The Austin Chronicle

Shake It Like They Taught You in Louisiana

By Richard Whittaker, April 10, 2014, 6:44pm, All Over Creation

Put away those old sneakers and those misguided jorts. The glamour, the glitz and the va-va-voom of the great shimmy and shake returns tonight as the Texas Burlesque Festival brings some tease back to the Lone Star State.

What is burlesque? As festival founder Lynn Raridon put it in 2011, "It's less about the strip and more about the tease."

And what is the Texas Burlesque Fest? It's the annual celebration of the third great American art form (the other two being jazz and comics.) Performers and solo artistes from Texas, California, New York and all points East, South, North and West will be in attendance, sharing their distinctive regional variations on dropping clothing like it's on fire. There'll even be an international delegation, with Canada's Ruth Ordare adding some Northern mystery. (Meanwhile Paco Fish claims that his birth certificate says "Parts Unknown", but if the festival is famous for one thing, it's that every part gets known, if yah catch mah drift.)

As always, the fest kicks off tonight, April 10, with Nouveau Nuit: Co-headlined by the inestimable Ruby Joule of Austin's Jigglewatts and Bazuka Joe of Chicago's legendary boylesque troupe the Stage Door Johnnies, it highlights performers with less than two years of flash and tease under their (garter)belt. There's a reward for the flesh that impresses the most: The Lone Stars and Garters Audience Choice Award, and the winner will be eligible for a slot in Saturday's competition showcase, headlined by la Joule's co-watt Coco Lectric, a solo slot from Joe's fellow Johnny Ray Gunn, and New Orlean's rightly crowned queen of perlesque, Perle Noire

But the TBF isn't just about celebrating the newest talents. Every year, there's a true legend that strikes the stage and knocks 'em dead, and this year it's Miss Toni Elling. The dame of Detroit and a close personal friend of Duke Ellington (where do you think she got the name?), she was known as America's foremost sepia singing ecdysiast. Not only will this Burlesque Hall of Famer return to the stage on Friday night, but she'll receive rightful tribute as Noire performs her own homage to one of the greats of the art.

The Texas Burlesque Festival runs April 10-12 at the Marchesa Hall and Theater, 6226 Middle Fiskville. More info and tickets at

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