Sexual intellectuals

By Catherine Shu  / 

Fri, Jul 10, 2009 - Page 14

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Since March, Rock in Hose has brought a splash of sex appeal to Taiwan’s nightclubs and music festivals. But members of the burlesque troupe, which will perform tomorrow at the Taiwan Air Guitar Championships at Carnegie’s and next Saturday at Tin Pan Alley in Tainan, say their performances are more than just about looking hot.

“There is an emphasis on women’s lib. We’re owning our sexuality,” says Alita Rickards, one of the founders of Rock in Hose (and a contributor to this newspaper). Rock in Hose’s skits and dance numbers satirize sexist stereotypes and gender conventions, with the five members (four women and one man) doing their own take on bored housewives, Playboy bunnies, sexy schoolgirls and even dolls.

The troupe was founded in March when Rickards (who goes by the moniker Alita D’Bone when she performs burlesque) and Anja Whitehead (stage name Onyx), who had previously performed together in Rockin’ Ho, a predecessor to Rock in Hose, joined up with Kathleen Batchelor (Miss Kitty N. Heat), Marika McTague (Trixie Treatz) and Tinus Stander (Duke Vita) for a debut performance at Rock ’n’ Roll Circus.

Burlesque performances traditionally mix a broad sense of humor with sexual innuendo. Rock in Hose adds a satirical twist to their repertoire, which includes a light-hearted air guitar version of Jimi Hendrix’s legendary performance of Purple Haze that the members perform while wearing fluffy rainbow clown wigs in homage to the rocker’s famous afro. Other acts include sexy takes on props like hula-hoops and skits that, like an erotic version of pantomime, use very little spoken language in an effort to appeal to non-English speaking audiences (the troupe’s members are from Canada, the US and South Africa).

Rock in Hose’s raunchiest act by far is a dance number to Nine Inch Nails’ Closer in which the troupe’s members form what can best be described as a pulsating human mountain. But Rock in Hose is quick to defend itself against charges that the group’s performances are exploitative or sexist.

“We satirize sexual stereotypes. The performances aren’t supposed to be taken seriously,” says Whitehead. “We want people to get over things that they find offensive, and think about it and then laugh about it.”

“We approach it with a sense of humor,” says Stander. “It’s not about stripping down to panties. We’re actually quite modest.”

“During the performance, I’m still wearing three pairs of tights and a corset,” adds McTague.

The troupe’s self-designed costumes include the aforementioned hosiery and bustiers, and feature more leggings, tank tops and tutus than G-strings or pasties (which are, indeed, nowhere in evidence).

Jason Copps of rock band The Deadly Vibes, which collaborated with Rock in Hose at Rock and Roll Circus, says the troupe brings a much-needed female presence to nightclubs and live music venues, where performance rosters are often dominated by men.

“I think that women, especially in Taiwan, need to see other women performing, that they can get up there, they can be sexual, but also funny,” says Copps. “In Taiwan, there are not a lot of women getting on stage,” says Copps. “There are a few women in bands here and there, but [Rock in Hose] is definitely bringing something that’s needed.”

The troupe’s members themselves report that the loudest and most positive responses have been from female audience members. During some performances, Rickards performs an original song, POGO (Put Out or Get Out), that was written in collaboration with Shiuan Liu (劉軒, who performs as DJ SL), and has a refrain that insists, loudly and proudly, that “women have a higher sex drive!” And performing in Rock in Hose has also made the troupe’s members more comfortable with their own sexuality, they say, a confidence boost that they hope spreads to the women watching them.

When Rickards strapped on a garter belt for one of their first performances, “I felt so chubby,” she recalls. “I got invited to a pool party around the same time and I didn’t want to go because I’d gained weight and felt self-conscious. But after performing, I go to the beach and pool parties. I’m still the same weight I was, but I’m more confident now. Confidence is what makes you sexy.”

For more information about Rock in Hose, check their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pages/Rock-In-Hose-Burlesque/71306437999. For bookings, send an e-mail to rockinhose@gmail.com.

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