WHILE many may have been understandably distracted by another international competition in Europe last month, fans of burlesque from across the globe had their sights set squarely on the return of the Boylesque Festival Vienna (BFV).
Eurovision may have been the main game in town but many commentators noted this year it had a lack of over-the-top campness, flare, and glitz and glamour – all of which the contest is renowned for.
The creation of Austrian burlesque artist and Conchita Wurst’s stage-husband, Jacques Patriaque, BFV is all about fostering connections within the global burlesque community.
“First of all, I still can’t believe that it’s already the second festival and that I’m planning the third BFV as we speak,” Patriaque told the Star Observer.
“The improvement [from last year] would definitely be — which was and will always be important to me — that the Austrian audience and beyond that, understood and honestly felt that we are a true family at the BFV where everybody is welcome.
“The festival went splendidly well and smoothly. I think this year we managed — despite all the Eurovision Song Contest craziness — to attract not only international artists but also an audience from all over the world.”
Performers from Sweden, the US, South Africa, Finland, France and many more may have exhausted Vienna’s supply of nipple tassel tape, including Australians Sina King — the current Australian queen of burlesque — along with Raven and Charlie D Barkle.
“I so loved the Aussies, they were spot on and so ‘spiffy‘. In my opinion, Aussie performers are surrounded by a captivating and enormously charming aura,” Patriaque said.
For King, BFV provided an opportunity for European burlesque fans to be introduced to the unique style of Australian artists.
“We are so isolated, so our art is more subconsciously prone to pushing the boundaries of what we do to standout from the rest of the world,” King told the Star Observer.
“It’s much more difficult for [Australian] artists to break through to the international circuit.”
Raved said: “Australian burlesque performers in my opinion are a whole fearless talented package. We work so hard to get to where we are and to be able to tour internationally is a big thing. We are a force to be reckoned with.
“It’s bloody time the rest of the world start seeing more Australian burlesque artists. It is so nice to be backstage with several Australians and talking crap and drinking beer with straws. More performers need to be biting the bullet and getting their tooshies out into the world and showing what we can do.”
BFV is one the world’s few burlesque festivals that features artists from both the well-established female and emerging male burlesque communities with an aim to challenge notions of gender.
“It’s such an inclusive festival where your talent is ranked higher than your gender,” Raven said.
“Boylesque is still relatively new in the modern burlesque society and sometimes it can feel isolating.”
Incorporating both genders is key to how Patriaque designed his festival and what it could hopefully accomplish.
“Although the festival is called ‘Boylesque’ it is open to all genders. I know this may be a bit confusing in the beginning but I want to show performers and as well as the audience that everybody is welcomed to join the family and it isn’t about the gender, more about the artist,” he said.
“I think we reached a point in our society, where the topic ‘gender’ or sexual orientation for instance should not be an issue at all. Love is not based on what you do, Love is based on who you are.”
For Patriaque, King and Raven, burlesque is an art form that provides an exploration of sexuality and dance, something that isn’t possible in other performance genres.
“I think this art form, as fragile it still is in it’ global process of growth, has a special fascination for so many people. Also, burlesque is not shallow ‘product‘ as some may think and doesn’t only showcase glitter, confetti and sparkling costumes,” Patriaque said.
“Burlesque rather defines and puts ideas, different types of cultures out there and brings them together. It does not exclude nor does it restrict.”
Exploration of the fluid nature of sexuality is one feature of burlesque that attracts Raven: “For me burlesque is about having a fucking good time on stage and just showing what you got. It’s an incredible art form where everything goes.”
Australia was further represented during BFV as King, Raven and Barkle were joined on the stage of Vienna’s Stadtsaal by global drag star Courtney Act who performed several musical numbers, including a track from her upcoming album, on the first night of the festival that featured female performers.
“I love burlesque so much, but I have never performed at a burlesque event,” Act told the Star Observer.
“I felt very privileged to perform alongside such a bunch of talent and beautiful ladies.
“I love that burlesque celebrates all shapes and sizes, It celebrates sex appeal and women in such a fun and sexy way.”
Act was also in Vienna to attend the world-famous Life Ball: an extravagant charity event raising funds for the fight against HIV and AIDS. This year it was also attended by Elton John, Conchita Wurst, Charlize Theron, Sean Penn, Mary J Blige, Kelly Osborne and Jean-Paul Gautier.
“It was my second Life Ball and I loved it,” Act said.
“Last year was always going to be hard to beat as I ‘got well acquainted’ with a very handsome model who was in the show. But this year I got to meet and be styled by Jean-Paul Gautier himself, so that was pretty major.”
Along with the Australians on stage, there were many more in the boylesque audience and Patriaque hopes it’s a trend that will continue on grow.
“I hope and wish that more and more Australians come and join the BFV family and that we all have some magical days in Vienna together. I love Australia,” Patriaque said.
“I’ve never been there unfortunately, but I really hope that I’m able to travel there very soon and perform there as well.”