Performer Marijke Loosjes describes burlesque as a dance style and a form of entertainment art that was a variety of theatre in the late 19th century, a parody on culture that evolved into the American ‘bump and grind’ style of the 1940s and ‘50s.
“It faded away until the 1990s revival that focused on the striptease as an empowered movement by women, to embrace their sexuality and femininity with confidence. Current burlesque, whilst using the element of striptease, has produced a variety of enthralling, beautifully classic, and tongue in cheek performances.”
Loosjes says she discovered burlesque about seven years ago, when it began to gain notoriety in Perth. After attending early Sugar Blue Burlesque shows, Noir Boudoir, Twisted Vaudeville Circus, and photographing/documenting the performers, she realised she was actually doing research to become a performer. “It took a mid 20s life crisis of what am I doing? What are my true passions? Where am I going? To push myself to take risk with a something I really loved and admired.”
Kelly Witham-Cook, director of Twisted Vaudeville Circus, was in the audience for Loosjes’ solo showcase. “She loved my act and I was asked to perform with her and Twisted Vaudeville Circus in their monthly shows and in Fringe World just gone this year.”
The Perth burlesque scene is growing, according to Loosjes. “There are usually two or three burlesque events each month which is really great for Perth being so small. During the months of Fringe World it is heaven for us burly folk, with two or more performances weekly!”
Loosjes’ performer name, Essie Foxglove, reflects the classic style and elegance of her burlesque persona. Essie was popular in the 1900s, bringing a vintage element, while also being the name of the actress who stars in one of Loosjes’ favourite shows, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. Foxglove came from her love of the fox and Loosjes’ favourite artwork, an illustration by Perth artist Celene Bridge which combines fox faces with the foxglove flower.
When choreographing an act, Loosjes keeps in mind the style, the feel and mood she wants to portray, rehearsing in front of a mirror and often videoing herself to make sure the choreography flows organically. “There needs to be a balance kept between dancing and the allure of the striptease.”
Her costumes start with a vision first, a theme, or a concept. She then researches and plans out the time period, then the style. “I always put a lot of emphasis on aesthetics as I want my costume as well as my act to be powerful. I take a lot of inspiration from the art world, music, film, literature, to be honest everything in my life. If I cannot create the whole costume myself I seek out designers to work with. I then embellish these pieces to my vision.”
Future plans include continuing to perform with Twisted Vaudeville Circus, and competing in Miss Burlesque Australia this year. She’s started feather fan dancing, and wants to explore incorporating fire into her performances.
Loosjes describes performing live as a thrill, and a rush. “I absolutely love it! I was nervous when I started, but with each rehearsal, each performance, I become more confident and learnt more about my audiences and how to interact with them. I love performing for a burly crowd, they know what’s going on and the applause is always deafening! It is always humorous performing for ‘burlesque virgins’, you can pick ‘em by their wide unblinking eyes and open mouths!”