Arts & Entertainment

Glitz & Glam

Natalya Alessi. Photo: @digitalflavours

The Birdcage On York harkens back to the golden era of high end burlesque served with sexiness, sass, and a dash of pizzazz.

You used to have to dress up in your finest threads and take a carriage to the theatre to see entertainment like this. Now you just have to stroll up to Club York for an extravaganza of giant, colourful ostrich feathers, satin, sequins and dazzling jewellery. But it’s not all about facade. The talent is real and just as astonishing.

Empresaria, Wendy Brown, is the show’s producer. With years of experience touring internationally acclaimed shows, Brown knows what people like, and she has the star power to give it to them. At her disposal is a pool of cabaret singers, acrobats, aerialists, striptease artists, dancers – pretty much every skill you can think of that’s worth putting in the limelight.

Inspired by peak Hollywood glamour of the 1940s and 50s and Berlin cabaret, The Birdcage On York delivers grand spectacle in an intimate dinner and show setting. Each month features a different theme: Cirque de Flirt, Goes to Paris, Winter Wonderland, Great Gatsby, Hot Boogie Nights, and Belles & Balls Christmas.

The acts that comprise the shows are varied and unique, providing a multi-faceted window into the world of burlesque.

Among the marquee performers are Lara Love, whose signature act is the famous Girl In The Martini Glass. Rhys Lightning, who is as quick and luminous as his name suggests; and Miss Natalya, Miss Burlesque Australia 2019 Entertainer of the Year.

Natalya Alessi, as she is otherwise known, is a classically trained dancer who fell into burlesque after auditioning for a touring dance/burlesque show. It felt like a natural transition and helped add some strings to her bow.

Inspiration for her work comes from a variety of sources: fashion design; visual artists, photography, film, TV and music.

“It’s always organic and often a few ideas will thread together to create something unique,” explains Alessi. “Stylistically, my all time dance idols would have to be Cyd Charisse and Sylvia Guillem. Both completely different but breathtaking in their own way. Bob Mackie will also always be a huge inspiration for my costumes and designs.”

A lot of thought needs to go into the design and creation of each costume piece.

“Every item of a burlesque costume has to be removed with ease. If it can’t be taken off seamlessly it can detract from the act and make the whole routine look clumsy, therefore, extra attention has to be made on the fastenings,” says Alessi. “Though I love corsets and the silhouette they create I often feel my movement restricted, so my most recent creation is a 20s boho harem pant costume that I have absolute freedom in.”

Alessi has performed on stages around the world, in big productions and festivals, as well as smaller cabaret clubs. Coming back to The Birdcage is a bit like coming home.

“Performing at The Birdcage always feels like performing with family, and WB Productions and Club York are such wonderful companies to work for,” says Alessi. “I love performing intimate shows as it gives you an opportunity to connect with the audience in a way you don’t usually get to in a large theatre. The energy is palpable and you can see the smiles on people’s faces. It’s an exchange of energy that’s a lot easier to create with 150 audience members than in a thousand seat theatre.”

Unlike traditional theatre with its strict etiquette, burlesque encourages audience participation.

“We like you to cheer and applaud if you’re enjoying what you see. It encourages the performer, and the more you give, the more we do. It’s more fun for everyone,” says Alessi, who loves the adrenalin rush. “The high you are on after a show is unlike anything else. You’ve just brought joy to a room full of strangers.”

Anyone can enjoy a burlesque show as long as they are over 18 (some acts can be a little risqué.) For many, the stunningly visual, slightly raunchy, often comical, and sometimes unbelievable elements of burlesque are a perfect indulgence to take them away from the real world temporarily.

“Coming out of COVID people are desperate for live entertainment, something fun, light and somewhere they can feel joy again. These style shows offer that. They are accessible, affordable and still showcase Australia’s professional performers who would otherwise be touring internationally.”

Next show: Winter Wonderland – Saturday, June 19.

$80 for 3 course dinner and shows

Club York, 95-99 York Street, Sydney. Tickets & Info:

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