Glasgow is a dear green place. Glasgow is rainy, friendly, and unique. But I bet that what you do not know is that Glasgow has a titillating secret: it is one of the burlesque centres of Europe. When you think about it, it makes sense: the cheek, the humour, even the parody are all there to be seen.
Next time you happen to be in one of its lovely cafes, or shopping in Sauchiehall Street, look around you. The shy lady behind you in the queue of Boots could, at night, take her gloves off at one of the numerous clubs around town. Burlesque even has its own Ministry! And have you heard of boylesque? Yes, this performative dance is not only the domain of females. Check out Impressive Johnson or Lucky Strikes, for example.
Club Noir is by far the most popular of clubs in town, with performers showing both American style burlesque – think Dita von Tease – and the more satirical British variety. There is usually a theme so make sure you shop, plan and dress accordingly for the night. Standards are high so try to avoid clichés such as feather boas, as they are hated there.
Touring around the main UK cities, High Tease often comes to Glasgow and, when it does, it is a night to celebrate. If you happen to be here for the next one, keep an eye out for related events at the Ministry of Burlesque. Last time, Viva Misadventure and Gipsy Charms ran a master class, with participants performing that very same night. The most difficult thing will be to chose your stage name (perhaps this site can help?). The rest will be giggles, fun, sass and good exercise. Not to mention what it will do to your confidence… Come on, you know you want to. Viva and Gipsy also organize hen parties with a difference, starting with a two-hour burlesque ABC. After they show you the simple peel, pose and tease technique, you will never take off your coat in the same way! They will even tell you how to be sexy while waiting for a bus. You will need props, of course. Gloves, frou-frous, feather-fans, frilly underwear, corsets, petticoats… Vintage is best but if you are in a pickle, head down to Hellfire in Queen Street or Beautifully Boudoir in Great Western Road. The more risqué amongst you will even find tassels there.
The ‘Movers and Shakers’ nights, which usually take place at the beautiful Britannia Panopticon – worth seeing without needing an excuse –, are full of exciting new talent and short, sharp acts. These are great to get inspiration and see a wide variety of burlesque, from pin-up and showgirl to cheesecake, cabaret, and more straightforward strip-tease. Rockaburley, La Cheetah, Enchante!, Scarlett Fever, and the Art Club Cabaret are a few more of the many clubs that take place in Glasgow. Some stay, some go, some come back, but there are always new ones appearing. Keep up with it at the Ministry’s Scotland Burlesque Scene forum pages.
If you want to participate but have awful stage fright – I understand undressing in public is not for everyone –, do not worry; burlesque is not only about performing. If you have an artistic mind, you can always go to Dr Sketchy’s Anti Art School at the Arches. This is a drawing class with a twist: the models are burlesque dancers. Beginners are more than welcome and they usually make available all art materials you are likely to need, if you don’t know where to get them. The atmosphere is great, you get to meet arty types, laugh a lot and, who knows, you may create a masterpiece!
While Dita is undeniably very elegant and talented, her style shows only a few of the possibilities of burlesque. She is excellent at the theatrical and the tease (of course) but she could do more with the critique, the satire and the humour. Glasgow’s scene offers the complete package. Keep your eyes peeled for posters of shows around town. Apart from the brilliant Viva and Gipsy, you can always trust Cat Aclysmic, Hell’s Belle and Daiquiri Dusk. Ultimately, though, let any name entice you. If anything arouses your curiosity, follow your instinct and go to see them. Sex and the city is, oh, so 2008. Burlesque and the city is where is at now. And the city, of course, is Glasgow.