The weekend of January 20th is the “Burly Birthday Show” for the Bottom’s Up Burlesque troupe, who has been together now for 5 years. I’ve been noticing over the past few years that the art form has been growing in popularity around the Quad Cities and decided to check out a performance. So, I recently attended my first burlesque show, performed at The Speakeasy in downtown Rock Island.
I saw the “In Your Dreams Show” performed by the Bottoms Up Burlesque troupe, and I had such an enjoyable time. I wanted to learn more about the driving force behind it, so I sat down with show’s co-hosts, Joshua Kahn and Paul Ferguson, to learn more about this old art form and the locals behind this popular scene.
Kahn has been involved with the local burlesque scene for six years. He began as part of a vaudeville act and has since evolved into being the permanent host. In years past, the show was always co-hosted by the same two gentlemen. This year, Kahn had a revolving host, a new person each month. Ferguson was his co-host for the show I attended.
Ferguson is a local writer with his hands in a lot of creative projects and he worked with Kahn on past projects, including helping with writing burlesque acts. Earlier this year, when a co-host dropped out unexpectedly, Ferguson stepped in. Kahn and Ferguson wrote the show around the acts and gave a wonderful performance.
The show itself was indeed sensual, with adults-only humor. But it was done tastefully and was quite entertaining. One of the best parts was audience participation was encouraged; members of the crowd would hoot and holler and shout out encouragements and boasts all throughout the evening.
Kahn told me that there are regulars in the crowd each show, and that people keep coming back for more. As the troupes evolve over time by bringing in new performers, different hosts, and changing themes, it keeps the art form while remaining interesting.
He also told me that he wanted people to know that this isn’t what many people think it is, you have to see it and experience it.
“It’s classy, it’s sexy, it’s funny, it’s tasteful. It is not stripping. It truly is a beautiful art form empowering the performer for the sake of fun entertainment.” The “Burly Birthday Show” will feature former performers and favorite acts from the past five years. It will be Friday, January 20th and Saturday, January 21st both at 8pm at the Speakeasy located at 1818 3rd Avenue in Rock Island. Buy tickets here.