Introducing: Boylesque

Posted by in Art, Culture, Events, Exclusive

The BurlesKlub A La Verve – Burlesque & Comedy Night taking place this Friday at Remedy will make Maltese cultural history: it will open the doors to the underground-yet-glamourous world of boylesque to Malta. So, with just one day to go, I ask the same set of questions to boylesque dancers Pretty Boy Rock from Texas, USA, Mr Blanco from Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and our very own burlesque dancer Undine LaVerve from Malta – and the answers are – how shall I put this? – revealing!

One of my favourite assignments while at university was delving deep into the world of burlesque to understand its revival. While researching, I got to meet the amazing Dita von Tease, interview the legendary Dirty Martini, and chat to London’s most famous burlesque dancer, Jo King. One of the most memorable experiences, however, was being invited to a boylesque show by one of the world’s most famous – and infamous – boylesque dancers, Chaz Royal.


Now, as we gear up for BurlesKlub A La Verve – Burlesque & Comedy Night, taking place at Remedy in Paceville this Friday, I got together with our very own queen of burlesque, the stunning Undine LeVerve, to bring you exclusive interviews with Pretty Boy Rock and Mr Blanco.

The question remains, however: Are you ready to enter the world of boylesque?


Meet Pretty Boy Rock from Texas, USA

What is boylesque?

Boylesque is an art of storytelling that often includes striptease. Boylesque can also be spelled ‘Boylesk’ and has even been called ‘Sirlesque’ and ‘Manlesque’.

How is it different to burlesque?

Boylesque is when a self-identified male performs burlesque, however, burlesque is the umbrella term which includes all the different spin-off forms of burlesque, such as Classic Burlesque, Neo-Burlesque, Grotesque Burlesque, Boo-lesque, Queerlesque, and so on.

Can you tell us a bit about its history?

Arguably, boylesque acts found on 20th century stages were inspired by Henry Dixey and Eugen Sandow (The Father of Modern Bodybuilding) from the 1880s. From there, Patrick the All-American Stripper, John Sex, Randy Studd, Yuba the Cat Boy, and Bic Carroll left a mark in the pages of its history. These days, Tigger!, The Stage Door Johnnies and Matt Finish are big names in the industry.

Some people may say boylesque is a fancy name for male strippers, is this the case?

If there is any standard to boylesque performance that makes it different from what you’d see in an everyday strip club, it would be that boylesque is a very competitive genre and artform. There must be a concept, there must be costuming that amuses, and there must be storytelling. Burlesque, after all, was originally a form of comedy. Also, I feel that that best boylesque acts are those that are clever enough to make audiences laugh out loud.

Meet Mr Blanco from Amsterdam, the Netherlands

What is boylesque?

It’s the equivalent of burlesque, stripped off the female part and replaced by a masculine god. It’s a combined theatrical, humorous, subversive and nude performance.

How is it different to burlesque?

There is a man on stage and the focus is even more on the delivery. I think ‘arousal’ plays less a part concerning the audience; boylesque looks for the ‘whoo effect’, screaming girls and laughing boys.

Can you tell us a bit about its history?

I haven’t done any research about boylesque yet, but I do know that already in the fifties male striptease was prevalent – at least in Scandinavia. I think the resurgence of burlesque at the beginning of this millenium also triggered masculine performers to combine theatrical performance and dance with striptease. As burlesque platforms and scenes emerged, there was also a need for male performers, too.


Reintroducing Undine LaVerve from Senglea, Malta


What is boylesque?

Boylesque is the male version of Burlesque, except I find that, often, boylesque performers concentrate more of the comic aspect or the athletic aspect of the art, and their acts challenge gender roles, sexuality, as well as the ideas of femininity versus masculinity. Oh, and, obviously, boylesque involves elements of striptease!

How is it different to burlesque?

Boylesque is really just a sub-category of Burlesque – specifically for boys. In fact, some people in the community dislike using the term ‘Boylesque’, although I personally like it. And I love the variety of personas that the boys have the opportunity to portray – historical figures, for example, like you’ll see Pretty Boy Rock doing; or a spin-off on an old classic, like Mr Blanco will present. I also love to see guys with big beards dressed up in sequins and huge organza boas, like Waxy Moon! So, three hooras for Boylesque everywhere and its very own sparkle that it brings to the world.

Can you tell us a bit about its history?

I am not an expert in Boylesque history, and while I know Burlesque appeared as early as the late 1800s and can tell you all about its evolution from comedy to its current sensual and seductive nature, I’ll let the boys give you more details on this point!

Some people may say boylesque is a fancy name for male strippers, is this the case?

Some people say the same about Burlesque but, lets face it, there is nothing wrong with being a stripper. The thing is, however, stripping is a business and Burlesque and boylesque are artforms – there is always a theme, a set music, costumes and choreography. The creativity and the amount of work that goes into each and every act is immense and the amount of soul is indescribable!

Burlesque and boylesque are two very political genres of performance. Will the boylesque performance in Malta also be somewhat political? If so, how?

Well, I believe that putting on Burlesque shows and bringing this art form to Malta is already somewhat political! We’re pushing the boundaries in order to broaden people’s concept of art and culture and enhance their experience in perceiving performance art. I believe that Malta is ready and can’t wait to share my passion and the beauty and the fun of burlesque – once people look past the flesh that is exposed, of course!

It is a revolution, it’s about being proud, about empowerment and the appreciation of the human body; about breaking down ideas of beauty  that are imposed on us by society and loving yourself, just the way you are made! And, of course, we’ll also have Napoleon present at our show… So, yeah, that’s as political as it gets!

BurlesKlub A La Verve – Burlesque & Comedy Night will take place this Friday night at Remedy, which is located on the second floor of the Coconut Grove, Paceville. The first of two sets of burlesque and boylesque will start at 10.30pm, with the second one following at 11.30pm. Tickets can be purchased at the door and cost €6.