BY MARTA HEPLER DRAHOS, firstname.lastname@example.org
TRAVERSE CITY — The groundbreaking — at least in northern Michigan — burlesque troupe Bayside Bombshells is at it again.
The entertainers will become one of the first two burlesque troupes to enter the prestigious ArtPrize Grand Rapids competition later this month.
"It's the world's biggest open art competition so it's really big for us," said troupe founder Twiggy Pop. "We're all super excited."
The competition, which includes more than 1,500 entries in more than 160 venues, is just one of the Traverse City-based troupe's major accomplishments this year. The other is its first anniversary, which the performers will celebrate with a show Saturday, Aug. 11, at Ground Zero in the Streeters entertainment complex.
Cirque du Tease will feature all the singing, dancing and tassel twirling the Bombshells' audiences have come to know, only with a burlesque circus theme. Highlights include contortion acts, fire dancing and Twiggy performing tricks on an "elephant" complete with tusks, a white silk trunk and flapping ears.
"It's not real, but it's about the same damn size," said Twiggy, a single mom and hairdresser from Traverse City. "I built it in the garage."
Creative costumes and props like fans, fire, black lights and, yes, elephants, are an essential part of the troupe's skits and performances, aimed at pushing the boundaries of classic burlesque.
"It's a variety show," said Twiggy, one of about a dozen male and female performers with stage names like Ms. Devine Bandersnatch, Dahlia Dagger and Cassie Opium. "There's comedy, dancing, gymnastics and contortion, singers and musicians. It's a show that you can take your girlfriend to or your wife to and you both have a great night together. We do strip down to pasties and twirl our tassels but there's no $20 bills tucked in our G-strings."
Since opening at the InsideOut Gallery in Traverse City last August, the troupe has performed every other month or so at places like Ground Zero, Side Traxx, the Stix Bar and Grill in Harrison and the Ole Barn in Grayling.
Most shows are preceded by a benefit performance for area charities.
Corey Eno Ruffin performed with his burlesque troupe in northern Michigan long before Traverse City had its own.
He said Super Happy Funtime Burlesque, from Grand Rapids, takes pride in having promoted the fledgling Bayside Bombshells and in helping to spread the art of burlesque in northern Michigan.
"I was extremely excited and I was extremely proud," said Ruffin, aka "Mr. Happypants," host and bandleader with the Grand Rapids troupe. "I'm sure we played some part in it."
Now Ruffin and his troupe will go head-to-head with the Bayside Bombshells in the ArtPrize competition.
"We'll do 'ArtPrize! the Musical!' a massive satire," he said. "We are totally skewing every sacred cow."
Twiggy, the granddaughter of flamenco and salsa dancers, said the Traverse City troupe also includes a ballerina, swing dancers, yoga practitioners and entertainers who grew up in community theater.
All work full time and some are students, too. Drag queen and king Vajojo Visage and Ben Eaton serve as emcees.
"We'll put a guy in a dress, a woman in a moustache. We're a bunch of comedians. Whatever makes the skit work, we'll do," Twiggy said.
Advance tickets for Saturday's show are $15. Doors open at 9 p.m.; the show begins at 10.
For more information, visit www.groundzeroonline.com.