Note – This was a no camera event and very few official images have been shared so most pictures are done through links to the acts instagram or facebook and might not be of the actual act I was seeing.
Due to the nature of this article many of the images are mature content. You have been warned that it might be NSFW.
My first interaction with the world of burlesque, like many, was watching Dita Von Teese perform. I’d just bought some nice underwear for myself at the shops during my teen years, when I got home my parents checked out my shopping and stated it reminded them of Dita. So, they pulled up a video on youtube for me to watch –
I remember being entranced and in the background just hearing my mum whisper, “how far does she go?” But honestly, I was down the rabbit hole already. They cut out magazine covers of Dita for me to frame and put on my wall, as well as watching Burlesque Undressed by Immodesty Blaize religiously.
Over my adult life I got to go to many different burlesque shows from small fairs like the Alt and Burlesque fair that I attended a few times and was the first time seeing Sukki Singapora. All the way to massive shows like Sexhibition where I got to see and talk to Immodesty Blaize. More recently I have been attending Cherie Bebe’s burlesque Revue, which is on most months at Matt and Phred in the Northern Quarter.
However I’d never been able to go see Dita Von Teese as she hadn’t been to the UK in a while and especially not near Manchester. That changed in October last year. I hadn’t bought tickets to see her, however was graciously given one. It was an amazing show even from the back of the Apollo theatre the glamour was outstanding. All the acts were phenomonal however Dita outshone all like her swarovski crystals on her corsets.
When she announced her glamonatrix tour I booked tickets in the stalls for myself, my sister and a close friend. This meant we were guaranteed better view than what I had before and would be with people I knew better.
Only a week or so later an event is advertised on my facebook Whiskey Down X Dita Von Teese. I’m sceptical. Dita hadn’t posted anything about this, and for a club to hire Dita, flying her across the Atlantic was unheard of. After seeing it in her calender me and my sister booked tickets. I wasn’t entirely convinced until she posted on her Instagram story on the day of the event.
Going to an event like this was the perfect opportunity to get dressed up. So, I donned my blue silk cheongsam-style dress with custom corset made of a vintage obi. My full outfit was made by the great ladies of Kiku Corset Boutique on Tib St, who also have made outfits for some of the dancers mentioned such as Sukki Singapora.
I didn’t know what to be expecting of the recently rebranded strip club as it was my first time in one. The carpet was plush and the lights dim. Luxurious booth surrounded the central stage however these were all reserved. Myself and my sister grabbed some seats overlooking the booths with a great view of the stage, behind us was the bar for prime drinking positions.
The event quickly got busy with many people having to stand to have a view of the stage. Our compère for the evening was the stunning Chastity Belt, who introduced each act. She also started off the show with her amazing vocal skill, a standard fixture in cabaret shows. Her songs were a entrancing, while some were side-splitting hilarious. My favourite was her piece about her man in uniform.
The first dancer to grace the stage was Miss Jolie Papillon. This pint-sized powerhouse brought the tropics to Whiskey Down. She wore her orange and blue orchid outfit, with large crystal encrusted flowers and giant feather boa. It was such a refreshing act, and a great way to get the event started.
Next, Chastity Belt advised we would be taking a short break. At the same time a piece of aerial equipment I didn’t recognise (I later found out they are called Aerial loops). This had me excited as a bit of an aerialist myself. Sasha Flexy was the next performer and true to name was very bendy. She showed off amazing front splits and other tricks, all whilst suspended in the air. Her sheer strength and elegance astounded me and I definitely will be trying aerial loops in the future as well.
Here is Sasha Flexy in one of her aerial hoop performances.
After the main attraction was coming up. Dita would be doing her first performance of the night. I wasn’t able to find the name of the act anywhere I looked but it is -this- one, where she starts in a full suit and top hat. I’ve always loved the gender bending in this act. A woman in a suit is a great sight and Dita pulls it off effortlessly. It has been a personal favourite for a long time and I was over the moon for her to be performing it at Whiskey Down.
For the act that followed the intrigue was high as I watched a mysterious box being set down centre stage. Hayley Steele from the Fuel Girls walked on stage, donning a latex bustier. She reached into the box and pulled out a white and yellow python, who I found out is called Marmalade. Marmalade was completely indifferent to the sensation she caused in the audience as Hayley got up close and personal with the guests. Afterwards there was even an opportunity to take a photo with the two which as you can see I joined in with.
Myself and Hayley Steele in front of the stage at Whiskey Down.
They changed up the rig and hooked up red silks. I do silks, so I was excited to see a pro in action. The performer was this act was Suzie Rozele Smith. She was like dynamite with how fast ans fluid she was transitioning between moves. The silks were set up to freely spin with her momentum as well which added another level of amazing to her act. I always feel making silks look like a dance is a skill within itself as so much of the moves is set up, just having to wrap the silks around yourself before you can show the finished product. Suzie was stunning though, every move, every drop, executed to perfection.
The last act had to be Dita. It was the iconic martini glass act. She walked on stage completely covered head to toe in crystals, bedazzling myself and the entire crowd. Seeing this act up close and personal was phenomenal. Even from our sets we could the water spilling over the edge with each move she made. This is one the the acts which does benefit from a clearer view.
We left the bar once the official show was over although I’m under the assumption that further acts were on throughout the night. It was a great night and if I got the chance I’d love to go again, maybe see if I’m able to get a booth. However one of the things that shocked me is that almost everyone I spoke to was unaware of Manchester own burlesque scene.
In burlesque there is very little trickle down from Dita, who can charge over £100 per ticket for an event, to the local artists which are £10 for the night. I would recommend anyone with any interest in burlesque or Dita to go to your local clubs and events.
Cherie Bebe’s Burlesque Revue is back at Matt and Phreds on Sunday 8th September. I’ve gone to a few of these and they are always great fun, if you want to reserve a table it doesn’t cost either, you just ring the venue.
She also does an event at the Richmond Tea Rooms. If you have never been there, that is a trip in itself. The entire tearoom is based off Alice in wonderland with gorgeous plants and decorations everywhere. Her next event there is on the 24th October and it is the perfect setting for a night of burlesque.
The next event I’m hoping to attend is Bad Bunny Burlesque at The Fitzgerald on the 29th of August. It’s run by Siren Entertainment who are the same women behind the amazing gym I attend Siren Asylum and Kraken. Lilly Von Ice is an outstanding performer both in pure burlesque as well as an aerialist, having performed at many events and locations over the years.
Here is Lilly Von Ice performing at The Fitzgerald.
On a side note, if anyone wants to have a go at learning burlesque or aerial arts such as pole, silks, hoop, or trapeze I’d highly suggest Siren and Kraken. All the instructors are amazing professionals and masters in their own styles. I’m still trying to pluck up the courage to try more dance orientated classes.
Click on the the highlighted names to get each persons social media so you can follow them. Not all the performers mentioned have events coming up so the best way to find out is to keep an eye on their pages. I hope that some of you do decide to check out your local artists and if anyone sees me feel free to say hi.