Think of it as a convention of tassels, pasties and feather fans.
Boasting five distinctive burlesque shows, nine workshops and a host of parties, the sixth annual New Orleans Burlesque Festival opens Thursday, Sept. 18, and it brings some the art form’s leading local, national and international talent to stages and clubs across the French Quarter.
Launched by Bustout Burlesque founder Rick Delaup, the festival is a hybrid of networking events, professional development and showcase opportunities with a dash of good old-fashioned New Orleans debauchery. Headquartering itself at the Downtown Sheraton, the festival’s venues include Harrah’s, The House of Blues and Saints & Sinners.
The workshops, which take place at the Sheraton in the afternoons from Friday through Sunday, cover areas both on the boards and behind the scenes to provide opportunities to show off both honored practices and new ideas.
Along with Miss Burlesque 2012 Ginger Lee Valentine covering traditional topics such as floor work and trumpeter Jim Thorton discussing the importance of music selections, the instructional series will also include more unique perspectives such as Dangrrr Doll’s nerdlesque “Stripping the Superhero” and Michelle L’Amour’s posterior-centric “Booty Lab.”
But the real centrifuge of the weekend is the five evening shows. Featuring talent that has come from around the country and Europe to participate, the events run the gamut from classic approaches to more edgy modern fare.
The talent pool was filled both through invitation and application with Delaup describing the process as, “submitting two videos, gearing the act to specific showcases and possessing a certain energy.”
For Delaup, that energy is tantamount to the quality of the act.
“If these acts share anything in common, it is their high energy. There is a lot going on over the weekend, and many of these shows begin at later times. The average fan is looking for the personality of the performer to shine through.”
Thursday night’s “It’s Burlesque” is an overview of performers from all around the world showing the latest trends in performance. The following evening gives way to more the risqué offerings of the oddity-driven “Mondo Burlesque” and the borderline blue “Bad Girls of Burlesque.”
The culmination of the four-day event is Saturday’s “The Queen of Burlesque.” Underscored by traditional jazz music, the event is a competition overseen by a panel of celebrity judges who are out to select the festival’s reigning monarch.
And once the winner is picked, it is off to the “Queen’s Ball” where the new ruler holds court and enjoys the performances of an eclectic lineup that pay homage to her majesty’s ascent to the throne.
By keeping the event more or less in the Quarter, the festival maintains the focus on the great appeal of the city as a burlesque destination: New Orleans’ historical legacy as a leader in traditional burlesque.
This is crucial for popular returning performer such as Miss Miranda. The London native, who will be appearing at “Queen’s Ball,” says both the city and this festival are among her favorites for bringing her act into town.
“New Orleans bridges the gap between the old art and the new. Because of all the live bands that perform with the acts and the festival’s focus on it, it makes it a very exciting experience for both audiences and performers.”
For the festival’s founder, that bridge between past and present reminds attendees of what New Orleans once meant to the art of the tease.
“There was a time in the city where Bourbon Street was nothing but burlesque clubs. They were the population of the street,” said Delaup, whose own Bustout show has been running over ten years.
When asked if such a thing was possible in the near future, Delaup seemed doubtful.
“To put a show like mine together took ten years. A club owner would need to have a real passion, and while many seem interested in having burlesque in the bar, many also can’t tell the difference between one act and another.
“Either they don’t care, or they can’t tell the difference.”
Be that as it may, for the next four days, the city will be filled with those who both care and can distinguish.
WHAT: Rick Delaup presents the sixth annual New Orleans Burlesque Festival
INFO: Tickets and information can be found at neworleansburlesquefest.com.
Thursday, Sept. 18
IT’S BURLESQUE (The Parish at House of Blues) 9 p.m.
The opening night of the sixth annual New Orleans Burlesque Festival features beautiful and talented burlesque dancers from far and wide celebrating the art of the tease. Tickets $22 (general), $27 (reserved seating)
OPENING NIGHT AFTER-PARTY (Tiki Tolteca above Felipe’s, 301 N. Peters St. in the French Quarter) 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Friday, Sept. 19
BURLESQUE WORKSHOPS (Sheraton Hotel) 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.
MONDO BURLESQUE (Harrah’s New Orleans) 8 p.m.
A variety of burlesque entertainers perform acts that have driven audiences wild at clubs and theaters around the word. Tickets $33, $38
BAD GIRLS OF BURLESQUE (House of Blues, 225 Decatur St.) 11 p.m.
Luscious and lascivious ladies of burlesque entertain you in this rowdy, standing-room-only show, a celebration of the wicked, the wayward and the wanton. Tickets $22
Saturday, Sept. 20
BURLESQUE WORKSHOPS (Sheraton Hotel) 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., 2:45 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.
THE QUEEN OF BURLESQUE (Harrah’s New Orleans) 7:30 p.m.
The Main Event brings the best classic striptease dancers together to compete for the title of “Queen of Burlesque.” Each solo performance is set to live traditional jazz music. A panel of celebrity judges will select the winner. Tickets $48, $53
QUEEN’S BALL (House of Blues: 225 Decatur St.) 11 p.m.
The closing night celebration follows the crowning of the 2014 “Queen of Burlesque” at Harrah’s. The new queen holds court as burlesque dancers from far and wide bump ’n’ grind on stage. Tickets $22.
Sunday, Sept. 21
BURLESQUE WORKSHOPS (Sheraton Hotel) 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., 2:15 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
CLOSING NIGHT PARTY (Saints & Sinners: 627 Bourbon St.) No cover.