Classical dance fans now have a new and daring option for their viewing pleasure: House of Verlaine. Combining the tongue-in-cheek, bawdy and erotic aspects of burlesque with the timeless classic beauty of ballet, this new company unveiled its scantily-clad debut performance of “Nightcap at The Triple Door: L’Edition Noire” last Saturday at The Triple Door.
The evening began with an extremely classical piece set to the music of Strauss and featured both male and female dancers wearing pasties, G-strings and long sheer white gowns. The choreography smartly utilized showgirl fans by creating stunning moments of dancers leaping through clouds of feathers quite unexpectedly. (It’s what I imagine happens after the white swan has a few cocktails.) The feather fans added a unique twist to the standard port de bras. This piece was the perfect opening to the evening as it aptly showcased the fabulous technique of the company members.
In Histoire de Melody Nelson and Afternoon of Paris Original the company showed its darker side, exploring sexy narratives and move interpretive choreography. Gender roles were challenged in costuming here again as the ensemble emerged from the wings in all black including feathered hats, high-waisted slacks and heels. At times I felt that I was watching a topless show in Vegas… a topless show with talented dancers that is.
The evening was sprinkled with traditional burlesque including Seattle icon Miss Indigo Blue as the host, Lily Verlaine (also the creator and primary choreographer for House of Verlaine) and the incandescent Perle Noire. Perle was far and away the highlight of the evening performing a tantalizing rendition of Birth of Venus where she exuded the strength, beauty, passion and femininity of the goddess of love and desire. In her second piece she emerged wrapped in cotton candy organza. As she undressed, the audience seemed to lean in to discover her deepest secrets while she gave the stage a supermodel strut to a sensual R&B song. I can’t imagine a better headliner for this production as Perle unleashed many talents in her high energy numbers including her sensational dance ability.
There were a few stand-out members of the company as well. Sylvain Boulet (aka Paris Original) demonstrated exemplary technique and acting in his various roles throughout the night while Davione Gordon soared high with some extremely difficult ballet tricks including his manège of grand jetés and double tours en l’air. The fact that they were barely dressed was a special treat.
The evening concluded with the whimsical Can-Can de la Maison Verlaine where they once again proved that they can certainly dance. There were all the things one would expect from a can-can like ruffled skirts, splits and high kicks… 137 of them to be exact. But there were also a few things that you might not expect like men in heels doing backflips. RuPaul would be so proud! The high-energy choreography, excitement and a few squeals from the performers had the audience begging for more.
All in all it was an entertaining night, although I was hoping for a little more integration of the burlesque and dance. It is very clear that these performers are talented on both sides, and I would have appreciated a perfect arabesque followed by a costume reveal to a perfectly rhinestoned G-string. That being said, they are definitely on to something special here. This is an innovative way to introduce a younger audience that already appreciates burlesque to the beauty and athleticism of classical dance. Keep an eye out for this fresh new company as I have a feeling that this is just the beginning of what they have in store for us in the future.