Dita Mania Hits London With The Art Of Von Teese
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The success of The Art of the Teese, Dita Von Teese’s touring show, has defied all expectation. Despite the cynicism of some mainstream promoters, the production sold out in a matter of hours in venues across Europe, including five nights at the London Palladium — extended repeatedly to meet demand.
Dita delivers four performances over the course of the evening. The first is the iconic coupe routine she’s best known for; a less dynamic showcase but certainly the most dazzling. It’s an introduction that emphatically confirms: ‘Yes, it’s really me. Isn’t this exciting!’ As she glides into view it’s a sensory assault of full-beam Swarovski, and the delirious, decibel-shattering scream of delight from the crowd makes The Beatles fans of yesteryear seem positively underwhelmed.
Her second outing is a tribute to the classic Irving Berlin musical There’s No Business Like Show Business, in which Marilyn Monroe fends off ardent admirers in favour of a nap on a luxurious chaise, heckled by Donald O’Connor and Mitzi Gaynor. The chaise is in place, and the Von Teese vocal is just as sugary, but she’s flanked by her dashing showboys, Alek Palinski and Elio Martinez; accomplished dancers who frame, assist, and receive the priceless discards with chiseled charm.
The third is a surreal homage to Swan Lake; a Shakespearean, faintly ludicrous pas des trois with tongue firmly in cheek. Nonetheless, this is Von Teese fulfilling a childhood ballerina fantasy, and you can sense her enjoyment as she skips girlishly across the stage, building playfully to a frenzied, quivering climax.
The finale is arguably the most substantial, fully realised and refined concept: a sensationally camp western delight with pink glitter for days, snappy choreography (which is astonishing when you consider the crushing weight of her gem-encrusted costume), and the sexiest rodeo in human history.
Dita is a generous, intelligent curator, assembling a supporting cast of world class burlesque talent and promising debutantes. Texan, title-laden temptress Ginger Valentine serves up sultry southern swagger and mouth-watering flexibility on Dita’s giant filigree heart. Zelia Rose radiates charisma, solid technique and lithe precision in a first class tribute to Josephine Baker. Boylesque sensation Jett Adore is a swooning, seductive Zorro, from his swirling velvet cape to his bedazzled nether regions. Blonde bombshell Gia Genevieve is clearly an ingénue, but her mischievous bathtub romp is enthusiastic and enjoyable. Host Jonny McGovern is the crazy gay uncle you wish would adopt you; salty, sassy and disgracefully funny.
The undoubted show-stealer is the iconic Dirty Martini, whose every performance is a statement — political, social and sapiosexual. She performs her renowned Mae West tribute, with her celebrated silhouette on joyous display. It would be shameful to underutilise such a titan of tease, and they don’t. Martini returns to delight the crowd with a dizzying tassel-twirling display, stirring them into a frenzy of admiration.
Von Teese’s vision of burlesque in The Art of the Teese stays true to the roots of the contemporary art form: ass with class that’s always self-aware and playful. In the film version of Gypsy — a rite of passage for every burlesque performer — Natalie Wood’s Gypsy Rose Lee declares, ‘Nobody laughs at me, because I laugh first — at me!’ Watching this striptease spectacle, you’re never in doubt that Dita is in on the joke, and genuinely surprised and delighted at its enduring success and appeal.
The Art of the Teese, The London Palladium, 8 Argyll St, Soho, W1F 7LA. Tickets from £45, 12-13 November 2018.
Last Updated 29 October 2018