• Germany's news in English
 

Burlesque booms in radical, naughty Berlin

Published: 01 May 2012 16:45 GMT+02:00

When US-born neo-burlesque performer Clea Cutthroat takes to the stage in Berlin her strip-tease is anything but coquettish.

Billy Idol’s ‘White Wedding’ kicks off her cross-dressing priest act which ends in spatters of fake blood and milk.

Click here for a selection of photos from "The Domestic Burlesque"

First to go is the priest’s robe, which reveals a wedding dress underneath. Cutthroat drinks from a bottle labelled "female hormones" before removing her draggy wedding dress and make-up.

Shoes and wig also end up on the floor as the transformation is complete and the full woman underneath is revealed.

Cutthroat then drinks “holy water” – actually milk – pours it over herself, and then takes a mouthful of “communion wine” to bring the scene to climax as she spits fake blood everywhere before strapping her entire body up in heavy-duty tape.

A "middle finger to gender roles."

For her, burlesque is a lot more than stripping down to fancy underwear. “A lot of it for me is playing with people’s responses and pushing people’s predefined ideas and stereotypes,” Cutthroat told The Local.

She said her performance plays with the ideas of inner and outer beauty. As for spitting blood that’s either a “middle finger to gender roles or even to burlesque itself,” depending on her mood.

Cutthroat is a proponent of neo-burlesque, which rejects the pure glamour of traditional performances for an edgier mix.

Original burlesque performance was initially developed in the 1800s, and often used by the lower classes to subvert societal conventions and to retell popular stories in a more bawdy way. It developed into a sexy strip tease in the early 1900s but faded into obscurity later in the century.

Now the tradition has been revived, and many strands are just as radical as their predecessors – in today’s society embracing physical imperfection while emanating strength can be surprisingly subversive.

“When a performer is on stage, they are in control. There are no rules that say they have to get naked,” Cutthroat told The Local. “I personally only take off clothes if it makes sense in the story.”

International burlesque performers moving to Berlin

On stage, a performer is empowered by the freedom of being who they want to be. Neo-burlesque gives performers like Cutthroat the space to make all their own decisions without the pressure of conforming to expectations – because there are none.

Cutthroat is just one of the many international performers who have settled in the German capital.

Names like Lady Lou, Julietta la Doll, Marlene von Steenvag are all regulars on the scene. They let Swedish photographer Elsa Quarsell into their homes to be photographed for her book “The Domestic Burlesque” project.

This shows the performers in their stage get-up at home in domestic settings – a way of showing the different identities of the women concerned.

Quarsell told The Local she was watching a burlesque show in a working-men’s club in East London when she found herself thinking about the different identities of the women on stage. She soon found herself in cities across the world shooting performers, in full stage get-up, in their own homes.

Her book features many women working in Berlin – the German capital famed for Cabaret has blossomed on the map of burlesque performance over the last few years.

The combination of cheap rent, liberal attitude and good pay has made Berlin a prime place to be for performers, said Cutthroat.

The contrast between stage and home

She came to Berlin five years ago, after realising that “artistically I felt I could go no further in New York,” said Cutthroat. "Berlin allowed me to move into artistic adulthood."

While Cutthroat’s routine might be testing the ideas of inner beauty, Quarsell’s new book takes this a step further, offering a glimpse into the performer’s homes - a world arguably more private than the flesh they bare on stage.

“I wanted to see if they were like that at home,” Quarsell told The Local. Her search for the contrast between art and real life took her as far at the US and Japan and took two years.

“I found that either you would have no idea what kind of nocturnal lives these people were living, and their houses were pretty plain, or they were totally vintage and burlesque-esque.”

For Cutthroat though, who trained as a professional dancer, her burlesque life and her home life are “like church and state, and never the two should meet.”

“Normally I don’t ever dress as Clea at home, my friends wouldn’t be able to cope if I was like that in real life,” she laughed.

“The Domestic Burlesque” is in English and brimming with beautiful pictures. It is set for German release April 25, and will be available at selected retailers across the country and online.

There will be a release party in Pinky's Peepshow in Berlin on the same day, where some of the women from the book will be performing.

Related links:

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Extreme heat causes Autobahn to rupture
A fissure on the Autobahn near Heidelberg. Photo: DPA

Extreme heat causes Autobahn to rupture

The heatwave sweeping across the country may have Germans flocking to the sea this weekend, but the extreme temperatures are also causing Autobahns to break apart. READ  

Nazi island resort to be turned into luxury flats
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Nazi island resort to be turned into luxury flats

A vast Nazi mega-complex meant as holiday homes for German workers and later used by the Soviets as a Cold War barracks is about to be turned into luxury flats. READ  

Greece crisis
'Bundestag must vote on new bailout': Schäuble
A poster of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble in Athens reads "For five years he has sucked your blood. Now tell him NO." Photo: DPA

'Bundestag must vote on new bailout': Schäuble

UPDATE: Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said on Friday that there would be no quick release of bailout funds to Greece after the country's referendum on whether to accept its creditors' terms on Sunday. READ  

Activists give Dalai Lama 80th birthday stamp
The new Deutsche Post stamp showing the Dalai Lama. Photo: DPA

Activists give Dalai Lama 80th birthday stamp

Pro-Tibet activists have created a new limited-edition stamp featuring the Dalai Lama to mark the Tibetan spiritual leader's 80th birthday. READ  

Women's World Cup
'Germany will crack England': top coach
Star striker Celia Sasic. Photo: DPA

'Germany will crack England': top coach

The manager of European champions FFC Frankfurt told The Local he expects Germany to beat England in the third place play-off in the Women's World Cup, and predicted his protege Celia Sasic will grab a goal or two. READ  

NSA surveillance scandal
Calls grow for govt to act on NSA spying
Chancellor Angela Merkel, the highest-profile German victim of NSA spying, speaking on the phone. Photo: DPA

Calls grow for govt to act on NSA spying

Green Party security expert Konstantin von Notz told The Local on Friday that Chancellor Angela Merkel is failing to restore faith in the German-US partnership following fresh spying revelations. READ  

Germany reach semis of beach volleyball worlds
Ilka Semmler and Katrin Holtwick. Photo: DPA file

Germany reach semis of beach volleyball worlds

Germany's top beach volleyball pair are storming the world championships in Holland and prepare to face Brazil in the semis on Friday. READ  

Environment minister blasts Merkel, colleagues
Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks. Photo: DPA

Environment minister blasts Merkel, colleagues

Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks loosed a broadside against her cabinet colleagues on Friday in a guest article for Die Welt, saying that they had decided to do too little to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in a way that would cost too much. READ  

Greece crisis
BILD polls readers in own 'Greece referendum'
Image: BILD/screenshot

BILD polls readers in own 'Greece referendum'

Tabloid Bild continued its campaign against bailouts for Greece on Friday by calling its own "referendum", asking readers to fill out a poll on whether Germany should keep stumping up. German politicians were divided on how the Greek vote would affect Europe. READ  

Police confiscate WW2 tank hidden in cellar
The Panther tank removed from a cellar in Kiel, with a prosecutors' evidence label attached to its barrel. Photo: DPA

Police confiscate WW2 tank hidden in cellar

Police searched a villa in a wealthy suburb of Kiel on Wednesday and found a Second World War tank, a torpedo and other weaponry in the cellar. On Thursday they were still working on removing the tank. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
Police seize pensioner's WW2 heavy weapons haul
National
How to survive the Europe-wide heatwave
Sport
Is Schweini already out of the door at Bayern?
Politics
How German media shaped the Greece crisis
National
Car assembly robot crushes worker at Volkswagen
Rhineland
Weathermen red-faced over heatwave snow warning
Society
An eye for an eye? Mum protects child in playground with pepperspray
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's final day in Germany
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's second day in Germany
National
Queen Elizabeth II's first day in Germany - as it happened
National
Bus passengers tell fake racists where to get off
Politics
What's really in the Queen's handbag?
National
Germans say USA doesn't respect freedom
National
Yes, you CAN buy adult e-books before 10pm in Germany
VIDEO: Watch a 93-metre turbine crash to earth in slow motion
Gallery
Who's got a shot at the German Film Awards
Rhineland
Anger over 'child-free' beer garden
National
How do you do, Majestät?
National
Man defends right to pee in public with tear gas
Features
The Germans who won Waterloo for the British
Frankfurt
Should Germany ban circus animals?
Hamburg
Where people are having the most sex in Germany
Culture
Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Not this student...
National
Dresden's three-decade-long red light
Politics
Upper house calls for gay marriage now
Berlin
Berlin named 3rd-best city worldwide
Sport
In search of the toughest firefighter
Business & Money
German firms shine for European engineering students
Gallery
Hitler's paintings up for auction
National
German's 70-year search for murdered US pilot
Politics
What the G7 leaders agreed at Elmau
Business & Money
What really makes Germans happy
National
Playmobil builder leaves worldwide legacy
National
The car share that became a drug run
Politics
What Snowden revealed to Germany
Rhineland
Why wolf cubs are being raised by hand
National
Hitler's booze cave found
National
Environment makes Germany worth living in
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

6,945
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd