Wasabassco Burlesque still going strong after five years
by Holly Tsang
Nov 04, 2009 | 19689 views | 0 0 comments | 593 593 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Photo by Chris Zedano
Photo by Chris Zedano
Rumors of the demise of burlesque have been greatly exaggerated.

In fact, on Saturday, Wasabassco Burlesque will celebrate its fifth anniversary by hosting a burlesque variety show that boasts twenty acts of “risqué, couple-friendly fun.”

Expect gratuitous skin exposure and sexy stripteases, but producer Doc Wasabassco assures those unfamiliar with burlesque that the experience is completely different from that you would have at a strip club.

For one thing, visitors are encouraged to bring a date or a significant other, and the acts are sexy yet tasteful enough to be equally enjoyed by both.

“The core is the tease. Teasing is always fun and funny, and when you see that and it’s presented well, you’re far more entertained than you would be if it was just a naked lady being provocative,” said Wasabassco. “There’s all points of view and ways of expressing femininity, sexuality and humor, and I think that’s what doesn’t scare people off.”

According to Wasabassco, over half of his audience is female. Instead of being offended by the scantily clad performers, female audience members purchase the pasties often sold at venues and approach the cast after the show, inspired to learn how to perform burlesque.

In addition to stripteases, acts showcase the talents of magicians, escape artists, hula hoop artists, singers, comedians, and some people who don’t actually take off their clothes.

“It is definitely an art form. It’s the sexy side of Vaudeville,” said Wasabassco.

Burlesque dates all the way back to the 1800s. As it became more risqué, Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia started shutting down New York City’s burlesque houses.

Wasabassco said that once sexy theater was no longer an option for entertainment-seekers, strip clubs sprang up to fill the void, but the art and class was lost until burlesque made a comeback in the ‘90s.

“We live in a time where sexuality is owned more by people,” said Wasabassco. “Since then, women have owned their sexuality more.”

As a non-performer and a male, Wasabassco is a minority in the burlesque community, where women are king, or rather, queen. Most burlesque producers are women who perform in the shows, and so it seems the conversation has shifted from the exploitation of women to women harnessing their sexuality and expressing it on stage.

Though there are male burlesque performers, Wasabassco believes standing on the sidelines allows him to remain objective and focus on the members of his team.

As with most forms of art, burlesque is about self-expression and coming out of one’s shell, as Wasabassco has discovered since the dawn of Wasabassco Burlesque.

The former pin-up art illustrator stumbled upon the world of burlesque completely by accident when a friend suggested holding a burlesque show to promote the artwork at a small gallery.

Wasabassco admitted the show was so much fun that he completely forgot about the gallery. He booked another show, then another, and the rest is history.

“Five years ago I was sort of getting bored with what I was doing, and this is just constantly exciting. It woke up a part of my personality I didn’t know I had,” said the charismatic Wasabassco, who insists he used to be a wallflower. “I just didn’t expect it because I’m not on the stage.”

On or off the stage, a burlesque show is no place for a wallflower. The audience is encouraged to hoot and holler and cheer to their heart’s content.

“The more appreciative noise the audience makes, the more excited and pleased the performers get. It’s a very symbiotic relationship,” said Wasabassco. “Just be prepared to smile and be prepared to make noise.”

Check out the 5th anniversary variety show at the Bell House in Brooklyn on November 7. For advance tickets, visit www.thebellhouseny.com.

For more information about Wasabassco Burlesque, visit www.wasabassco.com.
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