Dita Von Teese’s The Art of the Teese was more about camaraderie than titillation


In a time where toxic masculinity is under attack, you’d think “peeling” would be the last bastion for fellas wanting to ogle without consequence. Not so with Dita Von Teese’s latest ensemble extravaganza, The Art of the Teese. This was squarely a celebration of womanhood and queerness, and pity the handful of cis dudes in the audience dragged along for the ride, because there wasn’t much in it for them (which is fine, because, respectfully, cis dudes have plenty of other spaces for a lark). It’s safe to say that expert peeler and vintage queen Von Teese revolutionised burlesque. First, she revived what was an almost arcane form of entertainment in the ‘90s, spearheading the neo-burlesque movement. Now, she’s done it again by taking what she describes prosaically as “stripping”, and morphing it into something that has sweet FA to do with the male gaze.
Singer and comedian Jonny McGovern expertly whipped the audience into a frenzy before Von Teese’s opening act, ‘The Champagne Glass’, making it clear from the outset that this was going to be a high-glamour, albeit camp and kitsch, spectacular. As you’d expect, Von Teese is immaculate and her costumes and sets take a page straight from the golden age of Hollywood. After each act, McGovern emerged with a fan, which he’d flick open with a flourish to reveal a word apt for the performance – Von Teese is “flawless”. Von Teese’s acts ‘Lazy’ and ‘Rhinestone Cowgirl’ in particular are the stuff of Swarovski-crystal dreams. 
As an inclusive celebration of womanhood, all shapes and sizes get a run. Take Gia Genevieve, a Rubenesque pinup and Playboy model, who reprises one a Von Teese’s own signature acts, getting sudsy in a bejewelled bathtub. Mostly, the show is almost family-rated, but Genevieve takes a different tact, with a bold statement about female desire (without giving too much away, we all know what a detachable shower head is really good for). Then there’s Dirty Martini, the extra-extra goddess and onetime Miss Exotic World. Riding a carousel horse, Martini is already a showstopper, but when McGovern calls her back to the stage to demonstrate her world-record tassel spinning tricks backed by Dick Dale’s ‘Misirlou’, it gets crazy. Twirling at fire-starting speeds in multiple directions, she proved exactly why she’s a leading interpreter of the original burlesque performers of the ‘40s and ‘50s.