Dallas has fallen hard for burlesque, and our local love affair shows no signs of cooling. In fact, each week adds even more genres and venues to the collective DFW Burlesque calendar. But what is burlesque, really? Veiled in as many misconceptions as layers of sequins, feathers, and mascara, we decided it was high time go behind the scenes of this titillating type of live performance art.
Our expert guide today is none other than Vivienne Vermuth. This Dallas-based bombshell’s booming burlesque career spans nearly a decade, and her elaborate acts overflow with stunning costumes, high-flying aerials, and fantasy fun. As the founder of Broads & Panties Burlesque, Vermuth appears both locally and statewide with her troupe. In addition, fans gather to watch her weekly as co-producer and featured performer at the Tuesday Tease “queerlesque” variety show on the famous Cedar Springs strip.
Who better, then, to give us the inside scoop on our city’s glamorous, grown-up nightlife obsession? Read on as we dish costumes, makeup, sex appeal, and the true meaning of burlesque.
DFW Style Daily: There is much buzz, much glamour, and much misunderstanding associated with the art of burlesque. Can you help us set the record straight?
Vivienne Vermuth: “Burlesque, by technical definition, is a literary, dramatic, or musical work intended to cause laughter by caricaturing the manner or spirit of serious works, or by ludicrous treatment of various subjects. The word derives from the Italian burlesco, which, in turn, is derived from burla, meaning a joke, ridicule, or mockery. Burlesque was originally created as a filler act between comedians, and then show producers realized that the ‘filler’ was keeping patrons around more than the comedians!
“To me, though, burlesque is a sensual dance that can take all manner of forms, whether funny, sexy, or even political. It can be a parody of a current issue, or a throwback to a bygone era. It’s an adult way to laugh, poke fun, feel good, and experience real sex appeal, in an age where sex is thrown at us from very unreal avenues. It is the place to celebrate our sexuality in an atmosphere free from judgment, covered in glitter and fabulousness.”
Care to dispel any misconceptions about the genre?
“Burlesque is not anything like the Cher and Christina Aguilera movie! We take clothing off, artfully and skillfully, and sometimes with a twist of humor! We also focus on featuring all sizes, shapes, and genders in modern burlesque.”
What first attracted you to burlesque?
“I was coordinating an event for a large makeup company, and I needed models. Through the power of social media, I found two gals who happened to be burlesque performers. After attending their show, I was hooked. I thought it was so creative, and the energy in the room was intense! So, completely terrified, I set out to hit the stage two months later, and I have never looked back.”
How did you choose your stage name?
“I am infatuated with the film noir era, with detectives and smoldering dames. Vivienne often seemed to be the name of the ‘bad girl’ in these films. I also wanted to create a name that would roll off the tongue, so I turned to the spirit wall at my favorite bar, and there it was: Vermouth. The name Vivienne Vermuth hit like lightning, and helped me to form my catch phrase, ‘The Rockin’ Concoction that’s always shakin’ and never stirred.’”
We are mesmerized by watching your transformation from ‘everyday girl’ to ‘burlesque bombshell.’ Tell us about your show day ritual, and specifically, how long do you spend on hair and makeup before a performance?
“It’s such a luxury to have the time to indulge, so when I do, my pre-show routine includes a long bath with a glass of champagne and a LUSH bath bomb, then a manicure and pedicure at my favorite nail salon, Cedar Springs Nail Bar. Then I pack my costumes and show essentials, and create my hair and makeup look.
“My hair and makeup usually takes about an hour and a half. For my hair, I use a 1950’s curl set, and create Lana Turner-style long waves or Marilyn Monroe’s bouncy bob, unless I am doing specific character work. When it comes to makeup, I use very specific contouring and shadowing techniques that I’ve learned from many drag queen friends. In burlesque, folks don’t pay to see the gal from the grocery store line; they want glamour and glitz, so I give it to them every time!”
We’re also fascinated by your onstage wardrobe! Describe the ‘basics,’ as well as your own creative showstoppers.
“Burlesque costumes can contain as many as five layers, or as few as two pieces – pasties and g-string. Pasties cover the nipples in keeping with nudity laws. Some additional common items include fishnet or thigh-high stockings, garter belts, corsets, fluffy feather boas, silky satin gloves, and sparkling hair accessories.
“For my own costumes, I draw inspiration from many sources, and quite often from Romain de Tirtoff, also known as Erté. He was a Russian-born artist and designer, and his Art Deco-style imagery was used in costumes for Folies Bergère and the Ziegfeld Follies. I also draw inspiration from Tim Burton, Liberace, Vegas showgirls, and even the Muppets! Most of my costumes and headpieces I create myself, and I commission small items from designers and seamstresses who work with my sketches to create one of a kind pieces.”
What can the average audience member learn from burlesque?
“Burlesque is a beautiful art that combines all forms of dance and movement with the sensuality of the human body. Burlesque features bodies in all shapes and sizes, and puts the raw emotion and connection out there under gorgeous lighting, covered in glitter. I’ve had women and men alike tell me that they’ve been transformed after seeing a burlesque show, that they now see the body for what it is, which is a vessel of pure sex. They’ve even taken some of the moves they’ve seen onstage and used them on their partner!”
Lastly, what does the future hold for Vivienne Vermuth and Broads & Panties Burlesque? What are your goals as a woman and as a performer?
“I recently performed my first aerial silk and aerial hoop acts, so I’m very excited to see where my hard work in the circus arts takes me. As a troupe, I hope to continue to create the awe-inspiring acts that our fans have come to love. On a personal level, I just hope to continue to inspire those around me. I am driven to entertain, and I aim to continue doing so as long as I can.”
Follow Vivienne Vermuth on Facebook and Instagram. Keep tabs on Broads & Panties Burlesque via Facebook, and visit TuesdayTeaseDallas.com for more information on Tuesday Tease. A complete local burlesque calendar is available at DFWBurlesque.com. Photos, credit The Naked Lens, Dennis Hevia Photography, and Michael Schulze Photography.