more specific. “We once did a Welsh themed show,” Stephanie laughs, revealing a glittering tongue stud. “That went down really well!” Other previous shows include a sci-fi theme, a retro 1940s show and the Toy Emporium, which Stephanie says featured a mix of “warped childhood memories”. Next year’s show is set to be an 80s themed performance, entitled Back to the Future.
Click to hear what Burlesque performers Belladonna Bliss and Miss Betty Blue Eyes love about the art of burlesque.
BurlesqueCardiff by hannahmayk
The dark side of burlesque
Stephanie reveals that many of her performance pieces can be quite dark, including performances influenced by Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride and the character of Pris from Blade Runner. In their upcoming show, The Nightmare before Christmas, Burlesque Cardiff are focusing on the dark side of burlesque. The decision to incorporate horror into burlesque at Christmas rather than at Halloween is an unusual move, but this is exactly why Stephanie chose to do so. “I came up with the idea over the summer. We’d just done the Toy Emporium, which was very kitsch. We wanted to do something a bit more edgy.” The concept is more popular than expected, and Stephanie states that she has heard of other burlesque troupes putting on Nightmare before Christmas shows, one such example being the Nightmare before Christmas Zombie Burlesque show in London. “I think people are getting bored of the kitsch, cutesy Christmas shows,” Stephanie muses.
Horror and burlesque are a common collaboration and Stephanie believes that this is particularly down to the influence of Gothic horror. The iconography of early black and white movies has had a significant influence on the burlesque revival. “There is a definite link to the horror,” Stephanie says. “Gothic looking women, vampires, tight corsets and heaving breasts: there is a lot of sexuality behind it.”
Burlesque Cardiff vamp it up
Cardiff’s Nightmare before Christmas
The Nightmare before Christmas show is much more than just a stage performance. Rather than a homage to the film of the same name, it will feature a series of non-linear burlesque sketches. As well as performances from Foo Foo herself and many of her former students, who have taken on stage names like Belladonna Bliss and Miss Betty Blue Eyes, there will be a number of other forms of entertainment throughout the night. These include guest performer Misty Fire from Leeds and comedian Owen Niblock, ‘the master of all geekdom’. Rogora Khart will provide the music for the after party, and there will be a range of stalls selling burlesque clothes and jewellery, as well as a professional photographer and cakes.
Stephanie is careful not to reveal too much about the show herself, although she admits to being a bit nervous about her new solo. “I haven’t done this solo in public before,” she states, “But I’ll be happy if I get a reaction and it goes down well. It’s a bit of a crazy idea!” The show is being performed on December 22 at Guildford Hall, and unfortunately sold out two weeks in advance. This is only a further example of how burlesque is still as popular as ever, particularly when it has an alternative edge.
Fancy joining the troupe?
If you are interested in becoming involved with Burlesque Cardiff, contact FooFoo either on Facebook, through her website or through the Burlesque Cardiff Website.