6B-The Michigan Daily - Thursday, October 12, 2006
Tassels, top hats and temptation
teases, titillates Detroit
By Kimberly Chou
Associate Arts Editor
Tootsie Pop stands with one hip
cocked, smoking a cigarette in the
eaves of the Furniture Factory The-
ater, an inauspicious Detroit building
idling at the corner of3rd Avenue and
Alexandrine. It's early Tuesday eve-
ning - a full dress rehearsal for the
CandyPants Burlesque troupe, and
Toots - clad in shiny white panties,
peroxide curls piled high - has just
swung the makeshift dancer's pole
into the floor.
"I thoughtI told you not to swing!"
choreographer Christopher Leadbit-
"I didn't put that much weight on
it!" she retorts.
Two minutes earlier, just as the
pants came off, just as Tootsie Pop
pressed her ample, dimpled ass
against the metal, subsequently
launching into her first swing, the
pole gave way from its hastily bolted
base. But rehearsal mishaps aren't a
big deal - by this time on Tuesday
night, someone has already spilled
the lighter fluid from the fire-eating
After leading a similar produc-
tion called Lil' Beaux Peep in
New Orleans, native Detroiter and
longtime performer Kevin Lepine
returns to Michigan with his new
CandyPants Girls Burlesque show.
Opening tomorrow night and run-
ning for the next six weekends, it's an
experience unlike anything Detroit
has to offer, Lepine said.
"Burlesque is about fun' he said.
"It's about a wink and a nod and a
smile." Bringing back this wink, nod
and smile is his burlesque mantra,
something he repeats frequently and
almost all too often.
It's an appropriate time to pitch
such a concept to a city once know
for the burlesque revues at the Lower
East Side clubs like The Brass Rail
and The Twenty Grand in the Para-
dise Valley entertainment district.
The entertainment form has
experienced a recent resurgence
in popularity with new burlesque
productions like the Velvet Ham-
mer in Los Angeles and personali-
ties like Dita Von Teese. It's finally
trickled eastward from conventions
like San Francisco's Tease-O-Rama
and the Miss Exotic World competi-
tion. The mainstream American pop
demographic has also been forced
to take notice, with the Las Vegas-
act-cum-pop-group Pussycat Dolls
as the most famous factor. The bur-
lesque-inspired troupe features an
ever-changing cast of dancers and
celebrity guests; its success has also
been parlayed into an novelty music
act of the same name.
Aside from the strip-club chore-
ography and Barbie figures of the
current dolls, there are notable pres-
ent-day performers who attempt a
more traditional representation of
the burlesque like the brassy Dirty
Martini. There's a conception that
burlesque revolves solely around the
striptease, but traditional productions
also relied heavily on variety acts.
Even the dance is commonly mis-
construed - the emphasis should be
more on the tease, and less on what's
"(Burlesque) is glamour - I love
it," said Michiee DeVale, the Can-
dyPants Girls wardrobe designer. "I
think it brings the femininity back to
The style established by past exot-
ic dancers no longer exists, he said,
instead replaced by the louche gratu-
itousness of strippers.
"Burlesque girls will bring that
class back and let those ladies know
it's OK to be a lady," DeVale said.
The CandyPants show is very
much in the vein of traditional bur-
lesque: There's an opening number
and corresponding finale with all
five dancers, a recurring, somewhat
off-putting puppet act and a number
of magic tricks.
In addition to Tootsie Pop's
reverse-drag pole-dance, Sugar
Baby opens the solo dances with a
classic striptease. Most of the girls
also dance burlesque outside Can-
dyPants, and Sugar Baby performs
outside Lepine's production as
Peachfuzz Von Dutch. Lemon Drop,
who resembles a more delicate Meg
White, tap dances with a strategi-
cally placed top hat. Bit O' Honey's
performance is perhaps the most
eye-catching: Almost identical to a
popular Dirty Martini routine, Bit O'
Honey shimmies around the stage,
coquettishly popping the daffodil
yellow balloons covering her body
until she's in little more than star-
shaped pasties at performance's end.
One of the two male dancers in
Sparkly Devil's feather-fan number
is the show's choreographer/direc-
tor Leadbitter. Since returning to
Detroit after a seven-year stint with
the all-male Les Ballets Trockadero
de Monte Carlo, Leadbitter has been comfort with their bodies (see Lemon
running his own cabaret-inspired Drop with makeshift duct-tape pas-
Causing a Scene Productions. ties in rehearsal, still as vampish as if
The CandyPants troupe's adher- she wasn't tapdancing in girlish blue
ence to traditional burlesque is ankle socks) inspires envy.
refreshing, but it's the group's ambi- Lepine balks at comparing Can-
tion and general good humor that's dyPants to anything else on the
most notable. CandyPants is a decid- Detroit or national scene, or to cite
edly low-budget affair, and its mem- specific influences.
bers truly seem to take pleasure in "It's better to look at the talent you
what they're doing. It's about having have and accent that - (showcase)
fun - about that wink, smile and the people that they are," he said.
nod, if you will. None of the dancers Especially when the people in
fit the Pussycat Doll mold, but their your act don't mind showing off.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Lemon Drop's rear view, Bit 0' Honey peeks from behind a curtain during an ensemble number, Lemon
Drop about to strip off her gloves during her solo act, Bit 0' Honey lets it pop, an ensemble performance opens the show and Bit 0'
Honey prepares for rehearsal with producer Kevin Lepine.
TH YELLOW UMBRELLATOUR
Sunday, October 15, 7:30 p.m.
Attention Nickel Greek Fans!
& the How to Grow a Band
Friday. October 27, 8 p.m.
BIG FANS OF
NO ONE DOES