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The upcoming Hawaii Burlesque Festival & Revue at the Honolulu Museum of Art’s Doris Duke Theater is a fine example of something that most visitors to Hawaii are not likely to know: burlesque dancing is alive and well here. There is a fairly large burlesque community here, with a variety of dance groups and solo performers working together to organize and promote events, teach classes, and raise awareness. Performances are provocative, certainly, but the women performing burlesque and cabaret in Hawaii are aware of their responsibility to their art.
The art of burlesque is much more than lithe ladies stripping down to their underwear. Groups here like the Cherry Blossom Cabaret and the Kit Kat Club Cabaret seek to empower women, to help them learn to love their bodies and embrace their feminine strengths. Through classes and workshops, the groups reach out to the community, encouraging people to challenge their notions of sexuality and gender roles.
As performers, the women of burlesque in Honolulu stage elaborate productions, with artists’ attention to all facets, including scripting, blocking, scoring, costuming, and, of course, the actual dancing itself. Cherry Blossom Cabaret’s recent production Alice in Chinatown, a whimsical re-imagining of the Lewis Carroll classic, enjoyed critical praise and capacity crowds. As with other groups and Hawaii burlesque as a whole, the show was racy but not raunchy, naughty but not nasty.
The Kit Kat Club Cabaret is another respected group based on Maui. They have performed with rock legends (and part-time Maui residents) Mick Fleetwood and Steven Tyler. The group also imports other burlesque and cabaret artists from around the world.
For more information about burlesque and cabaret in Hawaii, or to learn about classes, workshops, performances, check out these links.