Originally formed in 2002, Lucha VaVoom and its combination of traditional Mexican lucha libre (wrestling) and burlesque performance has been getting the attention of the American media and celebrities (Henry Rollins, Robin Williams). If your knowledge of lucha libre only goes as far as the dud Jack Black comedy Nacho Libre, there is much more to uncover.
Treated as a national sport in Mexico, the genre dates back to the early 1900s and encompasses film and television, with pioneering luchadors (wrestlers) like El Santo earning mythical god-like status. A blend of lightning speed athleticism and colourful theatrics it has been a uniquely South American phenomenon, failing to capture the same wide recognition as their American counterparts in the equally circus-like WWE. That is where the men and women behind Lucha VaVoom are looking to change things. “I’m not somebody I thought would be a fan of wrestling,” admits the vivacious Rita D’Albert, co-founder and performer for Lucha VaVoom. “But it’s the kind of show that appeals to wrestling fans and people who didn’t really know they were wrestling fans. Lucha libre can be so much more fun and theatrical and the sense of humour the wrestlers have and their physical ability, it’s much more athletic than WWE style.”
Describing it as a “raunchy Cirque Du Soleil,” the show is a true passion project and one she is thrilled about presenting to a new audience. “It’s a labour of love and it’ll be fun because we’ll be mixing in some local luchadors.” As you ponder the idea of two dozen masked wrestlers and burlesque dancers on an 18 hour plane ride, D’Albert has her sharp eyes set on opening up a new market to their spicy brand of entertainment. “Hopefully we’ll be laying track to come back because I love Australia and I think Australia will love us.”
A travelling dancer and rock singer for such bands as The Pandoras, D’Albert is the ultimate bad ass chick, with her athletic figure, adventure seeking attitude and throaty voice. After witnessing her first lucha libre show in a rough part of Mexico, she fell in love and was eager to jump on board the ambitious project, presented to her by her now business partner. Shortening the matches down to one fall, as opposed to the traditional three, and mixing in some sexy burlesque dancing, this lucha revolution was born. “We get the best out of everybody, we just wear them out with the energy of the flying and the flipping. Just give us your best and we’ll wear you out and then get out and we’ll move on to the next thing. With our show’s pacing, we purposely keep everybody on their toes. We never want them to get too used to what they’re seeing, because what they’re seeing is usually pretty weird.”
When D’Albert says weird, she’s not exaggerating either. Lucha VaVoom’s roster of performers is packed with some of the wackiest characters you’re bound to see, from the raunchy Dirty Sanchez (complete with moustache on his mask) and the self-explanatory Crazy Chickens to the Liberace-esque transvestite luchador Cassando. The key for the show is to never be the same as the last, constantly keeping the fans guessing. “It’s never stopped being delightful for us and I think that’s why it’s a good show. It does have to entertain us every time and we have to think of new ways to make it even more impressive and keep the audience coming back. We’re actively engaged in pushing it and pushing it to make it crazier and more surreal and better.” Not originally knowing what to expect, Lucha VaVoom was the ultimate experiment. Flying in some of Mexico’s best luchadors, they added burlesque performances in between each match as the icing on the cake. “Then it occurred to us, organically – this is sex and violence, it’s perfect. Everybody loves sex and violence,” D’Albert exclaims. “Putting the dancing in between really breaks things up and cleanses your palette and gets you ready to see the next thing. You put that together in a club and you get a really nice old fashioned nightclub night out.” To help explain the action and keep the atmosphere light, they had the brainstorm of having comedians sit in as commentators. Over the years, comedy royalty such as Jack Black, Fred Armisen (Saturday Night Live) and Joel Hodgson (Mystery Science Theater 3000) have all graced the Lucha VaVoom stage. Another comedy king was present at a past show, however was not selected to participate.
“We did a show in San Francisco and Robin Williams came. I said to one of the comedians ‘should we have him sit in?’ and he said ‘the show will never end, you’ll never get him to stop’.” Like the performers themselves, Lucha VaVoom is all about crowd participation and escapism. “No matter how crappy everything is going in the world and driving you crazy, it’s a place to forget and leave it all behind. It’s pure fantasy. Everybody needs to have the joy of lucha in their life.”
BY ANDREW ‘HAZARD’ HICKEY