Male dancers have appeared sporadically in local burlesque shows, but the all-male burlesque show Boylesk debuts Friday at the House of Blues. It features dancers from Chicago's Stage Door Johnnies, an all-male troupe formed three years ago, plus New York's The Evil Hate Monkey and features a female host and a magician. (There also is an appearance by the New Orleans Firefighters.) The show was put together by Bustout Burlesque and New Orleans Burlesque Festival Founder Rick Delaup. Originally, there were plans for a show during Southern Decadence, but it couldn't be arranged in time. But both Delaup and the HOB are testing the waters on a broad audience, expecting interest from the city's ample burlesque scene and gay and straight audiences alike. Male burlesque dancers have already carved out a niche in the national burlesque scene. The festivities at the Miss Exotic World pageant, an annual burlesque festival in Las Vegas, now include a competition for best male burlesque act.
There's a longer preview of Boylesk here. Some of the dancers, like the Johnnies' Ray Gunn, come from a dance background. Other Johnnies have a stage background. But some men came to it through the female burlesque revival. The Evil Hate Monkey is traveling for the first time as a solo act. For nine years, he has toured with Trixie Little, and their show had solo and duet acts. But he says many guys found their way on stage in half steps.
"Guys are more serious now," he says. "Before it was just boyfriends — guys who were essentially props in their girlfriends' acts. Then those guys started hamming it up. And then some said, 'Hey, I can do this.'"
More photos and videos after the jump.
Ray Gunn also thought it was fun-but-not-serious when he started. But then he got more interested, and now he is learning to work with a pole, doing fire stunts and learning other retro vaudevillian bits to make his shows more theatrical.
"It's not just 'I'm a guy novelty,'" Gunn says. "There is satire and parody. You have to have a strong act."
Here is Gunn's act based on the bamboozling snake Kaa from The Jungle Book.