The Oklahoma City Burlesque Festival steps up and strips off for two nights of tantalizing entertainment this Friday and Saturday at Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center. Organized by regional burlesque superstar Adèle Wolf, the event will feature established acts as well as up-and-coming performers from around the country.
The burlesque acts performing at the festival incorporate other art forms — such as ballet, aerial, comedy, tap, contortion and belly dance — that hearken back to the days of classic variety, circus and vaudeville performance.
Wolf first became enamored with burlesque after discovering the Something Weird videos featuring performances from legends like Bettie Page, Tempest Storm, Lili St. Cyr and Dixie Evans. In the intervening decade, Wolf has studied with some of the top names in the industry while also channeling her own experience in dance and theater to create award-winning performances.
“I find great satisfaction in bringing my visions to life and sharing them with an audience. I’m my own choreographer, director, costumer for most but not all of my pieces, makeup artist, etc.,” Wolf said. “I’ve always had a great passion for performing and the unique exchange of energy and love that happens between performer and audience within burlesque.”
After performing at a number of festivals around the country and a year of producing her variety show in OKC, Wolf wanted to do something on a larger scale.
“I wanted to create a greater awareness and appreciation of burlesque in Oklahoma by bringing in some of the country’s top performers,” she said. “Festivals are an opportunity to network and build community for performers and a great way to educate more mainstream audiences on the art of burlesque.”
Unlike Teaze Dance’s Oklahoma Pole and Burlesque Expo that debuted earlier this year, Wolf’s festival features many more regional and national acts.
“Geography isn’t taken into account when processing applications. We want the cream of the crop, wherever they’re from,” Wolf said. “That being said, we do have 8 performers from Oklahoma, myself included.”
While Wolf is excited about what every act is bringing to the festival, she’s particularly proud to host international headliners Shanghai Pearl, Sammich the Tramp, Lola Van Ella and Medianoche, who just won 1st Runner-Up in the Miss Exotic World Pageant in Las Vegas.
In addition to the public shows, there will be private workshops open to performers and festival staff. For newcomers, Wolf regularly teaches basic and intermediate burlesque classes at the Oklahoma School of Burlesque.
“Performers dedicate their lives to this art form, putting an amazing amount of time, energy, love and money into each act,” Wolf said. “Many people don’t realize that burlesque exists as a professional art form, and I am hopeful that my productions are helping to change the perception of burlesque in Oklahoma.”