The word acme is evocative of lampoonery, most familiarly the antics of Looney Tunes’ Wile. E. Coyote, but is defined by Wikipedia as “something which has been done to perfection, to the point where it is most successful.” New company ACME Burlesque hopes to combine both facets of the definition in their premiere show.
Produced by Lee and Shayne Gryn, ACME Burlesque is seeking out the roots of burlesque with the use of live music, while innovating new traditions by mixing up classical musical numbers with more modern music selections and interpretations.
The company’s name is particularly apt for a burlesque show, given the propensity for mishaps in performances. “Sometimes your costume just won’t come off the way it’s meant to and you have to make light of the situation, try to distract the audience with humor,” said performer and producer Seska Lee.
In its simplest definition, burlesque is a combination of striptease, comedy and storytelling. Historically, burlesque was a form of satire, often performed in conjunction with vaudeville and circus acts. As opposed to your average dark bar and strip pole, burlesque dancing is an art, performed by artists looking not only to titillate but to entertain.
Burlesque is less about the sexuality and more about the sensuality, which is why its audiences are comprised largely of women. The producers attribute this to the more natural image of the performers.“With burlesque, you’re likely to see a variety of body shapes, natural breasts, parts that jiggle, and smiles. Sexy with an aspect of friendly,” said Lee.
“It’s the healthy body images that appeal to women. There’s a lot more acceptance of body types, much more open and supportive of women’s figures. It’s a way for different types of beauty to be shown,” agreed Gryn.
Burlesque is not only about the tease of removing one’s clothing, but also about the story and humour that goes along with said stripping. “There’s a fun factor, it’s really a party atmosphere,” said Gryn.
For its debut show, ACME Burlesque has prepared a lineup of six performances and musical accompaniment from Holly Gauthier-Frankel, Penus de Milo and Gryn and the ACME combo. Dancers will be accompanied by live music in the styles of jazz, blues, punk rock, industrial and funk. Some of the performances, like that of Cherry Typhoon, who hails from Japan, will border along the more traditional burlesque recital, while others such as Lee’s will bend towards a more modern twist.
Lee, a veteran of adult performance, came to burlesque in 2003, with a desire to explore a new form of sexual expression. Choosing to be open about her career as a porn artist, Lee designed her performances to break the taboo about sex workers doing something artistic while also making light of this political issue. ACME Burlesque came about as a result of Lee’s work with the polkabilly band, Bad Uncle, where she discovered the energizing pleasure of working with live music. Lee eventually hooked up with long-time musician Gryn, who shared her passion for burlesque, and ACME was born.
Virgins to the burlesque scene need not be intimidated; the intention of the show is to provide a relaxed, fun atmosphere for both audience and performers. Gryn noted that many burlesque dancers are shy and need all the encouragement they can get from the audience. The environment encourages interaction between audience and dancers, many of whom will be around after the show to share a drink or two (which Gryn assures are student budget-friendly).
ACME Burlesque’s premiere show begins at 8 p.m. on Feb. 2 at Mainline Theatre (3997 St-Laurent). Tickets are $17.