Snake Charmers and Voodoo Ladies: Music, Movement and Sex

burlesque music vintage

There is nothing quite as lusty and exhilarating as bumping and grinding to a live, in the flesh, sweating, breathing, and hearts beating band! The drums changing the way your heart palpitates, the strumming of the upright bass (its smooth shape mimicking the beauty of a woman’s curves), ivories being tickled by skilled fingertips, a saxophone leading the twists and curves of gyrating hips, the trumpet, a washboard going right down your spine, the rhythmic ruckus of a guitar being strummed, and a voice with such passion and power it could make you cry (or take your clothes off).

Fringe swaying, asses shaking, heeled shoes tapping, tassels twirling, breasts revolving, hair tousled, arms flailing flawlessly, bodies moving to the rhythm of the moment. The chemistry between live musicians and dancers is probably the most beautiful thing that has ever existed. It is a connection only surmounted by sex (oh, you mean, coitus?). It is carnal, it is magical, and it is the stuff love stories are made of.

It is a basic human need, a deeper form of bonding than even speaking or kissing. Think about the primal sexual nature of African dancers and pound drum circles. Even a girl twerking to live rap music is sexier than someone with a boom box. Line dancers with real fiddles behind them always stomp a little harder. My body is an instrument.

In the brothels of the 1920s there were jazz piano players (and other musicians) who would look through a small peephole in the room and play along to the action. A famous jazz musician, Jelly Roll Morten, once told his mother that he had a job as “a night watchman.” The john would then tip the musician based on how well he aided the sexual performance. It’s genius really! I would love to be peephole singer and sing sexy songs to these wayward couples.

This is before there were ipods to give soundtracks to sex. Many ladies of the night became fabulous jazz singers themselves, accompanying the house musicians. Women contributed to New Orleans jazz in significant ways. They were vocalists, musicians, and bawdy dancers in the Storyville red-light district.

Burlesque and music: normally we dance to CDs or mp3 songs for burlesque, but god forbid the sound fucks up. A speaker pops, a CD skips, an iPod dies, or your phone turns into a terminator and kills you and all of your friends 10 seconds before showtime in a bloody massacre. Anything can happen, technology cannot be trusted. That is one of the gazillion reasons it is better to do burlesque with live music. Then anything that goes different than rehearsal can be played off or improvised. The audience will be doubly mesmerized.

music and sex cat and well worn boot photo by Peter Dunn
Cat performing a Halloween show with Well Worn Boot (photo Peter Dunn)

 

All of the classic performers have big bands backing them. Many current neo-burlesque dancers are trying to revive this tradition of live music and vaudeville performance art. I also love it when a cute girl sings/plays an instrument while stripping. I am currently learning to play ukulele for this very reason (I aim to be campfire ready by summer). Two of my sweet as pie troupe members Madina Madis and Fanny Debeau have started an old timey duo called The Coquette Sisters that does this very thing and its pure loveliness.

Both solo and with my burlesque troupe, The Stripteasers, I have been lucky enough to perform to many live bands. The Folkfaces, The Stamplickers, The Irving Klaws, Randell and the Late Night Scandels, most recently Blue Stone Groove, soon Pine Fever on Valentine’s Day, and many many more to come. The crowd gets ready by dancing to the band, then come in the dancers and BOOM!

During a recent Buffalo Infringement Festival fundraiser several dancers, Izzy Aman, Trixi Firecracker and I did impromptu performances to all of the live music that night and it was a huge success. I have also performed to live poetry/ spoken word (MC Vendetta, Molly Burhans, and Melanie Donofrio). Kathleen Hanna style feminist bad ass spoken word and burlesque is an incredible display of femininity and punk wonderfulness, a not giving a fuck about the superficial standard of beauty and expectations on how a woman should look and act.

music and sex vintage records 2

I do love vinyl. Listening to records is more visceral and real feeling than other forms of recorded music. The smooth crackle and timeless sexiness of the revolving masterpiece. The tangible largness and details of the album art.

Some of my favorite records (in my ever growing collection) to have sex to in no particular order: anything by… Billie Holiday, Portishead, St. Vincent, Etta James, Janis Joplin, Lou Reed (Velvet Underground), Duke Ellington, or Gogol Bordello. The only downside to banging by the sound of vinyl is having to pause and flip the record for continued ambiance. I usually use it for an opportunity to do a sexy little dance for my partner as the music starts back up. Challenge them to do the same for you next time they get up to flip. It is also a good way to initiate love making, a little striptease at the beginning of a new record.

You can also be lazy and throw on a sexy time playlist or a really great Pandora station (or maybe even throw in a few discs into that five disc changer you have from back in the day). I won’t judge you. Do you remember the song you lost your virginity to? Mine was Depeche Mode Enjoy the Silence. All I ever wanted, all I ever needed is here in my arms, words are very unnecessary, they can only bring harm… or something like that. The other discs in the changer at the time were Jimmy Eat Wold, NOFX, Brand New, and The Cure, any of which would have changed my virginity loss story forever. I’m sure your song is playing in your head right now. That song helped write your sexual story.

Enjoy #throwbackthursday

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