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Cold nights, hot burlesque

In advance of our EXBlicks screening of "Berlin Burlesque" (Dec 9, Lichtblick Kino, 20:00), we get a taste of Berlin's modern-day burlesque scene at the sizzling Sunday Soirée in Friedrichshain. Hubba hubba!

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Photo by Caterina Gili

It’s getting cold as the dickens, but on the second Sunday of every month Friedrichshain’s Primitiv Bar is piping hot inside. No, not from guzzling all the Russian vodka, although that also comes recommended – it’s the sultry temptresses in the spotlight for the Sunday Soirée, Berlin’s most intimate burlesque show.

“Now when you guys like what you see, we want to hear you say, ‘hubba hubba!” announces Lady Lou, the event’s host and organiser, into the mic. “And when you really like what you see, how about a ‘wowza’? Clapping and cheering works of course, too.”

She then pulls back the glittery pink curtain to reveal the first performer, Betty Blackheart, on stage. Betty’s a gorgeous, full-figured woman with bright pink and blonde hair dressed in a lace Victorian get-up, throwing come-hither looks and kissy faces at a full house. Before long, Betty’s down to a pair of stockings and her bedazzled nipple tassels are swinging back and forth in both directions like a windmill. Needless to say, the audience erupts into applause, “hubba hubba”’s and rolling tiger purrs.

This is just a typical evening at the Sunday Soirée. There are three performers and five acts, with a 20-minute break in between every number. It gives time for the guests to mingle around the little bar and grab one of three €7 signature cocktails, named after each of the performers on any night. Betty Blackheart’s concoction features cardamom, vodka, pineapple juice and sugar syrup, and she tastes quite sweet and fruity.

“The show is successful because it’s so relaxed and interactive,” said Lady Lou, who started the Sunday Soirée two years ago with another performer, Viola Vixen. “It’s not just about sitting and watching… people can talk and hang out with the performers, so it’s a close connection.

Lady Lou started as a burlesque showgirl five years ago, when she was designing pin-up clothes and living with circus performers in London. Now she runs the Schoenheitstanz Studio, offering burlesque classes and workshops from the sexy hip shakes right down to hair and makeup.

The Sunday Soirée provides a stage for Lady Lou’s proteges, such as Betty Badda Boo, who started her performance dressed as a Christmas tree before stripping down to just a couple Tannenbaum cutouts and dangling ornaments on her bosom. But lots of international acts also come through, like Betty Blackheart who organizes the Helsinki Burlesque Festival.

“I come here not because of the girls, but for the performance and the art,” said Michael Denke, a regular who started attending the shows earlier this year. “Everybody comes in dressed up in their own special style and you really feel like you’re in another world.”

Some guests get into the burlesque spirit by wearing fishnets and others just a touch of red lipstick, but according to Lady Lou it’s not about looking risqué, but just feeling sexy however you please.

“(Burlesque) is a new way for women to let go of those mainstream ideals that are so forced upon us,” she said. “That’s why we try to get so many shapes and sizes of women up there on the stage, because different shapes and sizes can be hot.”

Right now, Lady Lou and Viola Vixen are organising a Sunday Soirée dinner show for 2014 with both international and local performers. In the meantime, you can find out more about the local burlesque scene at our next EXBlicks: we’re screening the documentary Berlin Burlesque at 8pm tonight.

Check out our photo series of Berlin Burlesque above, courtesy of Caterina Gili.