Wanton ‘West’ 

Sahlah Tepes hoped Le Tepes Rouge’s “Naughty Nutcracker” would warm the hearts of Christmas curmudgeons this year. Unfortunately, a ballerina’s broken foot forced a revival of the variety troupe’s most popular production, “The Wild, Wild West.”

Boasting more than 60 artists, Le Tepes Rouge includes belly dancers, trapeze artists, fabric dancers, clowns, burlesque comedians and a house band, Shotgun Rebellion. “West” focuses on music and dance styles from the Western world, as well as playing with the archetypes of cowboys, Indians and mobsters.

Initially, Tepes said, her cast members, not into the wild West, were mild on the idea.

“So we used music from ‘The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.’ We adapted the entire idea to that,” she said. “It went from a show that everyone kind of dreaded, to a show that everyone thought was great.”

The troupe performs monthly on the first Saturday at The Hidden Castle. Its January show will be a rock opera mixing elements of “Phantom of the Opera” and “Repo! The Genetic Opera.” Tepes is ambitious with her goals for the company’s Vegas-styled shows, blending sensuality and conceptual art à la Cirque du Soleil.

She also has her sights set on the state’s many casinos, but said getting them to buy into her vision has been challenging. Tepes believes that those walls will fall as the public becomes more familiar with what the troupe is all about.

The key is avoiding the easy route of cheap teases, instead striving to stage ambitious performance art that presents dark, sensual themes in a more elevated light.

“We have pole acrobats ... who’ve worked very hard to be able to do what they do,” Tepes said. “Even with our burlesque, we don’t strip down to pasties and G-strings; it’s more about the dance and the sensuality. It’s the idea, rather than the actual act of taking off your clothes.”

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Charles Martin

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