Tucked away on Green Street in Northern Liberties is a unique little venue called The Ruba Club. Set back from the street just enough to be somewhat hidden, this 100 year old social club continues to thrive and play host to a variety of events. It recently became home to an interesting new event series, Get You A Girl Who Can Do Both: TEDx Burlesque. The second installment in what will be an ongoing show, Do Both takes a look at the many facets of the human experience through a sex positive lens. HIghlighting a variety of performers, the show gives them a platform to not only undress but to address a topic of their choosing.
The Do Both show was an idea brought to life by local performer, Honeytree EvilEye and one that she takes great pride in as she strives to help build a more inclusive, sex positive community in the Philadelphia area. After the success of the first show in October, it was clear there would be no shortage of talent to keep the program fresh. Much like the TED Talks themselves, the topics allow to share ideas and talk passionately about the many relatable aspects of their daily lives as well as express themselves through performance art. It’s a killer combination that makes for one hell of a local show.
I unfortunately missed the first edition but was lucky enough to be there for round 2! Once again hosted by the charismatic master of ceremonies known as Flrt Vonnegut, he reminded us throughout the evening that we were here to celebrate what it meant to be diverse individual and that none of us are one dimensional. During the first half of the show we saw a different side of the evening’s performers as they were given 5 minutes to present a powerpoint slide show. The slideshow was pretimed in an effort to keep the speakers on task and help to maintain the momentum.
First up was Dorian Helena from South Jersey’s Black Hole Burlesque. Despite her nerves about having to go first, she delivered a great talk about applied behavior analysis while expelling a deep loathing for how much parents have allowed iPads to become a crutch for their children. Without realizing, she opened it up for questions from the audience which prompted a gentle reminder from our host Flrt that we were encouraged to approach the performers individually to discuss the topics more. Part of the focus was that your favorite performer was a person just like you and while they might be entertainment badasses, they were still well versed in other areas and absolutely approachable.
After dodging that bullet we switched gears to a bit more lighthearted topic, men’s fashion. Yes, we were treated to a plethora of pictures depicting what’s hot and whats not in the world of mens couture by a more dressed down and demure version of Veronica Vicious. She explained that while the runway looks we would be seeing were shown in 2017, they were actually a preview of what we would expect to see this coming fall. The highlight was that somehow FLrt Vonnegut’s Dahmer-esque frames would be coming round back into popularity, however he made sure we knew he was ahead of the curve on that one.
Things took a turn towards modern social topics as Icon Ebony Fierce took the stage to talk about how much influence gender non conforming artists have had on society as a whole. A topic which was clearly close to their heart, they touched on subjects like representation and why it matters as well as the importance of intersectionality and the important role it plays in the fight against privilege. Calling attention to social issues that affect queer people of color on a daily basis, this talk was heartfelt and powerful and a great lead in to the next speaker. Mina Minou was up next and building on some of the issues we had just heard, discussed the impacts counter cultures have had on revolutions and social causes throughout the decades. All to often we see the underground catalysts of important movements be whitewashed when the stories are retold and Mina was having none of that on this night.
Lastly, we heard from the show’s producer, Honeytree Evileye on a subject very near and dear to my own heart. Motorists versus cyclists and why drivers seem to hate us so. As someone who bikes on a daily basis in a part of the city that are much less congested than some of the downtown areas EvilEye has to traverse. Her in depth analysis as to why they view us as the enemy aside, the point at the end is till to share the road and remember there is a human on that bike. For the time being though, “Please don’t kill me today!” still remains the mantra of the daily city biker.
Before going to intermission Flrt gave the audience a chance to participate. He opened the floor to anyone who would like to come up and talk and gave them 60 seconds to share something they were passionate about. It was all fun and games til someone stood up and claimed modern roller derby came into fruition in 2010. I am still shaking my head on that one and my date for the evening was cracking up as I loudly whispered “No it didn’t!” while gripping his leg in annoyance. Too many personal feels surrounding derby to enjoy that one but the talk about the library won the evening and garnered the speaker a free drink. Giving an impassioned talk wasn’t the only way to get in on the action either. The brief presentations from the crowd were followed by a strip off! Relax, none of the spectators were forced to strip, but they did get a chance to tease us with their show removal abilities.
After a brief intermission we were back and ready to remove more than shoes! Proceeding in the same order as before, Dorian Helena was first up with less nerves this time at bat. Her number included a bed of nails that was a bit hard to see from the back rows but entertaining nonetheless. Helena’s nail bed routine was followed by a much more glamorous version of Veronica Vicious. Sporting blonde hair and a floor length shimmering red dress, Vicious delivered a more old school inspired, traditional burlesque number that left the audience wanting more.
The Icon Ebony Fierce was there to give us all the “more” we wanted. In a high energy performance that spanned not only the stage but the entire audience, The Icon gave the crowd their all. In a handmade garland skirt and makeup skills to die for, this performer knew how to work the crowd and was clearly no stranger to working a room. Keeping in line with the wide array of performances we were seeing was Mina Minnou. In a snake charmer like fashion, she dropped layers of sheer material to reveal a beautifully tied rope chest harness. It was a sultry and seductive number that piqued my interest in the art of rope play.
Wrapping up the evening was the ever talented Honeytree Evileye in the most adorably sweet, tshirt and panties type routine. A master of shaking her <ahem> assets, Honeytree has such a wide range of weapons in her dance arsenal that she brings an incredibly unique style to her burlesque numbers. She’s like that music artist that you hear and can immediately pick up on their influences and then sit back and revel in how they interpreted them. She can bounce her booty better than a lowrider at a car show! She knows how to use her body language and facial expressions to draw the audience in and make them drool with a fevered desire.
While burlesque itself may be sexy, there is definitely something highly attractive about a person as they light up from expressing their passions. That’s one of the many things that make this such a hit show. Attraction and seduction is so much more than just a hardbody removing their clothing. We as human beings are so much more than just our creative outlets and make no mistake, that’s what burlesque is. It’s an artform, a way to express yourself freely through movement and music. Just because it includes some skin, doesn’t mean it or those who do it, are any less valid.
With such a diverse array of talents, backgrounds, and specialties, the artform is ever evolving and when you celebrate all of that in a show like this, the possibilities are virtually endless.