Burlesque by Undine La Verve returns to the Spazju Kreattiv stage
When Burlesque artist Undine Le Verve first hit the Maltese stages years ago, many eyebrows were raised. But, with the third edition of Maltese coming up, reactions have changed considerably and audiences appear to accept the empowering nature of ‘the tease without the sleaze’.
Undine shares her stories about finding the heart through all the rhinestones and critics.
How has the show evolved?
The show is a series of acts – local variety and International Burlesque stars, tied in by a red thread of a story. Last year we introduced a Q&A at the end of a show where people can ask questions.
It’s very important to me that people understand Burlesque and are free to ask us about anything from costume creation to why we feel Burlesque is empowering!
Also, this year my students from BAM – Burlesque Academy of Malta will be part of the show, which makes me a very proud Burlesque mama!
What are the highlights this year?
We have an incredible cast! Locally, we have our resident cast – Henk and Larissa singing, Gwilym on magic but on MC duties this year we have the wonderful Thomas Camilleri!
And we have a lot of international performers, too. We have Phycobella Camy from Finland; ChiChi Bouvet from Germany; Queenie O Hart from the US; Misty Lotus from Switzerland; and Chris Oh, a Boylesque star from New Zealand.
All are incredible performers, but I am very excited to be adding Boylesque to the mix. Chris Oh is a multi award winning, incredible show boy – Mr Gay World 2013, King of Burlesque New Zealand 2017 and winner of Most Dazzling at the Burlesque Hall Of Fame in Las Vegas last year…with the same act he will be performing in Malta
It has been quite some years now that we see burlesque in Malta. Have you seen a change in the reactions of the audience?
Definitely. When I started out I found mixed reactions. Some people enjoyed it, but many a time people were confused by it because they had never seen Burlesque before or even heard of it.
Now, suddenly, there is a lady artistically disrobing in front of them on stage. It did take a few people by surprise.
I started producing shows in 2015 when I realised we need to educate the audience, to have a crowd who know what they are getting themselves into!
Who are ready to cheer and clap and embrace all that is Burlesque – a myriad of different styles, body types and acts.
And who are ready to experience the beauty and fun of it with an open mind. I think the first edition of MalTease gave us the credibility we needed.
Do you still get critics?
Of course. As Dita said; “You can be the ripest peach but there’s always be somebody who doesn’t like peaches” … or something along those lines, anyway.
There will always be critics. You just need to distinguish the good from the bad! My mother can be a tough critic and I tend to get upset because her opinion matters so much to me.
But then, there are people who just don’t like it, and that’s fine. Some people have simply never seen it and are too quick to judge.
Others might focus on the flesh and disregard the beauty and artistry of the journey towards the final reveal.
In any case, I am proud of what I have achieved. It’s definitely no longer an uphill battle, as it was in the early days when I was starting out.
Now, we have audiences who love it and support Burlesque.
Burlesque and feminism: what is the link?
Any Art can be a very strong form on expression. The art of Burlesque is empowering, it’s not just about looking pretty and teasing the audience.
That’s but the very first layer, the surface. But if you peel away those layers of rhinestones and glitter, you will find the heart.
And the heart is a community of strong, empowered individuals, a community mostly ran by women and queer people with no producers or managers telling us what to do and how to do it.
We call the shots. Back in the day of old Burlesque, the great depression and between the wars, Burlesque was mostly entertainment for men.
But nowadays, more women watch Burlesque. Why? Because women love to see other strong, empowered bodies on stage.
They like to see other women owning their bodies, their confidence and have a great time. Culturally, for generations women have been taught to be demure, to be agreeable, to not be too much…
But we are finally emancipated and are free to take back our sensuality, our power and express it!
We can say no! We can be proud of our bodies and love ourselves as we are. We don’t have to fit a dictated standard of beauty or femininity or fitness, we can set our own, personal standard.
It’s men, women and everyone in between on stage being themselves in the rawest, most vulnerable, yet powerful and fearless way beneath all the layers of costume. That is Burlesque.
For more about Malta’s theatre read here and here.