First-ever international burlesque fest hit Hongdae
While certainly not without its bumps along the way, the Art of Tease Festival Korea – presented by WhiteLies burlesque troupe – ran last weekend with two shows full of solid acts, bringing in something new and exciting for first-timers and WhiteLies regulars alike.
Organized by co-founder Nell Fox and featuring several WhiteLies members as well as international artists, the festival featured shows on Friday and Saturday night, with five workshops running on Saturday afternoon. The two shows were entirely different, encouraging attendees to buy tickets for both nights, lest they miss something exciting.
The festival featured a variety of solo and group acts from the 12 performers, including five members from Whitelies – Nell Fox, Vita Mikju, Dahlia Doll, Flowerbomb and Pheonix
Envy; two local guests – an aerialist who wished to remain unnamed and Sacre Bleu; and five international guests – Tokyo-based Rita Goldie, Osaka-based Pechico Octopashy, Beijing-based Shirley Tempest and Trixie Royale, and French performer Strawberry Cherie.
Nell said that given the circumstances, the festival went as well as it could have. Like many first-time events of this size, there were some hiccups – including a designer and DJ dropping out and competing with a major international celebrity who performed a drag show the same night. Plus managing rehearsals and show details for 16 performers and artists, some of which from overseas. On top of that, the group faced a lawsuit after discovering that someone had actually trademarked the word “burlesque” and was pressuring them to remove it from the festival name and posters.
“When you have that many factors going up against you, it’s no wonder that things didn’t run smoothly,” Nell said. “Still, we persevered and had a great show that people loved. I was
told the first five years of the New Orleans Burlesque Festival ran into the negative, so by those standards, I think we did an excellent job.”
And while the two shows had their share of technical snafus, the quality of the acts more than made up for it, with the audiences on both nights cheering, whistling and for some sets, even literally getting into the acts.
The festival opened with a performance by Rita Goldie, who combined traditional Japanese music and dance with the fun and flirtiness of burlesque as she employed several audience
members to help remove her colorful kimono and obi. Following that were act after act of creative and colorful routines that more than proved leader Nell’s mantra that anything can be burlesque.
From Trixie Royale’s traditional Russian-themed act, to Shirley Tempest’s traditional Chinese fan dance and Nell’s Korean-inspired kumiho act, there was no shortage of cultures represented. Even Vita Mikju donned a traditional Korean hat and hanbok during his set, and incorporated calligraphy.
<Shirley Tempest and Trixie Royale>
There were also the more typical burlesque acts – Dahlia Doll hoola-hooped, while Nell sang a few jazzy tunes and Shirley Tempest and Trixie Royale brought the Charleston back. Flowerbomb and an unnamed guest performed aerial acts on the silks, while Strawberry Cherie gifted several audience members with balloons during her fetish act – before popping them all, that is. More than a few acts showered the crowd with glitter and confetti, and Pheonix Envy got more than few ladies hot and bothered as he danced for (or on) a few volunteers in his Magic Mike-esque routine. Sacre Bleu charmed the audience with her cute, but comical routine involving a bathtub, a hoop suspended from the ceiling and tons of confetti.
Osaka-based Pechiko Octaplashy entertained with her Jungle Book routine, feeding bananas to the audience before removing her sarong top and leafy skirt to perform a fan dance with banana leaves.
However, perhaps the most memorable performance was the chorus line performed by four women who took part in the festival’s dance workshop. They were taught a simple routine by Rita Goldie and Trixie Royale earlier in the day, then took to the stage that night, decked out in their most tease-worthy ensembles. While amateurs, the excitement and joy of performing was written all over each woman’s face as they kicked and shimmied through the routine.
“Getting to see these ladies having an otherwise non-existent outlet to feel sexy and good about themselves was worth the festival alone,” Nell said. “It’s what WhiteLies stands for: Anyone can do burlesque. It was lovely getting to see that in action.” Nell said she hopes to hold the festival again next year, though with a few adjustments from this year and a bit of recalculating. Possibly a lower number of international acts, or even performing the same show both nights.
“There are a few other ideas, but lucky for me, I have a whole year to plan that out,” she said.
Story By: Emma Kalka
Photos by: K I Photography