Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Arcana Lace, a show from Wild Cherryz Burlesque

A little over a month ago I was picked (har, har) to see Wild Cherryz Burlesque perform their show "Arcana Lace" at the Cutting Room on 32nd Street in Manhattan. The show follows the story of a young woman who has a drunk, abusive husband. She gets her fortune told by a kind magician and then, with the help of the magician and her mother, she realizes she's really hot and lives happily ever after. There was also some lovely singing between sets. At least, that's what I figured when I saw the show. Here's what I should've seen:

“Arcana Lace,” created by Elizabeth DeGennaro and choreographed by Dylan Smith, infuses the themes and music from the 1930’s Carnival, combining a live burlesque dance performance with a heartfelt theatrical storyline. The 45-minute show, inspired by DeGennaro’s showgirl role on “Boardwalk Empire,” tells the story of a lone, lost girl, titled “The Fool”, seeking guidance of a fortune-teller, who reveals her fate through a series of tarot card readings and her journey to changing her future.

Here's the trailer for the show:

I paid attention, I really did, but I was pretty lost myself. The narrative needs some work, and I was told the Wild Cherryz would really be reworking it for when the show returned in September. What's most difficult is it's hard to tell, in a story about burlesque told through burlesque, where narrative ends and performance begins. The nice virgin is introduced with a striptease to her drawers, making her character's development a little confusing. Is she still nice if she's naked?

And with the exception of the singer's gown, there weren't nearly enough sparkles! I wanted bigger, shinier costumes that really did evoke the 1930s, plus bigger performances. The ladies danced but I saw them playing very rigid roles, not playing off of a persona. Even when a burlesque performer like the Maine Attraction is inhabiting a character, there's still a persona that comes through. I wanted something to distinguish one scene from the next; if everyone is taking off a bra top to flash sparkly pasties in almost the exact same way, then it comes harder to know what it is I'm seeing. I wanted more tease--slow reveal, interaction with the audience, varied facial expressions--to go with the strip.

More than anything, I wanted to ladies to loosen up. There should be an element of fun! The Wild Cherryz were very serious about their jazz/modern dance moves but the definition of burlesque is as a performance that makes fun of something seemingly serious. It seems they focused on choreography rather than performance in a broader sense. The neo-burlesque scene is full of performers with formal dance training, but they also know that you can't just rely on that because we're there for something a little more raw, for the most part. To be frank, it would've been nice to see more ass shaking and fewer pirouettes. For God's sake, ladies, let's have a little fun with the sex!

It's damn hard to get in front of an audience period, even with your clothes on. I respect these ladies. But there are many elements that need to be tied together and I wonder if it wouldn't be better to whittle the show down so they (and the audience) can focus on just a few things?

Has anyone seen Arcana Lace? What did you think?

Bonus: a burlesque performance from the 1930s:

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