Arts & Entertainment

Viva La Femme

Undergarment visionary Mariesa Mae and burlesque tease Penelope Morgan have collaborated with The Spice Cellar. The result? La Femme Boheme – a weekly Wednesday night of glamour, striptease and seduction where entry is free. Fifty dollars will buy a table reservation with three tapas plates accompanied by the seductive temptress that is a glass of Chandon.

Mae and Morgan are relatively new to the art of tease and describe their show as a night of bohemian elegance combined with the grace, style and glamour of the Hollywood golden era. While burlesque is traditionally a finely honed way of stripping for an audience, the pair admits that theirs is not a polished production. This is not to say that La Femme Boheme is just an excuse to bring their bedroom underwear dancing into a public sphere, or that the pair are nostalgic 1920s revivalists.

Burlesque, for those who don’t know, began in the 1920s as a risqué club act that allowed an audience to be seduced by scantily clad women in a public forum. The movement exploded into popular culture through the next forty years before dwindling and almost disappearing. Classic burlesque, with its props, sets, storylines and elaborate costumes, saw an underground revival in the 1990s and 2000s when performers rediscovered the fun, grace, and showmanship of the art of tease.

La Femme Boheme was a product of Mae and Morgan’s brainwaves connecting and sizzling from opposite sides of the world. The pair had studied acting together at NIDA, but afterwards had gone in seemingly different directions; Mae was working on a lingerie line, and Morgan was performing burlesque internationally. It was several years before their paths crossed again, but Mae says it was perfect timing, “like our brains were on the same wave length on the other side of the world.”

“I had burlesque in mind when I was doing my lingerie line but never got around to it,” Mae explains. “I was visiting family in England when Penelope got in touch. She was doing burlesque and was looking for a dance partner and wanted to know if I would be interested.

“I couldn’t sleep at all that night thinking about it,” she laughs. “It’s been such a fun journey since then.”

La Femme Boheme became a solution to showcasing Mae’s lingerie in a way that was a little bit naughty, a little bit nice, and completely beautiful by combining her love for fashion with her musical theatre background. Infusions of cabaret, lingerie, pop culture and explosions of colour “show my lingerie in a sophisticated and elegant format, and … a celebration of the beauty of the feminine.”

The show was initially choreographed by Morgan who had been performing burlesque internationally and realised it was time to bring new concepts to the industry.

“Most performers seemed to focus on either the vintage pin-up, the shocking and outrageous, the traditional striptease or slap-stick humour styles,” she says, “which are all great, but I wanted to bring back the glamour and finesse that I found was lacking in a lot of Australian shows,” says Morgan.

Mae agrees: “We wanted to do private gigs and make money and maybe find a regular venue, and we wanted the show to be elegant, graceful, classy and sophisticated. I noticed that venues in the UK are very supportive of burlesque, but Sydney is kind of lacking.”

The pair describe the seductive collaboration with The Spice Cellar as a night where “people can sit back and relax, dine and be transported into a world of magical decadence.” (AE)

Wednesdays, The Spice Cellar, Basement Level, 58 Elizabeth St, free-$50, (02) 9223 5585,


The Spice Cellar’s basement isn’t the only place to spice up an evening with burlesque in Sydney. These sexy shows are also worth a peep:

The Vanguard: Dames of Throne

Obviously inspired by Game of Thrones, The Vanguard’s Dames of Throne takes from the people of Westeros for a show of fire and ice. The meal and package features a Game of Thrones themed set menu, which could be just as interesting and enticing as the show itself.

Feb 6, 7, 9, 12 & 13, The Vanguard, 42 King St, Newtown, $43-135, (02) 9557 9409,

Gallery Burlesque: One More for the Road, Burlesque Like a Boss!

Gallery Burlesque is super excited about being at The Standard on a Friday night so they can go “batshit crazy” to “kick ass music” with newcomers and burlesque favourites performing all night. Headliner is reigning Queen of Burlesque 2012, Imogen Kelly, and globe-trotting temptress Sheena Miss Demeanour.

Feb 7, The Standard, level 3, 383 Bourke St, Darlinghurst, $15+bf, (02) 9660 7953,

Dome Bar and Lounge: Burlesque Fridays

This is Sydney’s premier roaming burlesque show that features some of the biggest names in the art of tease, including Holly J’aDoll, Danica Lee, Maple Rose, and Lauren La Rouge. The performance takes place in the bar area where guests can take it all in with a drink in hand.

Feb 7, Dome Bar and Lounge, Lvl 1, 589 Crown St, Surry Hills, $20, (02) 9699 3460,

Porcelain Dolls: Glitter in the Air

Porcelain Dolls are back with a tribute to Pink for a night of dinner theatre, seductive vocals, a tonne of attitude, burlesque and pole performances. It’s all set to the songs and kick-arse attitude of Pink, and audiences are advised to stay away if they don’t like glitter – it’s everywhere.

Feb 8, The Oxford Hotel, 134 Oxford St, Darlinghurst, $30-45, (02) 8324 5200,


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