Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Burlesque: As Classic As, Well, Breasts.

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As my second anniversary with my girlfriend rolled up on me, I realized that I was completely unprepared. If it weren't for her blatant hinting and facebook's handy “Don't worry about anything for the rest of your life, we'll remind you in time.” feature, I might have missed it completely. So I was left with a week to plan, and just shy of $50 to spend once the rent check cleared. I certainly didn't want to stick near our apartment, because the only things I knew of locally involved fried chicken or liquor (or a combination of the two). Which is when my girlfriend had an idea: “Let's go to a burlesque show!”

A successful flier for The Boston Babydolls secured them as our troupe of choice. A recently established group of performers, they advertise themselves as “classic glamour with an edge.” The show was to be held at the YMCA Theatre in Cambridge, a very short walk from the Central Square MBTA stop (driving to Central is a fool's errand; if you can't take the train, don't bother going). Waiting for the doors was a unique experience, as women dressed like Victorian deviants sauntered around the entry way, making conversation which may have led to heavy fines if it weren't for the sake of theater. Most of the patrons were too caught off guard to enjoy themselves, but if you were one of the smooth guys in your Dungeons & Dragons group, this is the pre-show for you. The doors opened right after one of the girls told me that she accepts credit cards if I can “find a place to slide it,” and we were let into the cozy theater itself. Seating seemed ample enough for our small off-peak crowd (we went on a Thursday), and the stage was close enough that even towards the back, you could see the dancers easily. If balcony seating is your only option due to tickets selling out or running out of money, it's a small enough theater that you shouldn't worry about bringing binoculars.

If you aren't already the luckiest guy on the east coast when your girlfriend invites you out to watch semi-nude dancers, the tickets were only $10 each because we caught the show during a week night. This kept enough money in our pockets to hit a grocer for ingredients and a liquor store for wine on the way home, keeping the whole night out under my meager budget easily, but the prices can move north of $25 each on weekends for major shows. The venue itself offered snacks and non-alcoholic themed drinks, like the “Stormy Monday,” which left the same taste in my mouth as waking up early for work after drinking all of Sunday night. I didn't get to try their “home-made” half & half, but I imagine it must have been the better option. The snacks offered were simple uncooked things, like hard pretzels, summer sausage and cakes. Expect to eat a real meal before or after the show, and save your snack money for some of the hand-made trinkets for sale by the exit, such as hair accessories and pasties.

The performance itself was excellent. Our specific show was a dark-themed show in the spirit of Halloween, with skits portraying murder, drug abuse, and alcoholism. Introduced and MC'd by a husky dead-pan male vampire, the characters were all creative and interesting: I would never have imagined that I would feel anxious about the impending murder of a topless woman on a stage no bigger than my living room. Dances ranged from traditional ballet (short a few articles of clothing, of course) to chair dancing and belly dancing, which kept the event from being merely eye candy; some of these women can really dance their asses off.

For anyone even a little bit curious about what this sort of performance entails, go check it out as soon as possible. For any ladies reading this with a bit of an unhealthy curiosity, they also offer classes regularly, introducing the basics of burlesque dancing. Their calendar for the winter looks quite blank, but keep an eye out in the spring, and follow their website,, for any information on upcoming events, classes, or tickets.

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