Burlesque shows have had a revival in the last several years as retro shows have popped up around the country and conventions like Burlycon and the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend have become big events. Still, to the uninitiated outsider, the history of this art form is largely unknown. League of Exotique Dancers uses the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend as a way to explore the history of some of burlesque's living legends, delving into their pasts and how burlesque affected their lives.
From a filmmaking standpoint, the film is expertly crafted. The editing keeps the narrative going while making sure to explore every angle of the subject, from the dancers' origins to their current lives as they prepare for putting on one last show. League uses photos and stock footage in a really engaging way, bringing dimension and life to the photos in a way that keeps them exciting and interesting.
The film, however, wouldn't be much without the seemingly never ending charm and hilarious wit of the women it focuses on. Their reminiscings about the fun times and the not-so-fun times of their decades working burlesque shows are fascinating but also perfectly familiar; often they were working dull typing pool or phone operator jobs, but heard from a friend how much money they could be making dancing. They are all full of their own pearls of wisdom and great stories, and bursting with personality.
One of the key themes in the film is how to age gracefully. When most think about this idea, the image of a 70-year old woman dancing in a skimpy outfit on stage is probably not what pops into their heads, but these women maintain a level of confidence and pride in what they've done. They range from the hippie who now creates elegant nightgowns for a local show to the biker who drives a hearse and dons a t-shirt stating "I am a motherfucker," and by the end of the film they are all women who deserve a deep respect and who you would love to spend an afternoon chatting with.
League of Exotique Dancers is the rare documentary that is both fun and fascinating, expertly crafted and focusing on the perfect subjects. It says much about the benefits of having open conversations about sexuality and expressive with femininity, and above all how to accept your age and love who you are. One of the best films of the festival, to be sure!
League of Exotique Dancers is directed by Rama Rau and stars burlesque legends Gina Bon Bon, Judith Stein, Kitten Natividad, Holiday O'Hara, and many more. Learn more and check for local screenings on the films website, www.exotiquedancers.com.