Monday, May 19, 2008

Polynesian Burlesque?

'Burlesque: The islands' pioneer burlesque house, the Beretania Theatre, was located at 1229 Kamanuwai Lane in a congested urban slum a block mauka of Chinatown.'

Here is the story behind one of Hawaii's "firsts," as noted by former state statistician Robert C. Schmitt.

It's only a paragraph, but it's a good one!

Lucy Fur, May 27, 2006, Las Vegas
Above: Lucy Fur at Exotic World, 2006.

I used to teach my workshops at Waikiki Wally's before I took burlesque to The Bowery Poetry Club with our Burlesque Salute to the Ramones and started doing my workshops there. There was a Polynesian woman who taught traditional story-telling Hula at Waikiki Wally's, too. I wanted so much to study it, but I was too busy putting my workshops together! Although I've still managed to study Polynesian dance a bit, I feel like I missed out by not learning from her. I love to watch Hawaiian and Tahitian dance and would love to understand it better.

Tiki culture was the root of Tease-O-Rama, where so many of today's best-known performers became acquainted. You can read about the first TOR in the earliest archives of their Yahoo group.

When I was a kid in the 1960s, I was crazy about Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room, and begged to be taken to Trader Vic's in Denver for my birthday. Now I'm well aware that all my attraction to some of these representations of Polynesian culture is problematic, to put it mildly, but as a 6-year-old I was beside myself, and darned if I still don't get a thrill of childlike wonder when I hear the music. Darn, darn, darn that childlike wonder!

I've been to Hawaii only once, in 1979, and my fondest memory of it is that it smelled the best of any place I've ever been--so I was most likely not "in a congested urban slum a block mauka of Chinatown."

All my mental meandering aside, if anyone knows more about burlesque in Hawaii, bring it on!

1 comment:

Violetta said...

Aloha from Honolulu Darlin!

I'm a Native Hawaiian burlesque performer born, raised, and based in Honolulu, and I could tell you TONS about the BQ scene here! I'm a long standing member of the only Burly Troupe on the island. We've been performing for a few years and are very well established in Honolulu (especially in Chinatown, which has undergone a sort of urban revival!)

I perform at Tiki Oasis every year and usually do a mix of Poly, Hula and BQ. I've been dancing Hula/Tahitian since I was about 3 years old and I love to combine those dance forms with burlesque in innovative ways. I'm dreaming up a piece right now that involves Hula, Tahitian and Ariel skills to traditional Hawaiian music. That said, Hula is a sacred cultural practice so one must always be mindful of not only the gestures and placement of the body but also what the actual mele (Hawaiian word for song) is saying. I've seen a few hula oriented pieces that as a Hawaiian, and a long term hula dancer, make me cringe. Hula doesn't have to be serious at all times, it can be fun and tongue-in-cheek, but my advice is for anyone interested to really do their research and take some classes before going for it. :)

If you ever decide to come out to the 808 again let me know! We'd love to have you (and promise we wont throw you into the volcano...until your third visit..hehehe) People are often surprised at the little scene we've managed to build here and we have a blast!

PS: Saw you in NYC a few times when I came up to perform at the Slipper Room. You are truly amazing!

Mahalo Nui Loa,

Violetta Beretta