Jo Weldon with her pupils Friday night at the Slipper Room

Friday night (April 24th) was graduation night for Jo Weldon’s New York School of Burlesque at the Slipper Room.

Each and every one of the women who performed are stars and gave standout performances. But natural talent only goes so far. Ms. Weldon not only knows how to pick them, she also knows how to train them.

As Ms. Weldon says in an interview posted to her Web site, Burlesque is an erotic dance meant to entertain a crowd — in contrast to stripping, where the stripper focuses her attention on one guy, usually to convince him to spend all his dough on lap dances. To entertain the crowd a burlesque dancer creates a persona and a story, the unfolding of which is also the dancer revealing her (or sometimes his) body. The story has a plot, like any other story, and the end (or reveal) is erotic, declamatory, and liberating for the audience and the dancers.

The end of the dance is a liberation, not just because we get to see naked flesh, or because the woman on stage gets to show off what God gave her, but because the dancers take the audience through erotic fantasy, wrapped in irony, and peel off its layers until we see the fantasy — all fantasy — as a pretext or introduction to the true uniqueness of the dancer.

Case in point: Isabella Calamity Chang did a stunning number in a red qipao and a peasant hat that evoked “yellow fever” in such a playfully ironic way that at the end of her routine she had elevated a stereotype into a pure expression of Ms. Chang’s radiant sexuality.

Courtesy of Diana Delatorre

Calamity Chang, courtesy of Diana Delatorre

All the performers developed entertaining routines, though a few stood out as noticably creative.

Lefty Lucy’s robot burlesque got the CC award for most elaborate costume.

Lefty Lucy

Lefty Lucy

There are hours of blood, toil, and tears woven into all that aluminium foil. And she does The Robot like she stepped out of 1983.

Lola Vulcanwrath

Lola Vulcanwrath

Lola Vulcanwrath did her number to the Kinks’s famous tune “Lola,” which tells the tale of a naive young man learning about the complexities of love from a transexual. The reveal was not electrical tape on the nipples but a ten inch black strap-on that went well with her World War II era gas mask. A nightmare for straight guys? Or a delicious fantasy? (Reader, you have to decide that one for yourself.)

Naughty Botticelli

Naughty Botticelli

Naughty Botticelli’s routine was classic: A bored cop, looking for doughnuts finds them hidden all over her body. D’oh! Of course, the real doughnut, the honey-delicious, melt-in-your-mouth, creamy doughnut is Ms. Botticelli herself. Thirty seconds into her routine she unzipped her fly and pulled down her pants to uncover a long, cream-filled twinkie — longer than the regular kind — which she devoured hungrily. If seeing a lazy cop consuming himself into a vision of feminine sweetness doesn’t turn you on, you must be dead.

But the sweetest moment of the evening was the end when the ladies lined up on stage to get a standing O from the audience. Their smiles were brighter than all the lights on Broadway.