Burlesque stars from across the country descend on Lyric Theatre Friday and Saturday as Adèle Wolf presents Oklahoma City Burlesque Festival, now in its third year.
Dancers such as Sizzle Dizzle, April Showers, Maxi Millions and Oops the Clown will perform vintage and modern burlesque, belly dance, aerial dance and contortion.
“This festival is mostly burlesque, with a bit of the variety show arts added,” Wolf said. “We will have striptease burlesque, along with aerial hoop performances, tap dancing, belly dancing and an act with a circus dog.”
Wolf, a local dancer and producer, emcees the event.
Burlesque often mixes its celebration of the body and our sexuality with aspects of vaudevillian variety shows, camp and cabaret.
“During the early origins of burlesque in the mid-late 1800s, the performance was mostly a form of satirical theater, a way for society to lampoon current events,” Wolf told Oklahoma Gazette.
As the art form established itself in American venues into the 1930s, Wolf said it grew to include racier aspects such as striptease. Today, how it’s presented also varies depending on where it’s performed.
“There is burlesque that is more performance art, depending on what region you go to,” Wolf said. “In the Midwest, for example, classic style — the vintage traditional showgirl style — is prominent.”
People often confuse burlesque striptease with plain ol’ stripping, she said, but it doesn’t bother her or most other dancers.
But there are differences.
“The emphasis is in the way the art is presented to the audience,” she said. “The costuming and music tell a story, and the attention to stripping and choreography are all things that make up burlesque.”
Audiences also won’t see fully naked women at these types of shows, which generally cater to couples and women.
“There are other places for that,” Wolf said.
Instead, dancers cover their bits with G-strings and pasties.
“Initially, I was struck by the over-the-top glamour of burlesque,” said featured festival performer Maxi Millions.
Soon, she was entranced.
“The costumes, the rhinestones, the women on stage slowly peeling off layer by layer with such power in that, it’s a part of your identity that you don’t always get to show to people,” she said. “I was struck by the power each performer holds on that stage.”
Gritty, Brooklyn-based dancer Sizzle Dizzle, also a featured performer this weekend, sports a streetwise, shaved-head look and a punk rock attitude. For her, it’s not so much about glitter and glam as it is about individual expression.
She will perform a fan dance that is inspired by her fascination with WWII in general and, more specifically, how ’30s and ’40s-era women “flexed their muscles outside of the home.”
“I enjoy spinning ideal concepts on their heads,” she said. “Although it is technically a classic fan dance, the physical appearance is anything but classic and elegant.”
Most burlesque dancers use stage names, and many give nods to names of dancers during burlesque’s golden era. However, that’s not quite the case for dancer April Showers, who also will perform.
She took her first name back from the schoolyard hecklers of her youth while also making it a tribute to the old saying about weather.
Learn more about the festival at okcburlesquefest.com.
Oklahoma City Burlesque Festival
8 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma
1727 NW 16th St.
$25-$50 per night
Note: Doors open at 7:30 p.m.
Print headline: Wit, femininity, Oklahoma City Burlesque Festival returns for a star-studded third year.