Caught in the act

20:10, Nov 15 2012
In Flagrante
Burlesque beauty: Hot girls and skimpy costumes.

In Flagrante is at the Clarence St Theatre on Friday, November 16, at 8pm. Tickets are available from Ticketek. The Mojo Cabaret class is at the Clarence St Dance Studio from 2pm Saturday. 

Hot girls, great music, stunning - and skimpy - costumes, superb choreography, what's not to like?

Mary Jane O'Reilly's neo-burlesque show In Flagrante, which comes to the Clarence St Theatre for the first time on Friday night, could never have been made in the 90s.

The 70s maybe, but certainly not the 90s, when "everyone was very uptight", the veteran choreographer says.

"I just think it's a time now when we're comfortable with our sexuality," O'Reilly says.

That's lucky. Because In Flagrante - rough translation, caught in the act - has been stunning audiences with what's been called a "modern and beautifully deviant take on the burlesque revival".


For those who consider burlesque itself to be deviant, best you stop reading now.

Because In Flagrante makes your average burlesque performance look positively tame in comparison.

It includes about a dozen short pieces ranging from group bondage and equestrianism to the can can and marching girls.

"It's a very dancey show," O'Reilly says.

"Lots of dance, lots of humour, lots of parody. Because I'm a contemporary dance choreographer it's quite sophisticated."

O'Reilly was co-founder, dancer and choreographer for the Limbs Dance Company in the 1970s and is probably best known for her work choreographing the Auckland Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in 1990.

She says the move into what's been called neo-burlesque "just happened".

"I thought I'd make a show which was more generally popular. Contemporary dance can be quite a hard sell, and I thought I'd surf in on the burlesque wave and ride that, and that's worked really well, so I'll keep on with that."

"It's a real crossover. It's very theatrical. I'm inspired by burlesque and Vaudeville, so it is very entertaining," she says.

"I've got a foot in a number of different areas, one in burlesque, one in theatre, one in dance."

It's taken a while for In Flagrante to make it to Hamilton - O'Reilly says it's because she wanted it to be the best it could be - and a couple of sets have been added since the original version.

"It's actually grown now to about 13 or 14. We've added the can can and it's lots of fun. I'm imagining the original can can dancers as wild women in the bars of Paris, that sort of approach, and we've added these marching girls.

"I actually devised them for a festival in Auckland but I also had in mind that they'd be great for In Flagrante. I've been inspired by marching girls, we all have fond memories of marching girls. Cheerleaders took over from them, but actually, I think it's time for marching girls again."

The performance of the marching girls, which Hamilton got a sneak peek at last week during an impromptu performance in Garden Place on Friday, is unlike any marching performance seen before.

"I couldn't resist doing a little bit of a parody of them. They start off very straight, and when they get to the end they're a bit dirty and a bit naughty," O'Reilly says.

The show features some of the country's top dancers, including Shanelle Lenehan (The New Zealand Dance Company), Lara Fischel-Chisholm (Stranger Things, Shortland Street), Maria Munkowits, Amanda MacFarlane, Molly McDowall and Megan Hughes and O'Reilly says they're comfortable leaving little to the imagination on stage.

"They find it very liberating they tell me," she says.

"They wouldn't audition for me if they weren't comfortable in their bodies. They think it's hilarious, they love the show, they love performing it, they love the audience responses, they feel great."

"Often burlesque dancers aren't that highly trained and fit. These girls are really professional and I keep them really sharp. They're just delightful girls. They're not super fit like gym people but they're very good."

And fans have the chance to learn from the best when O'Reilly hosts a day-long Mojo Cabaret class on Saturday.

"It's a class for women, mainly, and the aim is to create an environment and give them skills to be able to dance comfortably in their own bodies. It's inspired by my show, so some of the material from the show they will learn and enjoy."

It will provide participants with the skills so that "when you've had a few glasses of wine there's something you can do instead of just faffing around.

"I just love it when people feel really good in themselves. That's really important for me.

"We have a lot of fun, it's a lot of laughs, I bring out the whips and things we use in the show."

And while the class is for women, O'Reilly says more men should get into dance.

"If only they knew how great it was as a way to flirt. At a party or in a club, dancing is a great way to flirt with women." For more information about the class or to sign up, contact: Mary Jane O'Reilly on 021 950 743,