[PERFORMANCE: Review] Bring Back The Showgirl
A woman with an exuberant Australian accent has picked up the phone. “Oh my god!” She laughs, “Sorry, can you just wait – can you just give me like two seconds while I put some clothes on?” She giggles. “Sorry I’m on Adelaide time, I thought I had another hour! Just one sec – I’ve got to find a top…”
Stripper, burlesque artist and showgirl Cassandra Jane is in the throws of preparing for the Adelaide opening of her show Bring Back The Showgirl, which started as a fundraiser to help her reach the finals of Miss Nude Australia last year – a goal she achieved, against considerable odds. Having competed previously and come second two years in a row, Jane then took time off to have a baby, and relinquished her ambitions of winning the prestigious competition: “I kind of put my dreams aside, and I forgot about them and didn’t really think it was even possible to get back to the status that I had already been at.”
But two years later, Jane made up her mind to win the title, and hauled herself back into training via a grueling preparation schedule. “I had a personal coach that taught me how to tassel twirl and do burlesque, and I went to the gym every day. I had a personal trainer three times a week, I was on a special diet, and it took me a year to make my costumes; it was like a year and a half worth of preparations!” She laughs, “And yeah, it paid off. It all paid off.” She then went on to take third place in the Miss Burlesque World Championships, in Iowa.
Jane has been performing as a stripper for over a decade, but her interest in burlesque is a relatively recent development. “Time isn’t my friend, and it’s a lot more acceptable to be an older woman doing burlesque, whereas there’s a date on my youth for being a stripper,” she explains. She started stripping at the age of 21, at which time she owned a shop on Chapel Street (in Melbourne) called Fantasium. “We used to hand-make bondage, fetish and gothic clothing, and we got a lot of strippers coming in and getting their costumes made by our store. I was like, ‘Ah gosh, if they can do this then I can!” she laughs. “So I started, and I haven’t stopped!”
A lot has changed in the showgirl scene since then, and Jane laments the demise of the artform. “Basically, when I started 15 years ago, all the showgirls wore big beautiful costumes and they all had big props and they all had pride in themselves. They looked like movie stars, not porn stars, and it was more about being sexy rather than being sexual. There used to be about 40 venues that we all performed in, but now there’s only one left in Melbourne,” she says, citing pokies as a key factor in this downturn.
Forging ahead, Bring Back The Showgirl is both a homage to the rich history of the Australian showgirl tradition, and an amalgamation of Jane’s influences, taking the best bits from Parisian and Las Vagas showgirl styles, burlesque and striptease, and mixing them together to create her own brand of neo-burlesque (with a finale that, she hints, involves a giant chandelier, hundreds of feathers and a sprinkler system). “We’ve gone completely overboard,” she exclaims.
What: Bring Back The Showgirl
Where: The Factory Theatre / 105 Victoria Rd, Marrickville
When: Sunday May 20