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'BURLESQUE IS BORING': Penny Arcade on the return of her iconic erotic dance show

Published: 28 June, 2012

When perfor­mance art legend Penny Arcade first toured her show Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! 20 years ago she struggled to find any suitable erotic dancers in the UK.

This time round, for the current show at the pop-up Arcola Tent in Dalston, almost 200 people responded to her open call. Arcade claims this changing landscape is the legacy of those first performances in the 1990s. “I wanted to redeem the idea of erotic dance in those people’s communities,” she says. “It was quite looked down upon. Burlesque is everywhere now and it’s so boring. It requires hardly any skill; it’s certainly not a progressive art form. Erotic dance is the most powerful feminist art form as it’s the only thing that controls men. It takes us back to
our most primitive state.”

Within the show, the male and female go-go dancers punctuate Arcade’s satirical monologues on sex and censorship.

Arcade is no stranger to controversy and has been involved in the New York avant-garde scene since a teenager, working alongside such iconic artists as Andy Warhol and Jackie Curtis, and, a close friend, Quentin Crisp.

The return of Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! to London is not intended as a retrospective or to be received with nostalgia.

“In 1990 it was the belly of the Aids epidemic” Arcade says, “but people are still being infected. There’s more silence around Aids than ever before and STD’s are at an all-time high. All of the issues that the show addressed have not changed but actually gone backwards in relation to personal freedom and identity.”

It is telling that Arcade was unable to say the full title of the show during a recent Radio 1 interview.

The cast will also be partici­pating in the London World Pride Parade on July 7 underneath a banner specially created by Ed Hall, banner maker for the trade union movement.

• Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! is at the Arcola Tent, Ashwin Street, Dalston, E8, until July  22, 020 7503 1646,


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