by James Whitely -
SGN Staff Writer
On Thursday, July 25, Mod Carousel, Seattle's very own boylesque troupe, captivated and titillated a near-full Rendezvous/JewelBox Theater with 'SeaMen: A Maritime Boylesque Cabaret.' Burlesque star/jazz singer Sydni Deveraux offered her services as hostess or 'anchor' for the evening. Deveraux was excited to announce the startling success of Mod Carousel's first video, 'Blurred Lines,' which she also starred in. The Robin Thicke parody went viral after it went live on July 21 and was featured on the Today show. It has garnered close to 2 million views as SGN goes to print.
The troupe also welcomed a special guest performer, the NYC-based 'boy-next-door-meets-glitter-sex-bomb' Go-Go Harder, who brought his own brand of New York boylesque's signature fierceness to add to the excitement.
Go-Go and the three members who make up the multidisciplinary boylesque collective - The Luminous Pariah, Paris Original, and Trojan Original - each performed two acts, some of them debut performances, and kept the momentum going from their tremendously popular Internet video.
THEY CAME FOR THE SEAMEN
Luminous opens with a lip-sync and striptease to 'My Hair Looks Fierce' by Amanda Lepore. It's as wild and fun as the track and his elaborate costuming sets an exciting tone for the show. For his second act, he's the sea personified. He wields a large blue trident and sports a latex headdress adorned with barnacles and a starfish, which Paris helped him create, as well as handmade latex underwear. The work Luminous puts in to his costumes is just one quality that makes him a real storyteller.
Just after he takes the stage, two bottles drop from inside his costume - then, seemingly out of nowhere, a hubcap. It's certainly a statement on pollution, but the lesson ends there. While social issues are a theme in Luminous' work, he takes care not to be overtly or overly preachy. Instead, as the act progresses, the audience is made privy to the fury and tranquility the ocean is capable of. This is where Luminous shines: it's his range of gestures that make this act great. With a background in theater, it's no surprise this is one of his strongest skills. Luminous can tell a story with just his face - the costuming, choreography, and striptease just make each story a hell of a lot sexier.
THE MIGHTY TROJAN
For Trojan's first piece, he wears lightly applied eyeliner and a sailor suit. As he rolls around the stage, the house doesn't seem quite sure where he's taking us, then he's up from a roll holding his body up off the stage horizontally by just his arms. He holds the feat of strength for about five seconds, pushes himself up, and the striptease goes into full swing. He jumps into the air, pulling off his pants and throwing them into the house, before his feet touch the ground.
His second act, we're told, is a premiere. He walks onstage in just a red towel, his body wet and his long brown hair clinging tightly to his shoulders. As he smiles seductively and slowly lowers the towel, it's evident where the act is going. To Jem's 'Come on Closer,' Trojan plays with strategic reveals, moving the towel in all manner of exciting ways, tempting cheering fans by coming within inches of the good stuff.
'I've been wanting to do something like that for years,' Trojan told SGN. 'My goal was to present the male body and masculinity in a sexy and serious light - no jokes, no built-in humor, just my body flexing & trying to highlight what makes the male body attractive.'
He thinks of it as his version of a fan dance.
'The concept is the same. You're already naked and have a prop to cover you up, and the goal is to cleverly hide and reveal parts of your body throughout the act.'
As he faces downstage and slowly folds the towel smaller and smaller in front of him, he gives the final reveal - a bright red merkin. He burlesqued us; he was covered all along. A huge applause from the house shows the act is clearly a favorite of the night.
Paris and Trojan's stage name doesn't just speak to an artistic partnership - they're twins.
'He definitely took on the role of the baby in the family and I was more the middle child, regardless of him popping out first,' Trojan told SGN. (Paris is four minutes Trojan's elder.)
'We do fight from time to time & but the fun part is we never take each other too seriously,' said Trojan. 'We certainly have figured out how to work together well, which is good since we've been working together our whole lives.'
WE'LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS
In his first act, Paris offers a unique statement on climate change, electing to speak to its effect on coral. He moves fluidly across the stage in his pointe shoes to the 'Flower Duet' of Delibes' Lakmé while batting his eyelashes. He wears a choral-esque headpiece that's about 12 inches high and his outfit consists of bright pinks and purples, but it's not over the top, even though it's covered in rhinestones. Paris' costume design is still comme il faut and distinctly ballet.
'Every time I watch him dance, I think, 'Hmm, I can't do that. & Can't do that, either,' said Deveraux.
For his second performance, Paris uses less of his ample ballet training and performs with large blue scarves.
'We say we're multidisciplinary because we have such varied training and like to put different performance arts into our acts,' the troupe told SGN. 'Paris will often utilize ballet vocabulary in his choreography, whereas Trojan will utilize the strength and knowledge he's gained in his aerial and pole-dance training to incorporate more acrobatic choreography, and Luminous will approach his acts from a more physical-theater-based standpoint.'
Paris is always a joy to watch - often he's breathtaking. Formal training, practice, and natural affinity have given him seamless movement and a decidedly sensuous smile for his reveals. Watch too closely when he blows a kiss as he goes offstage, and he might just break your heart.
WATCH GO-GO GO
Go-Go Harder's first act brings him onstage in an all-black sailor suit and combat boots to the popular '50s show tune 'Standing on the Corner.' As he moves, it's already clear he's more blatantly sexual than the local performers. He lights a cigar and the music changes to Morningwood's 'Take Off Your Clothes,' but before stripping more, he puts the cigar out - on his tongue.
He then proceeds into the house and directs members of the audience to assist him with his striptease. At one point, he places a patron's fingers just inside the top of his drawers, then thrusts himself back, leaving the patron with his underwear and himself in a thong. By the end of the act, the thong is gone and Go-Go is doing pushups onstage over his discarded boot, his boys presumably dangling inside.
This is what New York is known for. Seattle has talent just as rich, but the two cites' differences show in their boylesque talent. Go-Go ends his second performance by producing a faux gold chain from his merkin, which he then licks and tosses into the house. It's plain to see why Go-Go was named Best International Performer at the World Burlesque Games in London last year. He's gritty, campy, has a love for leather, and will turn you the fuck on. Fitting name, eh?
BOYLESQUE IS BIG NEWS
With their video parody of 'Blurred Lines' featured on TV, and with coverage on stateside news outlets like the Huffington Post and popular blogs like feministing.com, as well as in European print publications, these three Seattle strippers became known across the globe in a matter of days.
'It was funny to see this be the first thing that really got a lot of attention, because this is what we do - we take things in pop culture and we burlesque them,' Luminous told SGN.
Mod Carousel's 'Blurred Lines' is a parody of Robin Thicke's chart-topping song of the same name. Thicke's lyrics and music video has received heavy criticism for not only being misogynistic but thematically 'rape-y.' The parody features new lyrics by Seattle-based singer Caela Bailey and Seattle hip-hop artist Dalisha Phillips, who utilize a gender-role reversal to negate the song's misogynistic themes. That's where the half-naked boylesque troupe comes in.
Bothered by the content of the song, and recognizing that women featured in the video had matching hair colors to the troupe, Trojan came up with the idea to parody it. After recruiting Phillips, Bailey, and Deveraux, clearing out one side of a room and applying some make-up, the six filmed the four-and-a-half-minute music video on July 18, exactly one week before SeaMen. When the show kicked off, the video had reached 1.2 million views.
While much of the publicity directed Mod Carousel's way is already yielding tangible benefits, it's worth musing on what the exposure might do for boylesque as an art form. Most critics and bloggers who covered the parody wrote 'boylesque' in quotes, seeming to signify they'd never heard of it before. Now, at least 1,890,000 have.
The troupe, of course, hadn't expected any of this to happen. After the first video's success, they're already planning on producing more. Having receiving requests from schools, nonprofits, universities, TV broadcasters, and promoters in Europe, they also plan to take the 'Blurred Lines' parody to the stage.
ABOUT THE TROUPE
Mod Carousel was founded in 2010 with a goal to create cabaret and burlesque with an emphasis on dance. Since then, the troupe has staged numerous shows on both coasts and in between, while also logging more than 25 European appearances. They've recently completed a new group act, which will be featured in an upcoming '80s fantasy-themed production and in their next video project. Luminous, Paris, and Trojan will also be performing in Lily Verlaine and Jasper McCann's August 21-24 production, 'Burlesco DiVino' at the Triple Door. Learn more about Mod Carousel at www.modcarousel.com, and watch their hit video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKfwCjgiodg.
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