Until earlier this month, my knowledge of burlesque as an art form was solely based on Burlesque, the 2010 film starring Cher and Christina Aguilera. With that film being what it is, I thought my curiosity and interest was satiated. When I heard about 2 Ring Circus' monthly Boys Night: An All-Male Cirquelesque Revue, occurring at New York City's fabled Slipper Room, I had to know more. I giddily anticipated attending the Thursday evening extravaganza -- and found myself deliriously entertained.
Led by creative partners Ben Franklin and Joshua Dean, 2 Ring Circus' all-male burlesque production blends the titillating tropes of the strip tease artform with the exciting danger of cirque arts. The final product is a fun-filled evening of tongue-in-cheek humor, impressive aerial performances, and playfully bawdy behavior.
Since burlesque's renaissance is now decades old, it's only natural to probe into where the resurgence of originated -- and when men got involved. "We've all been discussing what it is that is making this revitalization of the art form," Franklin says. "I think that once you have good performers who go out and pave the way, people will naturally follow that." As more people continue to dabble, the medium has gone more mainstream. "Then, of course, you have Christina Aguilera and Cher starring in a movie called that," says Franklin. "Whether they are doing traditional burlesque or not in that film, it still gave a voice to it."
At its core, burlesque is about being entertaining. "While you can push an envelope and have a political agenda or idea behind burlesque," Franklin explains, "The entertainment that is burlesque lets people come and have a really good time. I think that's what really drives the artform."
Most people still imagine women in outrageous costumes -- tight corsets and pasties with tassels --while dancing with feather boas and fans. It's one reason the "circus boys" show--featuring acclaimed burlesquers Mr. Gorgeous, Jason Mejias, Dean, and Franklin-- feels fresh.
The novelty of Boys Night isn't just the all-male cast. The use of cirque arts gets the heart racing in a completely different way, adding a layer of spectacle to the traditionally hedonistic art form. This allows audiences to revisit their circus inspired childhood amusement and whimsy as they watch performers dangle above the stage from silks and ropes. "I think everyone has that moment where they think, 'Holy wow! I wish I could just do that,' " Franklin says. "So, that excitement of something that is kind of out of reach makes it more exciting."
It's certainly an erotic confection filled with comedic moments "We want people to laugh," Franklin explains. "The fact that we have gay audiences, straight audiences, girls and guys coming together, and groups of girls coming out is just because people like to laugh. That's what we're aiming to do."
Mixing sensuality and thrilling circus acts, the skilled performers of Boys Night allow each member of the cast to showcase amazing versatility. At October's show, Mr. Gorgeous was channeling an Elvis-like character in a jumpsuit that earned guffaws as he peeled off a seemingly endless amount of skintight outfits with help from the audience. Franklin and Dean had the audience rolling in the aisles portraying drunken Germans in lederhosen offering beer and bites of Toaster Strudel to willing audience members. Franklin's transformation from a Jack Skellington-inspired character to Santa in a red leather harness and matching leather jockstrap tickled ribs and libidinous desires equally.
Boys Night: An All-Male Cirquelesque Revue is the first Thursday of each month, the next is Nov. 5 at the Slipper Room, NYC. Watch a video below: