Jigglewatts Burlesque reveals 'the tawdry side' of jazz history with live band revue
For the first time since before the pandemic, Jigglewatts Burlesque will pull out the sequins, the feathers and the pasties for an evening of classic strip-tease soundtracked by the Copa Kings, a live jazz ensemble. Disrobing to big band standards that were birthed alongside the art of bump and grind, the troupe aims to recreate burlesque’s golden era.
Throughout their 16-year run, the Jigglewatts have made it a mission to highlight the historic ties between jazz music and burlesque that have largely been erased from the history books.
“I know so many musicians who have no idea,” says Jolie Goodnight, a singer-songwriter and Jigglewatts dancer. “They went to school. They graduated from (University of North Texas) or whatever and burlesque was not even a word that they heard.”
The big band composer Duke Ellington regularly collaborated with burlesque dancers, writing the song “Satin Doll” for the Detroit dancer Tony Elling, who used Ellington's name as inspiration for her stage name. Lounge singer Mel Tormé canoodled with famous dancer April March, who got her start in Dallas, and Nat King Cole had a relationship with the burlesque legend Tempest Storm.
“Even Miles Davis has quotes about what he learned from burlesque dancers,” Goodnight says.
These days, “burlesque-style jazz is considered to be like the cheap jazz, trashy and cheap,” Ruby Joule, Jigglewatts co-founder, says.
But many of those songs were composed in collaboration with dancers.
“The musicians would bring a piece of music they were working on and the burlesque dancer would work on it with them and be like, ‘I'm going to need some cymbals here so that I can do a bump there,’” Goodnight says.
She wishes musicians knew “the more tawdry side of their own history, because there's so much freedom in that,” she says.
The context of a burlesque show adds an element of danger, a titillating allure.
“(The music) doesn't have to be so intellectualized. It can also be of your bones and belly and gut and heart and soul,” she says.
If you go: Jigglewatts Burlesque and the Copa Kings
When: 8 p.m. May 26.
Where: Spiderhouse Ballroom, 2906 Fruth St.
Cost: Starting at $20.
Tickets and information: thejigglewattsburlesque.com