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A Wink and a Smile (2008).

January 14, 2011

The Scoop:
With the imminent release of the Christina Aguilera/Cher movie “Burlesque,” the venerable art form of burlesque dancing seems poised to make a comeback. That is, unless, the film goes down in a cheesy fireball like “Showgirls,” which seems much more likely. But whatever that film’s ultimate destiny, burlesque itself will survive.

It’s important to remember that, even with it’s bumping and grinding and skimpy outfits, burlesque is more than just a girly show. It’s an art form with a long tradition of satire, subversion and speaking truth to power. And, particularly in its modern incarnation, it is a tool of feminist empowerment.

“A Wink and a Smile” is Dierdre Allen Timmons’ mash note to burlesque. She follows the lives and motivations of 10 everyday women who take a beginning burlesque class from Seattle performer and teacher Miss Indigo Blue. Along the way, Timmons also weaves in the history of the genre – which dates back to the late 19th century – and the life stories of several dancers, who exhibit the wide range of ideas and styles that burlesque can accommodate.

The students range in age from their early 20s to their early 50s and come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Timmons does a good job of giving each woman a chance to tell her story and share her fears and excitement about dancing in public. Where the film falls short is in telling the stories of the more experienced dancers. While the footage of their routines is generous, it would have been great to hear more of them telling their own stories in their own words the way the students do. Instead, we’re left with Miss Indigo’s introductions and assessment of their places in the Seattle burlesque scene.

However, that’s a minor quibble. The main reason to see this film is to follow the 10 students’ touching journeys to self-fulfillment. It is their stories that show the pride and emotional weight that lay behind the titillation.

Best Bit:
The Picasso painting routine.

Side Note:
Are you in the Seattle area? Then you can try it for yourself by taking the same classes at Miss Indigo Blue’s Academy of Burlesque.

Companion Viewing:

Official site.

Take a Look:
The trailer:

The students face their insecurities:

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