Starting tonight, Berlin will be busting out with a megalithic marathon of ecdysiast arts. Yes, it’s the annual Berlin Burlesque Week, a celebration of solidarity among nearly all of Berlin’s burlesque producers. Seven days, 10 shows, and over 70 burlesque artistes from all over the world.
There are still millions of people who are uninitiated in the cult of burlesque. And others who think it’s something to do with Christina Aguilera. It’s true that modern burlesque is a bit hard to define.
What is now called “classic burlesque” came out of the repressed sexuality of the 19th and early 20th century. It’s the art of the tease, with suggestive movements, a wink-wink sense of humor about human sexuality, and over-the-top costumes and props that alternately conceal and accentuate the body. With the sexual revolution of the late 1960s, this all became passé and strip clubs replaced the old burlesque palaces. Then in the mid-1990s, a burlesque revival was born when bored dancers started looking back on the glamorous costumes of the 1950s and reinterpreting the art of the tease. Neo-burlesque often has a storyline that comments on gender, sexuality, femininity, or body acceptance. Now, you can find burlesque dancers doing everything from glamorous gown-and-glove peels to pop-locking while stripping down to a glittery merkin.
Berlin’s amazing burlesque community has been going strong for about 10 years and this week, nearly all the burlesque producers in the city will be bringing out their best. I’m one of the producers of the Full Moon Cabaret and here’s the burlesque insider lowdown on what you can expect at each of the amazing events going on this week.
Tickets will sell out, so buy your tickets now. Or if you really want to dive in to the Berlin burlesqueverse, get a week or weekend pass on their website!
Monday, 22 May
THE BIG TICKLE
Giggles and Garters
Produced by sweet sassy showcat Lilly Tiger, The Big Tickle is Berlin’s premiere comedic burlesque revue. This is the kickoff event for Berlin Burlesque Week and the line-up is spectacular. Highlights include Pearl Grey (UK) in her amazing absurdist sendup of Queen Elizabeth, big bad bronze glamazon Knockout Noire (Norway), and Mama Ulita (Leipzig) who has been known to literally set her bush on fire.
Ballhaus Berlin, Chausseestrasse 102 – 8pm // More on their facebook event page
Tuesday, 23 May
Lights! Camera! Burlesque!
The secret force of burlesque in Berlin is Louise the Breeze, who stage manages nearly every show in the city. Burlesque Chaos is her first show as a producer and it’s an intimate evening with cinematic teasers preceding each act. For Berlin Burlesque Week, the show will be hosted by the amazing Elsie Marley, who might be the only Bavarian Bollywood compère in existence. Other highlights include Roxy Stardust (Glasgow) who will totally obliterate the small screening room with her huge take-no-prisoners energy and Violetta Poison (Mexico) who won 2nd Place in last year’s Shimmy Shakedown with her wistful homage to Frida Kahlo.
Chaostheorie, Schliemannstrasse 15 – 8pm // More on their facebook event page
DER GRÜNE ENGEL
Down & Dirty Ode to Weimar Berlin
Bana Banana is a manic whirlwind, a triple-threat glitter bomb from southern Spain whose middle name is “Caliente”. Her show Der Grüne Engel is a grab-bag of glamour and camp, with top-flight classic burlesque, old-fashioned song-and-dance numbers, and wacky neo-burlesque escapades. After a long pause, Der Grüne Engel is back for Berlin Burlesque Week and hosted by glamorous French drag artiste Martini Cherry, who has recently moved to Berlin. Other highlights include deadpan comedic burlesque by Miss Botero (FR), sing-and-fling sweetheart Ness Gracious (UK), and Berlin’s own glam party girls Va Va Voom Sirens. Dance all night afterward with San Francisco rock band The Richmond Sluts and DJ Anita Drink.
Bassy Club, Schoenhauser Allee 176A – 10pm // More on their facebook event page
Wednesday, 24 May
LA FETE FATALE
The Secret Seduction Society
The Fête Fatale is produced by the luscious Lady Lou, whose warm and earthy energy welcomes everyone to shed their inhibitions at this popular costume party. Featuring some of the top names in burlesque, this will be one of the biggest draws for the Berlin Burlesque Week. The theme this time around is “Gender Bender” and Lady Lou is exhorting everyone to MIX UP & REVERSE THE GENDER STEREOTYPES IN YOUR LIFE AND BECOME A BEAUTIFUL VERSION OF YOUR OTHER-SELF. All in caps. The event is hosted by the brilliant Scotty the Blue Bunny who will bite you if you get too close but you will love it anyway, because giant gay guy in an electric blue bunny suit, what’s not to love? The spectacular all-star line-up includes a double dose of glamorous drag artistes Tamara Mascara and Sheila Wolf, showstopping bullet-proof blonde Banbury Cross, and high-octane triple-threat knockout comedy qween Rubyyy Jones.
Bassy Club, Schoenhauser Allee 176A – 10pm // More on the facebook event page
Thursday, 25 May
Say You Knew Them When
The Shimmy Shake School is Berlin’s primary school of burlesque and their showcase events have launched dozens Berlin bombshells into the burlesqueverse. In their Berlin Burlesque Week event, nine burlesque dancers who have been in the biz for less than three years will compete for a slot at the Gala Spectacular. The second prize winner gets a chance to hoof at the Sunday Soirée. This will be an eclectic and affirmative evening, with dancers coming from all over Europe (Lisbon, Glasgow, London, Berlin) performing in a multitude of styles. Audiences will also be treated to performances by La Viola Vixen, Lotti Lieblich, and Diamond Dahlia, three Shimmy Shake School teachers, all of whom have serious classic burlesque skillz.
Ballhaus Berlin, Chausseestrasse 102 – 8:30pm // More on their facebook event page
Friday, 26 May
FULL MOON CABARET
An Immersive Art Party with Subversive Surprises
This is my event so what can I say? I WANT TO SEE YOU ALL THERE. Co-hosted by Lolita Vavoom, the Full Moon Cabaret is an artsy party in a secret loft with theatrical shenanigans, burlesque, and varieté. Most events take place on the full moon, but we moved the date so we could be part of the love fest that is Berlin Burlesque Week. According to Native Americans, May is the Flower Moon, so this month, the show will feature mating dances and a pagan fertility rite with a giant penis. The burlesque dancers include Anja Pavlova in a piece inspired by Alphonse Mucha, Golden Treasure and Kim Khaos getting all island girl, Fifi Fantôme taking a deep dark look into Pandora’s Box, and Lolita Vavoom as the Queen of May. Come with flowers in your hair!
Freudenzimmer, Mehringdamm 61 – 8:30pm // More info on the facebook event page
A Congress of Curiosities
This Berlin odditorium is produced by DJ Don Rogall and Evilyn Frantic, who is back from galivanting around Dubai and Australia sticking nails up her nose and swallowing fire. It’s an old-fashioned sideshow with freaks, geeks, and hootchie koochie girls. This is your second chance to see the jawdropping burlescapades of Rubyyy Jones, as well as Clown Prince Roc Roc-It, sideshow sweetheart Julietta La Doll, and Kerosene Queen Miss Ruskina (NL). Then dance all night to early R&B, sleazy sax strollers, and jumpin’ jive by master of vintage vinyl, DJ Don Rogall.
Bassy Club, Schoenhauser Allee 176A – 10pm // More on the facebook event page
Saturday, 27 May
The Bombastic Climax of the BBW
All the producers and performers of the Berlin Burlesque Week will be coming out for the glamorous culminating event of the week. The Gala Spectacular will feature not one but TWO burlesque stars, both coming all the way from California. Berliners will have the rare opportunity to experience the voluptuous vampiness that is Kitten de Ville, Miss Exotic World 2002 and a member of the legendary Velvet Hammer Burlesque, one of the groups that kick-started the burlesque revival in the mid-1990s. The 2016 King of Boylesque, Harden Reddy, will also be baring his perfect pecs and showing Berlin why audiences around the world regularly scream and faint during his performances. As if that weren’t enough, you can fasten your eyeballs on Kitty Bang Bang, who can turn anyone into a driveling acolyte with an impudent glance and sinous hip swivel. Plus see Berlin’s own sophisticated siren Honey Lulu and sweet Swedish sensation Fräulein Frauke. This is the haute glamour event for Berlin Burlesque Week so come ready to party like its 1959.
Festsaal Kreuzberg, Am Flutgraben 2 – 8:30pm // More on the facebook event page
Sunday, 28 May
DR. SKETCHY’S ANTI-ART SCHOOL
Life Drawing Meets Cabaret
Grab your pencils and come out to Ballhaus Berlin on Sunday afternoon for your chance to draw costumed burlesque dancers. The brainchild of New York City artist Molly Crabapple, Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School takes life drawing out of an academic setting and puts it into a bar. Each session has an elaborate theme with performing artists posing in costumes. Berlin’s chapter of this international art party is produced by Matthias Pflügner and Lala Vox, who will be creating a lavish set for the Berlin Burlesque Week “Lustgarten” session. Burlesque babes Lolita Vavoom and Armi von Vep will be posing in their flowery best. There will be special activities for Berlin Burlesque Week attendees who have two left hands or are too hung over to draw. Syren Joey and Viva Lamore (moi) will be wandering the premises force-feeding people from their garden of lust.
Ballhaus Berlin, Chausseestr 102 – 4pm // More on the facebook event page
The Burlesque Love-In
If you can’t enough of jeweled nipple pasties and g-strings, then stagger on over to Primitiv for your final fix. Berlin Burlesque Week closes with Sunday Soirée, the bi-weekly burlesque community hang-out produced by Lady Lou and La Viola Vixen. This is an intimate show that leans toward classic burlesque in a kitschy-glam Russian bar. The stage is a postage stamp but it’s always a love fest, with Berlin performers coming all dolled up to see and be seen. If you’ve never experienced the feminine force that is Banbury Cross, prepare to pick your jaw up from the floor and pop your eyeballs back in your head. Coming from Prague is 1920s showgirl YAZZ and from Glasgow, pin-up princess Agatha Frisky. The event is hosted by Fez Wrecker, pimp-daddy of the late lamented Pinky’s Peepshow and purveyor of sleazy good times.
Primitv Bar, Simon Dach Str 28 – 8:30pm // More on the facebook event page