The Jigglewatts Burlesque Revue performed their famous residency “Violent Crown Follies” at the Spider House Ballroom on Thursday, December 13. As it was the last show in the series for 2018, I found it imperative to hustle down to central Austin in blustery, cold weather to describe the latest version of alternative performance in Austin.
What the Jigglewatts do is alt-burlesque. It isn’t your grandfathers’ burlesque striptease that took place in rundown theatres on the naughty side of town. No, the new burlesque queens merely evoke that era with self-designed costumes and stage dances in front of live bands. Pasties and G-strings remain firmly in place, although they are elaborated to a degree that can only be called fetishistic. Craft stores run out of sequins when the Jigglewatts hit town. Apparently, the Jigglewatts have their own signature brand of red glitter lipstick.
The audience has “alternative” written all over it, the crowd mixed and diverse. In styling and clothing, one sees elements of the punk world, 90s Goths, the BDSM underground, the Middle Eastern dance crowd, plain blue collar workers in ball caps and a few be-suited professional types. They are not the kind of folks who would go to the symphony, opera, ballet or conventional plays in town.
The acts were spectacular, all performed to the live play of The Copa Kings, a six-piece Latin-flavored band. Two of the dancers sang torch songs during their strip dances. New Orleans guest artist Lola van Ella belted out her numbers, accompanying her stripping with sexually suggestive gestures, but she always wore an inviting smile on her face. Austin favorite Jolie Goodnight entered the stage in a light blue bathrobe and began singing a torch song. Soon she threw off the robe to reveal a floor-length shiftlike affair of a shiny, checked fabric that resembled a wrapped Christmas gift. Of course, she unwrapped her own present by the end of a powerful, soaring dance. Goodnight is a multi-talented performer who, several months ago, danced and sang to enact part of the dramatic story of Texas stripper Candy Barr in the musical stage production, Strip! The Musical.
Ruby Joule is a co-founder of the Jigglewatts and the most skillful dancer and premier erotic body of the group. Joule is an Austinite with a background in ballet, contemporary dance, and acting. She leads the way with costume design, themed shows and future direction of the company. The overall aesthetic of the Jigglewatts is hers, along with co-founder Coco Lectric, not present at this night’s show.
A sponsor and strong supporter of the Jigglewatts is Forbidden Fruit, the fetish fashion and sex toy emporium on North Loop Boulevard. The store’s owner is Lynn Raridon, a longtime Austin choreographer and actor who sponsors the yearly Texas Burlesque Festival. Clearly the alternative arts in Austin, including burlesque dancing, flow in vibrant subterranean currents. Their shows may require a bit of research to locate, but the rewards are great when they are found. The Jigglewatts promise to return with another performance series early in 2019.