Burlesque searches for a 21st-century identity

X marks a curious spot. Specifically, inside the X Burlesque showroom, where its namesake show just celebrated a decade of writhing fannies and jiggling mammaries. If you can’t cheer that in America, you probably diss Mom, use the flag as a beach towel and prefer raspberry croissants to apple pie.

However, the “retooled” (forgive me) version of the Flamingo’s X Burlesque, boasting new dance numbers and provocative gyrations, raises questions as well as other things: What is burlesque in the 21st century? Is it a waste of audience horny-ness? Inserting “X” into the name implies a touch of the forbidden to sex up our expectations for an art form that in today’s explicit culture might be considered mild.

Gorgeous, topless women? Gimme, gimme. X’s are both. Yet the journey getting to that second attribute—what’s the rush, sweethearts? Nearly from the start, boobs are bared. Tease? Please. Has our porn-drenched world—theoretically, you could watch some on your smartphone in the audience—made us too impatient for a sexy buildup to dressing down?

Whether burlesque, traditionally considered a risqué art form, is akin to stripping nowadays is a hot debate in the flesh-dance community. X isn’t far from the latter. Artistic, compared with a strip joint? Yes. While the choreography can get ragged—and, by the last third of the 75-minute show, repetitive—there is artistry evoking burlesque’s heyday. However, X Burlesque—actually, burlesque itself—is lost in a cultural time warp, trying to be playfully sinful in a world embracing outright explicitness. Caught between retro and contemporary, its identity is muddled.

(Consider this in a larger sense, too, as “Sin City” attempts to stay sinful. Is it fate that California porn pooh-bahs, outraged by a new condom law, are eyeing Vegas as a new base of cinematic coitus?)

Yet the basics never lose their charm. One female patron at X remarked: “If you’ve seen one ta-ta, you’ve seen them all.” As a ta-ta aficionado, I respectfully disagree.

Noshing on Notes: Impressionists are in and out as Rich Little brings Jimmy Stewart & Friends to the LVH beginning April 30, while Bethany Owen closed her Rio show. … Elvis/Michael Jackson tribute 2 Kings shifts from the Rio’s King’s Room (filled by Eddie Griffin) to the Crown Theater May 1. … Fantasy singer Lorena Peril debuts her single, “Dance with Me,” at LAX nightclub April 28. … Big summer “gets” at The Smith Center include k.d. lang, Diana Krall, Steve Martin and an evening with Broadway giant Stephen Sondheim. … Highlights this week at Smith are author David Sedaris (April 26) and Motown vocal group Spectrum (April 28).

Strip Postscript: Video screens at X Burlesque featured Flamingo headliners George Wallace and Vinnie Favorito panting approval of the strip-o-rama. Donny and Marie? Nope. No chorus of “I’m a Little Bit Topless, I’m a Little Bit Bump ’n’ Grind.”

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