Note: Burlesque dancers perform under stage names for entertainment and privacy purposes. We've honored their wishes for anonymity and used those names in this story.
Most people wouldn't expect to see the Kool-Aid Man represented on stage, no matter the performance medium. But thanks to the boundless world of burlesque, the Rocket Doll Revue's Trini Bikini was able to bring her outlandish idea to life.
"The type of burlesque that I do gives me a chance to express myself exactly the way I want," she says. "Anything I come up with I can usually make a reality. I saw the Kool-Aid Man burst through a wall, and was like, 'That would be cool. People would want to see that happen,' and I did it."
- Kristan Weatherford
The women of the Rocket Doll Revue troupe boast confidence in spades as they perform the art of burlesque.
Performing regularly around the city, the 11-member troupe of Rocket Doll Revue showcases a wide range of burlesque, from classic striptease to more avant-garde spectrums of the performance art. Often inviting local musicians, comics and more to join them on stage. The group will perform with local jazz extraordinaire Rob Dixon this Friday at The White Rabbit Cabaret.
Back in 2010, a few of the troupe's founding members attended a traveling vaudeville show (Yard Dogs Road Show) at The Vogue, which inspired them to try their hand at burlesque. As one thing led to another, Rocket Doll Revue was formed, and performed its first show ever at Locals Only with live bands.
For all of the members of Rocket Doll Revue, burlesque serves as a creative release, no matter their artistic background. For Frenchy LaRouge, who has been with the group since it began, this is undoubtedly the case. With experience in music and tap dancing, the lifelong performer never felt she was given a real chance to be free on stage due to what she describes as a male-dominated world of entertainment. But then, burlesque became a part of her life.
- Schwebach Photography
Rocket Doll Revue performs many different acts beyond the traditional striptease numbers.
"It gives you an outlet to do really just about anything that you could want to do on stage -- I've tap danced on stage before. I sing," she says. "We control it. We do all of our own stuff, we come up with all of our own ideas and we put on these really elaborate shows. There's just really no other performance area that offers that kind of versatility that's female-driven."
Prior to joining the group two years ago, Rocket Doll Revue's resident emcee Phyllis Thriller also found herself in the very male-dominant world of comedy. So for her, burlesque has been a refreshing change of pace. She explains, "I kind of got tired of that 'What do you know little lady?' mentality. That for me was a huge part of being in the company of these really strong, powerful, confident women. I feel like as a comic, burlesque has been a really good outlet for me."
Having existed as a troupe for years now, the group is well aware of the uneasy feelings many people have when they think of burlesque and its sexual elements. Thriller explains, "I think women's sexuality makes people uncomfortable, no matter where it's coming from. I feel like a lot of the problems that people sometimes have with burlesque is where we fall on that spectrum -- if we're too sexy, if we're not sexy enough, are we just people that couldn't be 'real strippers,' and all of this nonsense." She continues that much of that mindset doesn't make sense for those who are familiar with their performances. "If you come to a burlesque show, you're going to see a bunch of really confident women, and sometimes that can be really intimidating," she says. Ultimately the troupe hopes to eliminate any and all misconceptions by continuing to present quality burlesque to larger and larger audiences.
- Schwebach Photography
The troupe hopes to bring more of its creative concepts to life.
"We want people to know what burlesque can look like, and what these shows really can be, because most people don't know," Bikini says. "They've seen the movie or they have heard from somebody 'that it's like a strip club' or whatever, but they're missing out on a good time and they're probably thinking of it in a negative way. I don't even know how many people I've had come up to me and be like, 'Holy sh--. That's not what I thought that was going to be at all.'"
Looking forward, the troupe hopes to bring more of its creative concepts to life, wholeheartedly enjoying the performance art along the way.
For more information on Rocket Doll Revue, visit its website.