PHOTOS: The Boys Grin And Bare It At The New York Boylesque Festival

When the New York Boylesque Festival launches this weekend it will be something of a milestone in the evolution of the burgeoning revival of burlesque: the first event of its kind to focus solely on male performers.

“Since New York was the frontrunner in the neo-burlesque movement, we figured it was good to also spearhead the boylesque movement,” says Daniel Nardicio, who is organizing the festival with Thirsty Girl Production’s Jen Gapay.

Men have been appearing at burlesque festivals all over the world since the burlesque renaissance began in the 1990s. But in the last few years there’s been something of an explosion of boylesque acts in cities like Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco. Here in the Big Apple, performers like Go-Go Harder and The Evil Hate Monkey are getting more and more exposure.

Harder’s Intro to Boylesk course has helped create a sense of community for up-and-coming male performers. But it wasn’t always this way. “For years we couldn’t understand why I was the only guy we knew who was doing real burlesque stripping alongside those fabulous women,” says Tigger, one of New York’s original male burlesque stars.

“I think men are being more openly objectified,” says Toddy. “Which I applaud.”

Johnny Porkpie, co-founder of New York’s Pinchbottom Burlesque troupe (which includes both male and female performers) credits Tigger for pressuring him into launching his own burlesque career. He says the number of male performers on the scene has grown along with the interest in burlesque in general. “There were plenty of fabulous go-go boys and drag performers, but you would rarely see them in a burlesque show. Now, there are more guys than you can shake a stick at—if you’re into that sort of thing.”

Tigger says that explosion of male performers is what has made the New York Boylesque Festival possible. “I’ve been hosting my annual ‘Man: A Tease!’ boylesque show on Coney Island for six years and there simply weren’t enough kick-ass men to fill a whole festival,” he says. “But boylesque gets bigger and better every year. The time is now.”

This weekend’s festival will bring together veterans like Tigger and Porkpie with more than 30 performers from Seattle, Toronto, London, Baltimore and beyond—and newcomers like GoGo Gadget and other graduates of Harder’s class—for two nights of showcases at Tamany Hall and Rebel, and a day of classes and lectures at The Gershwin Hotel. Nardicio says he’s particularly psyched to see the new blood and out-of-towners like Chicago’s Hot Toddy.

“I think men are being more openly objectified,” says Toddy, “Which I applaud. I also think it’s bringing humor to the male mystique and image.”

That idea, that boylesque is about more than just sex appeal, is something most performers are quick to point out.  “There’s something for everybody,” Porkpie says, “Even those not attracted to the featured gender. I’ve seen many a straight boy or lesbian wince when a male performer was introduced, only to be the one cheering loudest at the end of his act.”

Gadget, one of the festival’s newest performers sums it up best: “Burlesque/boylesque is such a beautiful and empowering performing art that incorporates both theater and dance— and sometimes a variety of other skills and talents—that it really should reach just about everyone.”


Click through for photos of the stars of the New York Boylesque Festival!

The First Annual New York Boylesque Festival runs April 27 and 28 in New York. Photo via Bart Mastronardi

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  • GAYJOCK 76

    Right, because nothing says male eroticism like guys wearing, make up, pasties, fake eyelashes and sequence shorts. no thanks.

  • Topher

    YAY! Now boys are equal to girls!!!

  • Dave

    I like some of them and think that they’re handsome but what’s with the guys in drag at 3, 6, and 7? Can’t we as bisexual and gay men actually do something that doesn’t involve acting camp/femmey, or putting on women’s clothing?

  • Darling

    @Dave: Sure, Dave. YOU can. Feel free. But some of us don’t want to.

  • Nikki

    I love you, Mat Fraser!

  • jason

    I don’t think there’s anything applaud-worthy about being objectified. I think women are over-objectified in America and I think men should not aspire to this over-objectification.

    Burlesque is simply sexism dressed up in fake female empowerment notions, and is ultimately designed to appeal to sexist and homophobic men. I have no respect at all for female burlesque performers. They are glorified strippers, man-pleasing doormats.

  • Timmmeeeyyy

    It would have been nice of the author to give the performers credits on their photos. Here are the ones I’ve identified….
    1. Brewster
    2. Dew Lily
    3. Faux Pas
    4. Hot Toddy
    5. ?
    6. James and the Giant Pasty
    7. The Luminous Pariah
    8. Mod Carousel
    9. Mat Fraser

  • Timmmeeeyyy

    Can anyone please identify #5?

  • uh oh


    Nope, I love gender fuck – the dude in pic 7 is sexy as hell.

    The great thing about attraction – what I find attractive has no baring on what you find attractive. See? Everyone wins!

  • WillBFair

    I enjoy beauty and muscles and objectification as much as anyone. They are major pieces of gay culture.
    What’s bad is that they replace brains and kindness and competence and character. We’re so obsessed with the former, that we don’t even recognize the important stuff. It is tragic, and it slows our progress in a thousand ways.

  • Steve

    WillBFair that’s because what passes as a gay/LGBT “culture” is a total joke and has been for the last 50 years.

  • The Real Mike in Asheville

    So, at what age are boys no longer boys and become men? None were made up as Peter Pan…..

  • WillBFair

    @Steve: I don’t agree. There’s a lot about gay culture that I’m proud of and celebrate. But there are things that I don’t care for. Like anything, there’s the good and the bad.

  • Timmmeeeyyy

    @WillBFair: & @Steve:
    Boylesque performers are not the same thing as the gogo dancers you see at clubs. Burlesque/Boylesque shows are variety shows where performances have characters, costumes, choreography, etc. If you saw some of these burlesque people perform, you would realize their acts can be sexy, funny, witty, satirical, physically demanding and smart.

  • DrewSF

    I agree with Mike in Asheville this is all about Peter Pan syndrome that you see in lots of gay men like Willbfair wrote about.

  • ToptoBottomNYC

    Oh my god, ENOUGH already.

    The excitement about this event is not that “boys are finally equal to girls”. It’s about them becoming less hung up about expectations of masculinity and having the balls to put a bit of glitter on.

    Burlesque is an art form…a celebration of sexuality. It’s important in our culture because it presents those with less than “perfect” body types with an opportunity to be a sex symbol, something I have been seeking my entire life. You can call it objectifying if you want, but I made my boylesque debut last weekend and I have never felt more empowered in my life.

    Some of us go a more masculine route, some choose to be more femme or campy. THAT IS OUR CHOICE. Don’t try to impose your own hangups about masculinity on anyone else’s method of artistic expression.

  • ToptoBottomNYC

    Oh, and by the way….#5 is GoGo Gadget.

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