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Inaugural 'Boylesque' Festival Sashays into Manhattan

By Mathew Katz | April 23, 2012 3:57pm
Burlesque star Tigger Ferguson will teach courses for the New York Boylesque Festival.
Burlesque star Tigger Ferguson will teach courses for the New York Boylesque Festival.
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New York Boylesque Festival

CHELSEA — From the fan dance to the Superman strip, burlesque isn't just for the ladies anymore.

After years of struggling beside its female-oriented cousin, "boylesque," or male burlesque, has risen toward the mainstream and is celebrating by throwing a festival of its own — the first annual New York Boylesque Festival, which kicks off Friday with a series of shows and "Boylesque University" training courses.

Part performance art and part striptease, boylesque takes much off the traditional elements of female burlesque and adds a campier twist.

"It's becoming so popular that it seems like it works for boys to have a festival of their own," Jen Gapay, one of the organizers of this weekend's festival.

"In burlesque, there's a lot of class numbers, things from the 1940's, elegant striptease," Gapay added. "I don't see a lot of that in boylesque — it can be more campy, funnier, more high energy."

Gapay, who also founded the long-running New York Burlesque Festival, added that male-focused shows and troupes have become bigger in recent years.

"It's not really new, but it's new that it's growing so much that you can put it into a festival," said Daniel Nardicio, who's also organizing the festival.

The festival will kick off on Friday with a teaser party at Tammany Hall at 152 Orchard St., featuring performances from Mat Fraser, Wrong Note Rusty, Trojan Original, Hard Corey and others.

The main event on Saturday night will be a boylesque spectacular at Rebel at 251 W. 30th St., featuring performers from around the world, including one of the art's oldest practitioners, Tigger Ferguson.

There's so much demand for the Saturday performance that it's nearly sold out, Nardicio said. And while he said the festival appealed to the LGBT community, it also was attracting interest from a cross section of New York nightlife enthusiasts.

"I would say there's a good number of straight performers — and there will definitely be a lot of straight women," he said. But, he added, "I don't know how many straight men will be there [in the audience]."

On top of the shows, class is in session at "Boylesque University" at the Gershwin Hotel, starting at 12 p.m. on Saturday. Classes include a dance lessons, history of boylesque itself, a course on using acting techniques to improve your burlesque persona and a course dedicated to turn boys in nerdy Clark Kent-esque garb into a stripper Superman.

The lessons are an attempt to develop a boylesque that's more than just traditional burlesque dances adapted for men. Instead, the performers want to turn it into their own art, something that's unique and modern.

"In burlesque, there was a lot of mimicking what the old-timers were doing. With this, there are no old-timers," said Nardicio.

"We can think outside the box, so it's more theatrical — and of course more gay."