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Good, clean sex
Joie de Vivre is talking the finer points of burlesque and your mind flashes to that little “buh-buh-da-duh-dum” striptease you do in the mirror when no one is watching, shirt whipped around your head, a little wink, that coy smile. So, you understand when she says it: stripping ain't easy.
But isn't it fun trying?
“It should be fun,” says Vivre, real name Joy Mohler, a founding member of the Valley Burlesque Society, which will perform at Full Circle Brewing Co., July 25. The dancing starts at 10 p.m.
“It should be a little silly. It's meant to be playful.”
Let it be said that burlesque isn't quite stripping — not in the pole-dancing, champagne-room front-page-of-The-Fresno-Bee way we're accustomed to. What these ladies do is closer to Zeigfield's Follies than a Friday night down at Gold Diggers.
Vivre won't dis strippers. They work hard for their money.
Just know this is not that.
If it has an official name (and it probably does somewhere), this would be Retro Burlesque, a style based on 20s, 30 and 40s-era vaudeville, which saw a resurgance in the mid-1990s. The costumes, music and choreography are all designed to enhance the characters the dancers portray.
It's like roller derby that way.
So, Lisa Jones becomes Amanda Allure and the hooting and hollerin' and whistling begins.
“To me, it is the art of the tease,” says Allure, the society's other founding member.
“It can be sexy, provocative, erotic, quirky, zany, cute, political, edgy, disturbing, thought provoking and entertaining. Sometimes simultaneously. I can remove nothing ... or reveal to pasties and G-string. It is my decision.”
Allure stumbled on burlesque while researching for a solo act she was doing for the Rogue Festival. She discovered old-time greats like Sally Rand and Gypsy Rose Lee and at the same time saw Muriel Ala Mode, a burlesque dancer from the Bay Area, perform at Full Circle Brewery.
“It was such a classy performance. I was hooked.”
Of course, burlesque wasn't happening in Fresno. So, Allure and Vivre had to travel to Hollywood to take classes from Penny Starr Jr. and Jewel of Denial of the Striptease Symposium. They did this every Sunday for six weeks.
Bringing what they learned back to Fresno was mostly a matter of necessity. Two people do not a society make. So the pair offer eight-week courses, where beginning dancers learn the basics of burlesque movement and make-up and costuming. A quick hint: avoid buttons. There's nothing worse than fumbling fingers when you're trying to get naked and make it look effortless.
And we've come full circle. Yes, anyone can take off their clothes.
But this is theater.
It is, as Vivre puts it, good clean, sex ... Don't think about that too hard. It's exotic, Allure says, but points out the word has little to do with sex — “it's facinating or interesting, strange or different.”
So the show isn't just dancing women. Sticking to the vaudeville roots, the group's performances showcase all types of talent, from music to juggling and magic. They're always looking for a good sideshow freak.
It's the art of theater, entertainment everyone can enjoy.
“You can bring your date, your friends, your mom and dad, even Grandma and Grandpa.”