October 23, 2008

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The art of the tease
Boston Babydolls bring their retro burlesque to the IOKA
By Dana Unger dunger@hippopress.com

It will be an evening of feathers, tassels and lots of skimpy clothing when the burlesque group The Boston Babydolls performs a special “Howl-a-ween” show on Saturday, Oct. 25, at 8 p.m. at the IOKA Theatre in Exeter. This will be the third appearance for the Babydolls at the IOKA.

The Boston Babydolls, centered in North Quincy, Mass., are bringing back the art of the tease with their racy stage shows, incorporating everything from burlesque to fan dancing, sword-swallowing, juggling and more. With origins in 19th-century music hall entertainment and vaudeville, burlesque incorporates broad and parodic comedy with strip teases. 

Often burlesque is confused with stripping, and though the Babydolls do shed several articles of clothing, they don’t go the “full monty.”

In burlesque, performers, usually female, often create elaborate sets with lush, colorful costumes, mood-appropriate music, and dramatic lighting, and may even include novelty acts, such as fire-breathing or demonstrations of unusual flexibility, to enhance the impact of their performance. Performers like The Pussycat Dolls, Dita Von Teese and the Boston Babydolls have helped burlesque experience a popular resurgence in recent years.

The group, led by Ol’ Scratch and Miss Mina, has been performing up and down the East Coast for several years. Miss Mina founded her Boston Academy of Burlesque Education (B.A.B.E.) to offer both private and public instruction in the art of burlesque, with such classes as Instant Burlesque Queen, You and Your Boa, Bellydance, and Choreography. The academy, according to its Web site, is all about “teaching ordinary women how to do extraordinary things.”

Out of that, the Boston Babydolls were born, bringing plenty of skin and shimmy to such venues as The Art Bar and Beauty Bar in Las Vegas, New York’s Galapagos Art Space, and Boston’s The Middle East, Club Hell, Calvin Theatre, The Paradise Lounge, and Axis. They’ve played events like the Great Boston Burlesque Exposition, the Art Central Festival, Miss Exotic World, and Viva Las Vegas, and have shared the stage with Ameranouche!, Black Betty & The Bad Habits, Cirkestra, and Dr. Ruth Westheimer.

While burlesque dance is an essential part of any Boston Babydolls appearance, it’s by no means all they offer. True to the spirit of the day, the troupe includes acrobats, magicians, tumblers, jugglers, knife-throwers, fire-eaters, hula hoopers and more classic variety acts.

The Babydolls even offer a menu of performances for bookers to choose from, including such themes as Around the World, Babydolls at Sea, Heaven & Hell, and The Slumber Party. Their show at the IOKA promises to be a perfect adult alternative to the usual Halloween fare, says the theater’s Roger Detvler.


Tricks and treats. Courtesy photo.

Boston Babydolls Howl-a-ween
When: Saturday, Oct. 25, at 8 p.m.
Where: IOKA Theatre, 55 Water St., Exeter
Tickets: $10, $15 (day of show), 781-8922.