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‘Burlesque: Heart of The Glitter Tribe’ (review)

Produced by Julie Livingston, Jon Manning
Directed by Jon Manning
Starring Angelique DeVil, Zora Von Pavonine,
Babs Jamboree, Stage Door Johnnies,
Sandria Dore’, Isaiah Esquire, Russell Bruner
Violet Ohmigod,
Ivizia Dakini


Interesting, funny and moving, the new doc Burlesque: Heart of The Glitter Tribe examines the art of burlesque dancing in the modern age, focusing on a handful of dancers in Portland, Oregon.

Burlesque performers make it plain that they are not strippers a la gentleman’s clubs, though they all do indeed strip as part of their performances.

One performer also differentiates between burlesque and modern dance: usually, a modern dance gig is being part of the chorus, so to her, the difference between the two is personality vs. anonymity.

Most of these folks perform because they’re driven to do so and feel burlesque is a calling and a form of expression like no other. They’re so committed that nearly everyone in the doc goes only by their stage name (one performer observes, “Villains don’t ask Batman for his real name!”).

Several performers speak of being shunned by the families because of their unorthodox choices. One movingly tells of the time her mother told her to her face that she is an embarrassment to the family.

It’s refreshing after these anecdotes to hear – and see – some family members take pride in their sons/daughters/spouses.  One dancer is thrilled that his mother is his biggest fan and attends most of his performances.

Dancers also talk of the toll their passion takes on relationships. One woman notes that she’s lucky she has a man who doesn’t make her choose, because if she had to….

These observations and others make it almost a companion piece to another doc I watched last week, Dying Laughing, in which stand-up comics talk of how their job is a calling and the stress it can lead to in their relationships to their family or mate.

The interviews are fascinating enough, but Burlesque also offers plenty of performance footage. They range from sexy to funny to pointed (and in the case of the dancer with the Jesus doll, blasphemous).

There’s also talk – and some footage – of the glitches that often occur during live performances. Since many of the performers are perfectionists, they don’t take these glitches lightly.

It should go without saying that in a documentary called Burlesque there is ample nudity, both male and female.  Just a warning in case you wanted to check it out at the office.

But do check it out, especially if you like docs about live performers and the sacrifices they make for their passions, and how those passions can lead to empowerment.

Burlesque: Heart of The Glitter Tribe is playing in theaters in limited release
and arrives on iTunes and On Demand on March 7th





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