Will robots replace Lady Gaga?

Last week Dangerous Minds’ Martin Schneider posed the question “Will pole dancing robots put human strippers out of work?” After watching the video of this batshit gyrating animatronic by artist Jordan Wolfson I’m inclined to answer “maybe.” I mean I doubt they’ll be wearing bonkers witch masks, but who knows?

According to the description on YouTube:

“The figure incorporates facial recognition technology, allowing her to focus on, and unnervingly follow visitors at the exhibition.”

The piece is currently being exhibited March 6 – April 19 at David Zwirner Gallery in New York. 

Via io9

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
‘Get ‘Em Off,’ a wonderfully ‘educational’ British burlesque documentary from 1976
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The mid-1970s might have been the perfect era to make a documentary on exotic dance. It was a time when striptease was still often a playful and creative form, with strong vestiges of vaudeville in the forefront—some of the routines shown here are truly marvelous—but modern enough to be unabashed by a little straightforward good-time smut. Directed by one William G Walters for Harold Baim Presentations Limited, Get Em Off is unquestionably a product of the ‘70s. Garish colors, ostentatious costume and awesomely sleazy psych-funk music are all deep in this celluloid like a stain—my kingdom for a soundtrack album! The narration, by a pair of middle-aged presenters named Kenneth Macleod and Hugh Scully (yes, the Antiques Roadshow guy), is HILARIOUS, often even intentionally so.

Something neat I noticed—the book a young gentleman is leafing through in the first shot is Richard Wortley’s terrific A Pictorial History of Striptease: 100 Years of Undressing to Music. Like the film, it was also a 1976 release, and it’s excellent. Fortunately for scholars of the burlesque, it can be had quite inexpensively at Amazon.

You can watch it below in its entirety, but do I actually even need to tell those of you at work to wait until you get home? Examples of the art form are shown plentifully and unflinchingly, so there’s COPIOUS skin to be seen herein. You’ve been served notice. If you’d like to own it, Get Em Off is included in this Baim anthology DVD.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
‘Without the Girls, Show Biz Is No Biz’: Gordon Parks’ gorgeous color images of showgirls at work
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Gordon Parks

Celebrated LIFE magazine photographer Gordon Parks shot these around Christmastime in 1958. They were used in a 200-page special issue on the glories and absurdities of American entertainment. Parks’ series was titled “Without the Girls, Show Biz Is No Biz.”

They’re soft focus and oh so beautiful. Very much like a Edgar Degas piece when he painted ballet dancers.




More after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
‘Breakin’ New York Style’ instructional video supplies the ultimate Reagan-era workout
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I love everything about this video. The crude beats, the graffiti visual style, the simple instructional raps…. If you can do all of the moves they demonstrate, you are either in peak physical condition or well on the way to it. Just watching it wears me out!
Breakin' New York Style
Your sherpa in Breakin’ New York Style, which was released in 1984, is one “Lori Eastside,” who is best known for playing “Nada” in Allan Arkush’s remarkable and hectic 1983 satire Get Crazy. She has since transitioned into the fine art of casting; she assisted with the casting of The Wrestler, the Karate Kid remake, The Reader, and many others. But back in the day, she could throw down some beats and do a cartwheel that would kick your ass.

Here’s a supplemental guide to breakdancing that’s unrelated to Breakin’ New York Style (as far as I know). You can use it to sharpen your moves or brush up on your breakin’ lingo, such as “Juice,” which denotes “what you got when you’re a VIP—and that’s clout, the privileges, the status!”
Breakdance moves
(full size)
Watching this video is a welcome trip down memory lane, but it’s also a reminder why breakdancing didn’t really last: you have to be in tip-top shape to even think about doing it!

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
Bollywood Chubby Checker from 1965 delivers fantastic Hindi ‘Twist’

Mehmood Ali was a quintessential Bollywood mutli-hyphenate; regarding the movie under discussion here, Bhoot Bungla (“Ghost House/Haunted House”), Mehmood (as he was credited) co-wrote the movie, produced the movie, directed the movie, starred in the movie, and, as is obligatory for a Bollywood star, performed at least one of the indelible musical numbers. One task Mehmood didn’t undertake was music supervisor, which is a good thing because the incomparable R. D. Burman had that task quite in hand.

The song is called “Aao Twist Karen,” although I’ve also seen that last word rendered as “Karein.” It sure as heckfire appears to be a cover of Chubby Checker’s 1961 smash “Let’s Twist Again.” I was going to make a joke in the headline that the Bollywood version of Chubby Checker could stand to be a good deal chubbier, but you know, the original wasn’t all that chubby! My favorite bit of this video comes when the two trumpeters aim their instruments at Mehmood’s crotch. You heard me. Go watch (You can see all of Bhoot Bungla here)

Thank you Kathryn Metz!

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
The Triadic Ballet: Eccentric Bauhaus ballet brilliance or is it Germanic Maude Lebowski art shit?

To the layman, the legacy of the Bauhaus movement is often unfairly reduced to über-gloomy goth rockers and boxy modern architecture, but my formative years were influenced by a succession of eccentric ballet teachers, so to me, Bauhaus will always mean Oskar Schlemmer’s 1922 opus, “Das Triadisches Ballett” (The Triadic Ballet)—perhaps the least “human” dance performance ever concieved.

Schlemmer was a painter, sculptor, designer and choreographer—that kind of factotum being par for the course in the Bauhaus ethos. When hired to teach at the Bauhaus school, Schlemmer combined his work in both sculpture and theater to create the internationally acclaimed extravaganza which toured from 1922 until 1929, when Schlemmer left an increasingly volatile Germany.

When I showed this video to an ex-boyfriend, he described it succinctly as “some really goddamn German Maude Lebowski art shit,” and that’s not a bad way to put it. The sets are minimalist, emphasizing perspective and clean lines. The choreography is limited by the bulky, sculptural, geometric costumes, the movement stiflingly deliberate, incredibly mechanical and mathy, with a rare hints of any fluid dance. The whole thing is daringly weird and strangely mesmerizing.

Below are a few pictures of original Bauhaus ballet performers, and the 1970 German film production of “Das Triadisches Ballett.” New music was composed for this short, and the orchestral sounds contrast nicely with such an inorganic spectacle.
Bauhaus ballet
Performers from an early run of Das Triadische Ballet, 1924
Rehearsal, 1928
Stelzenläufer, 1927
Costume for the Neue Sachlichkeit Party, 1926
Bowie and Bauhaus
Triadic Ballet costume and David Bowie’s Kansai Yamamoto-designed Ziggy Stardust jumpsuit, for comparison

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
Watch Josephine Baker do the original Charleston, 1927
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Josephine Baker

We have a tendency to perceive long-since-passed pop culture crazes as “tame,” especially in our current, Miley Cyrus-infected times. The Charleston definitely falls victim to that misconception. Beyond the knee-cross, hand-switch move that has become short-hand for old fogies, most people don’t even know what the dance actually looks like. So I insist you watch this Josephine Baker number from the 1927 silent film, La Sirène des Tropiques, which features the dance in an amazing, grandiose routine. It may be her first film appearance (release dates for others are debated), but it is her first acting role.

Though Baker’s talent was never as celebrated in her home country as it was in France, she was beloved for far more than dancing topless in a banana tutu. The consummate entertainer, she could go from glamour-puss to comedienne, from a sweet smile to a smoldering gaze. Her acting was captivating, her singing voice sweet, and she remains, to this day, one of the most bombastic, athletic, and creative dancers ever to grace the stage.

Baker’s title card comes in at 1:50, but it’s worth watching the chorus line number that proceeds her, which provides a dramatic contrast to Baker’s fresh, new moves and unorthodox grace. Don’t get me wrong—I love a chorus line, but the great Josephine Baker blows them right out of the water.

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
Nijinsky with a mohawk: The edgy collaborations of punk ballet dancer Michael Clark and The Fall

Although he and his dance troupe have performed choreography set to the music of Wire, Glenn Branca, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Brian Eno, Igor Stravinsky and others, it is his work with The Fall that the work of Scottish dancer and choreographer Michael Clark will always be the most closely associated with.

The classically-trained Clark has said that hearing the manic, rubbery, jagged-edged relentlessly repetitious music of Manchester’s post-punk bard Mark E. Smith was a sort of clarion call for him as a young man to start doing his own work—if punk bands could do their thing, then that same ethos and attitude (and shock value) could go into creating a new form of modern ballet. Clark’s vision of ballet happened to incorporate Leigh Bowery wielding a chainsaw, syringes strapped to his dancers and sets festooned with fried egg trees . Clark seemed touched by the gods. His angular, asymmetrical, yet bizarrely graceful form of movement caused a sensation in the dance world. He was Nijinksy with a mohawk.

Michael Clark as Caliban in Peter Greenaway’s Prospero’s Books

The Fall and Clark’s company appeared together on The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1984 in a provocative performance of “Lay of the Land” that saw Clark prancing around in a Bodymap leotard that exposed his ass cheeks to the nation as the group made a mighty roar behind him.

They collaborated more formally in 1988 when The Fall provided the live soundtrack for Clark’s ballet “I Am Curious, Orange” at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London (The Fall’s LP was called I Am Kurious Oranj). Some tantalizing looks at what that production was like come from Cerith Wyn Evans videos for “Wrong Place, Right Time” and “New Big Prinz,” which were apparently shot at a rehearsal.

Below, “New Big Prinz”

More after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Watch 1950s stag film queen Candy Barr dance in captivating, little-seen footage
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stag film
Candy Barr
strip tease

Candy Barr
I never want to make too many assumptions about our readers or their workplaces, but I think it’s only fair to give y’all a warning: this is a stag film, and therefore probably not appropriate for most office environments.

That being said, you have to see Candy Barr dance. She’s positively hypnotic, with a seemingly instinctual control of her own body. Although her skills were certainly enough to earn her a place in pop culture history, she’s famous for far more than her serpentine shimmy.

“Candy” was born Juanita Dale Slusher in small-town Texas. Her childhood wracked by trauma (the death of her mother at age 9, and sexual abuse from both a neighbor and a babysitter), she ran away at 13 to Dallas. She was married at 14, but the union ended when he went to jail (he was supposedly a safe-cracker).

The next few years of Candy’s life yield conflicting accounts. It’s known that she worked as a cigarette girl, and eventually an exotic dancer, but sources vary on whether she worked as a prostitute or not. She did, however, appear the early “smoker,” Smart Alec at the age of 16. Broke and hungry, Candy (who was still Juanita at the time) made the film under extreme stress and coercion, regretting it for the rest of her life.

Candy’s life should not be reduced to tragedy. Shortly after the release of Smart Alec, she got a well-paying job at a strip club, adopted her moniker, and established her trademark cow-girl routine—complete with cowboy hat and boots, holstered cap six-shooters, and not much else. Though she shot her violent second husband (non-fatally), it was a marijuana possession charge that actually threatened Candy—a fifteen year sentence for four-fifths of an ounce. (Oh, Texas…)

The case dragged on with appeal after appeal, and Candy’s star rose all the while. She went form city to city, made fantastic money, was hired by Fox studios to choreograph Joan Collins for the movie Seven Thieves. She also dated gangster Mickey Cohen. Smitten, Cohen wanted to marry her, and as the appeals of her case began to wind down and the threat of imprisonment loomed closer, he sent Barr and her young daughter to Mexico. Candy, never one to hide, eventually returned to the states and broke it off with Cohen.

Shortly after, she married Jack Sahakian, hairdresser to the stars—the same hairdresser, incidentally, that Cohen arranged to dye her hair so that she could live incognito in Mexico. A few months later, she lost her final appeal and was sentenced to fifteen years. She spent over three years in jail before being paroled. Perhaps agog at the obviously overly punitive sentencing of a “scandalous woman,”  Texas Governor, John Connally, pardoned her in 1968, and she resumed her very successful career.

In 1972, she published, A Gentle Mind . . . Confused. a collection of 56 poems she wrote while in prison, revealing a rich internal monologue and a deft utility of words belying a woman who dropped out of school at thirteen. An excerpt.

“Hate the world that strikes you down,
A warped lesson quickly learned.
Rebellion, a universal sound,
Nobody cares, no one’s concerned.

Fatigued by unyielding strife,
Self-pity consoles the abused,
And the bludgeoning of daily life,
Leaves a gentle mind . . . confused.”

From my perspective (that of a failed ballerina), Candy Barr stands out among her stag film peers, first and foremost, as a natural dancer. I mean, Bettie Page was darling and charismatic, of course, but like a lot of stag film dancers, she was known more for her charms than her craft. After retiring, Barr moved back to the small town of her birth, living comfortably and quietly, choosing not to bank off her cult status. She always said the male attention was never really the thrill for her; she just wanted to dance. 

The Wall Breakers

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
Holy Watusi, Batman! The Bay Area Batman-themed nightclub from the mid-1960s
02:31 pm


Sly and the Family Stone

Wayne Manor
From the start of 1966 to the late spring of 1967 (if not longer), a period coinciding with the run of the groovy Batman TV show we all know and love, one of the hottest nightclubs in the Bay Area was a Batman-themed joint called Wayne Manor in Sunnyvale. According to the Chicken on a Unicycle website (love the name), “The club was decorated like the Bat Cave, and dancers were dressed like Bat Girl or Catwoman.” LIFE Magazine mentioned Wayne Manor in its March 11, 1966 cover story on the Batman-mania sweeping the nation.

The owner of the club was named Joe Lewis, and after attempting to run the nightclub as a South Bay branch of LA’s Whiskey à Go Go, took the advice of his 11-year-old son Garth—an addict of the DC comic books—and went with the Batman theme for the venue. Some have presented the two events as a mere lucky coincidence for Lewis, but I’m skeptical—the Batman series debuted on January 11, 1966, and the music listings on the Chicken on a Unicycle website go back only as far as February 1966—smells like good old-fashioned opportunism to me.
Wayne Manor
The (Fremont) Argus, Feb. 16, 1966
Musical acts would usually book for an entire week at a time. The roster of performers included such notable musical acts as The Music Machine (who played there in Oct. 1966), Dobie Gray (Dec. 1966), and—this will blow your mind—Sly and the Family Stone (a week covering the end of March and the start of April 1967 and virtually every day in May 1967).

Chicken on a Unicycle has an exhaustive collection of ephemera about the club, although most of the images are frustratingly small. However, it’s still very valuable in persuading people (me, for instance) that this actually happened.

There isn’t any video of Wayne Manor on YouTube (why would there be?), so instead we offer you all 14 window cameos from the original TV series:

via Messy Nessy Chic

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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