WATCH: Video Sneak Peek at New All-Male Strip Show at Revel [NSFW]
“Showtime’s in 15 minutes!” shouts Ivan Kane, owner of Revel’s Royal Jelly Burlesque Nightclub, as well as the reality-TV-highlighted “Forty Deuce” clubs in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Donning his wide-rimmed black sunglasses (as you might imagine a club owner would do), he motions stage-side bystanders to the outside casino bar as he oversees last-minute preparations for the ripe all-male burlesque show’s invite-only rehearsal performance.
Select members of the press, myself included, are ushered outside for what’s said to be a brief cocktail in anticipation of the ensemble and – oh, what’s that? A nearly naked, dashing young lad atop the bar, gyrating his pelvis between a cluster of wide-eyed and slightly flushed female patrons and a container of cocktail limes. Somehow, in the context of Royal Jelly’s dark and mysterious ambience, it’s a more pleasantly transfixing sight to behold than an appalling one.
And that’s just what Kane has managed to accomplish with Atlantic City’s scantily clad male burlesque show: the transformation of something potentially tasteless into something refreshingly tasteful.
To be sure, this isn’t a Gayborhood-type production: There’s nothing improvisational or off-step about the production; each maneuver is planned to a tee by Kane’s longtime choreographer Tovaris Wilson, who teaches nine burlesque dancers who fit snugly under the category of “New York Elite.” (Kane describes the audition process for the New York-based dancers as “intensive,” explaining that many of them come from Broadway or major-artist tours.) The numbers – all three of them, for tonight’s showcase – involve the men in question dancing in step to contemporary tunes, notably in lieu of the live-band jazz and rock ‘n’ roll music that graces the club’s alternative all-female productions. Boasting a “celebrity DJ” from New York, the routines are instead performed to rhythm-heavy jams that leave out the silly and embrace all things seductive. (You won’t see these gentlemen dancing to “Call Me Maybe” anytime soon.) The flawlessly-muscled men then strut about on both a catwalk and what Kane describes as a “Cirque Du Soleil” ceiling installation located just above the bar.
Nor is there any shortage of men scattered about the lounge areas of the club. The stage-facing, railed-off seating sections contain handfuls of red-velvet-colored seats and ovular tables carefully placed next to a floor-to-ceiling pole. Here, nine go-go boys dance for their life.
But to describe the moves of these dancers as “twerking” or “booty popping” would be an insult to how calculated each gyration clearly is. So methodical and people-pleasing, in fact, that when one nearby attendee asks that one of the personal go-go studs repeat his head-spinning, upside-down, acrobatic sliver down the pole, he’s happy to oblige. Surely, the charm, flirtation and willingness of the dancers to keep customers happy without smirking or biting their lip is more intoxicating than the drinks themselves.
And though parts of the elusive “New AC” sometimes feel a lot like the old AC with a fresh coat of Revel-colored paint, Kane’s undeniably modern effort just might prove to be the exception. However, be warned that any anti-Vegas or -L.A. culture visitors will likely abhor the otherwise enjoyable superficiality of the show. If you don’t like swinging limbs and butt-clenching undies before Kane’s burlesque presentation, you likely won’t after.
The Royal Jelly all-male burlesque soiree is a must for any gay male (or straight female) eager to shake up a Wednesday night. And for $10 – less than the admittance fee for Voyeur on some nights – it’s a no-brainer for those within close proximity to Atlantic City. Just be prepared with an abundance of one-dollar bills to tip the dancers – trust me, you’ll want to.
Ivan Kane’s DJ Burlesque will premiere Weds., July 17 at 8 p.m. inside Revel Resort’s Royal Jelly Nightclub.
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