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Burlesque With an Independent Streak

Texas Burlesque Festival at 501 Studios this weekend

By Richard Whittaker, 3:39PM, Wed. Apr. 21, 2010

Texas Burlesque Festival: Building up the Independent so they can drop (almost) everything
Texas Burlesque Festival: Building up the Independent so they can drop (almost) everything

It's a well-kept secret to those in the know that Austin is one of the best towns for burlesque. This weekend see more than just the local stars like Carousel Cabaret and The Jigglewatts take to the stage, but a panoply of national talents both fresh and experienced for the Texas Burlesque Festival.

This will be the third such event in four years: Starting off in 2007 and split over two nights at The Parrish and Antones, last year it moved to Emo's. This year the feather fans will be fluttering at the more intimate space of The Independent at 501 Studios on E. Fifth, and while the room may be smaller, it's the biggest festival so far.

For starters, it's a three-night event, each with an individual theme. Thursday is Nouvelle Nuit, where the new starlets get to shake their thing: Friday is Headliners and Legends as veterans and icons of the art show the youngsters how it's done: Topping it off on Saturday is Competition Night, featuring a special reunion show from Austin's own Kitty Kitty Bang Bang. Oh, plus Jim Rose (he of the eponymous Circus Sideshow) will be hosting on two nights, and did we mention a film crew capturing the whole extravaganza?

Event organizer Lynn Raridon explained, "We've gone all out." The change of location came about partly because she knows the owners and partly because Kitty Kitty Bang Bang (for whom she serves as artistic director) had such a good experience there at their farewell show last year. "I actually did a couple of music videos back there in the 80s," Raridon said, "It's a really nice space, and wait 'til you see what they've done to it." The credit for the structure, she said, goes to venue manager Mike Henry and his team. "He's created beautiful curved and sculptured stage, balcony seating, he's put a bar out as well as one in back. He's really carved out a space that's going to be ideal for this kind of performance."

While the show will be more theatrical than ever, Raridon said it will retain its rock-and-roll edge. "I don't want this to ever become a stuffy sit-down event. I want people to hoot and holler, because the more they do that, the more the performers respond and pour it on."

The event will highlight not only some of the biggest names in burlesque, but the breadth of ingenuity and creativity in the modern scene. Raridon said, "I love the festival atmosphere, because we're going to see everything from pieces on point to classical music, to headbanging numbers to Metallica. I think it's important that the art change and evolve."

The Texas Burlesque Festival runs April 22-24 at the Independent at 501st Studios, 501 N. I-35. Tickets available online and at the door: $25 seated, $15 general admission, $10 opening night for students and military with ID.

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