The sultry, sensual world of burlesque is set to take over the theatre space at Saint James Cavalier, Valletta, as a fully-fledged burlesque show starring Malta's leading burlesque dancer Undine Le Verve and a number of foreign artists will be held in November as part of this season's Spazju Kreattiv artistic programme.
The show, titled MalTease in a play on words that brings together the Maltese identity and the famously teasing nature of the genre, fuses dance, music, story-telling and burlesque in four acts that are loosely tied together by one theme: a walk through the iconic Strait Street in its heyday.
"Actor Joe Depasquale is writing the script, but the idea is to keep it very flexible," Undine La Verve, who is also the artistic director and producer of the show, said. The show includes a total of 16 foreign performers hailing from London, Paris, Vienna, Helsinki, Stockholm and Amsterdam.
All artists specialize in a different genre of the burlesque, with the focus ranging from classical to alternative, comedic and even boylesque - a less common subgenre featuring male performers rather than females.
Undine's is no new name when it come to the burlesque circuit - both locally and internationally. In Malta, she has been responsible for a string of themed shows, often involving foreign artists - the monthly Burlesque a La Verve events from 2015 spring to mind and, more recently, she has also organized events at the Electro-Lobster Project in Sliema.
Undine is also a regular participant at various alternative festivals and events; abroad, she has taken part in festivals like Paris’s Pretty Propaganda, Amsterdam’s Fringe Festival and the Munich Burlesque Festival. Unsurprisingly, she is considered Malta's foremost name in matters pertaining to burlesque.
The art itself is, of course, notoriously tied to the act of stripping - however, Undine assures me, it is really not about that, preferring to refer to it as "the tease without the sleaze".
With a number of shows already under her belt, how have audiences in Malta reacted so far? "People are gradually becoming more accepting and are moving away from focusing on the clothes themselves and more on the story-telling aspect. Because burlesque is all about story-telling, really. It is a bit like a journey, the clothes, the glitz and accessories are the parts in between. People in Malta still have a fear of nudity. They're fine talking about it, but not actually seeing it happen. But with burlesque, it really is not about what you take off, but about how you take it off. At its core, the audience is taken on a journey of music, dance and song."
Undine, in fact, strongly believes in burlesque as a way of empowering women. She emphasizes that this is not about particular body shapes - performers run the whole gamut from voluptuous body types to androgynous, skinny, big, petite, short, tall and more. And, she adds, despite the predominance of female performers, this is not a show that is just for the men. On the contrary, there is something for everyone.
"There are so many aspects to burlesque. Some are more into the dance, others the costumes... One thing is for sure, most women - and not only the performers themselves - find it very empowering. It gives self-confidence, it proves that you do not need to conform to a body stereotype to be happy with yourself, it is almost like a super power. You become someone else when doing burlesque. And women respond well to that,"Undine says.
And that is exactly what MalTease will be providing, with Colin Fiz compering the show and adding his own particular brand of humor, singers Hank and Larissa providing the vocal entertainment, the burlesque artists doing their thing and the Norwegian artist going over and above that to offer what Undine describes as "a very particular and intriguing routine", while cheekily adding that the audience would have to wait and see for more details.
"Let me just say this: when I first saw him perform in Amsterdam I just knew I had to include him in my events in Malta. In reality I have performed with all the artists who are taking part in MalTease. We all know each other well, we are like a small community and this can be seen even from the way we interact on stage."
MalTease takes place on November 4, 5 and 6 at 8pm at St James Cavalier, Valletta. Tickets are available online. A series of events at the Electro-Lobster Project, Sliema, will be announced soon.
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