UPDATED: What's the Status of Burlesque in Houston? sNSFW
Francisco Montes Dem Damn Dames:Theatrical neo-burlesque. Tifa Tiddlywinks Tittlywinks describes her troupe as "children of the low arts. We like it raw and homemade, and everything is 100 percent original."
In November 2010, my colleague Pete Vonder Haar asked the question "Why Doesn't Houston Have a Burlesque Troupe?"
Three-plus years later, the burlesque scene in Houston is booming, and boasts at least five unique troupes plus a handful of solo artists, according to Tifa Tittlywinks, member of one of Houston's oldest troupes, Dem Damn Dames.
At the time of Vonder Haar's story, the Dames were actually in the process of forming. Tittlywinks, who grew up in Indiana and moved to Houston for work in 2008, had been a student of dance her whole life. It was here that she met Tricia Licious, who asked her if she wanted to help start a burlesque troupe in Houston.
"We didn't audition girls or anything. We just asked people, 'Hey, do you want to dance?'"
The Dames performed their first show in fall 2010.
Since then, the Dames' line-up has changed. Licious and another founding member, Kiki Maroon, now mainly perform solo, and Tittlywinks is the Mistress of the fairly small troupe. Tiddlywinks said that organic growth is part of what makes Houston's scene special.
"We were a bit rocky and rough around the edges," she said. "But I didn't have to be cast, I didn't have to rub shoulders. I got to be me. The beauty of that is it's pretty much how any solid scene starts."
That's not to say the current Houston burlesque scene isn't without its divisions.
Take, for example, last weekend's H-town Burlesque Fest at the House of Blues. Despite the name -- and there are some Houston dancers involved, including the Houston Burlesque Revue -- the festival is actually organized by a Dallas troupe, The Ruby Revue, who have a regular monthly gig at HOB. In fact, up one day last week, the url HoustonBurlesqueFestival.com rerouted to a page for a Dallas festival that took place in 2012. (The site now directs to a Facebook page for the H-town Burlesque Fest.)
Tittlywinks said that despite the involvement of some Houston dancers, many women in the scene don't like the idea of an outside troupe putting on a Houston-branded festival.
"It's unfortunate, because it's splitting the scene," she said. "A lot of Houston people have gone to great lengths to offset that, but I will not condone a festival called the H-town Burlesque Fest that's not."
"Other cities have to trust us to do this ourselves," she said. "In fact, I heard Coco Lectric (of the Austin troupe The Jigglewatts) say that -- as soon as she saw Houston had a scene, she stopped playing here."