Inside LUSH with the Original Danger Doll

Summer is a great time to get out and enjoy the sun… but what’s a fun-loving fella to do after dark to stay entertained?! In the Dogbox went on a fact-finding mission into LUSH – Christchurch’s premier burlesque bar and entertainment venue – to have a yarn with local burlesque legend Bonita Danger Doll and find out.

Located in the heart of central Christchurch, LUSH is essentially a lad’s wet dream come to life. There’s an intimate bar area, incredible nightly burlesque performances from world-class showgirls, a FREE pinball arcade, pool tables… not to mention pole dances, lap dances and spa hire if you’re feeling extra frisky.

Bonita Danger Doll has been the resident showgirl at LUSH since the club’s opening, performing burlesque and aerial shows, as well as interactive stage shows for Stag’s nights and birthdays on the main stage, or the club’s private lounge.

Hey Bonita, tell us about yourself! How did you get into burlesque?

Hi! Well, I’m Bonita – aka, Bonita Danger Doll. I’m 40-years-old, I live in Christchurch, and I’ve been performing as a burlesque dancer since 2010, so 11 years! I’m also a singer, event producer, dance teacher, makeup artist and educator in the beauty industry, an importer and retailer of high heels and beauty products and all-round entrepreneur business woman.

I discovered burlesque back in 2010, and came across international performers like Dita Von Tease on YouTube and instantly fell in love with the performance style. I started performing in local shows around Christchurch, not that long before the Christchurch earthquakes.

Wow, you’re a busy woman! You must really love performing to put so much time into it, around everything else. What is it about burlesque that really spins your wheels?

I love the tease, the anticipation, the build-up, the audience interaction, and joy that I bring to the stage! It also gives me absolute control and variety over my style of performance art – where I can take any concept or theme and turn it into an act that entertains and enthrals.

My style ranges from very classic showgirl with feathers, boas, gloves and corsets while in my full-sized, custom-made martini glass; or comedy style where I’m in a full rhinestone cowgirl outfit and mount a miniature pony; right through to fetish or side-show styles using fire. My BDSM cage show – complete with bondage teddy inside – is also a crowd-pleaser. Especially when I’m on top using an angle grinder on a metal plate on my pelvis!

Okay, that sounds INSANE. And not at all what a lot of people would expect if they’ve never been to a burlesque show before. How do you think burlesque is different to other forms of performance?

Burlesque literally means to ‘mock’ or to parody. It’s an extremely old form of variety entertainment, and while it was popularised in the 1800s it can be found throughout history. Clubs and theatres often had raunchy variety shows that were very popular from about the 1840s to the 1940s.

Hollywood, in the Golden Era, even tried to recapture or recreate burlesque in films, which would include elements of vaudeville, comedy, dance, and tease. Then, during the 1940s to 1960s, performers like Gypsy Rose Lee, Tempest Storm, Jennie Lee, Dixie Evans, Lily St Cyr, Evelyn West and so many more embodied the essence of striptease.

Neo burlesque or modern burlesque was popularised again in the early ‘90s in the USA, and is still extremely popular worldwide. It generally involves striptease – which consists of the tasteful removal of garments to a final reveal – but can include elements of slapstick, vaudeville, circus, cabaret, boylesque, queer performance art and so much more. In most cases, it doesn’t involve full-frontal nudity, but is more about capturing the ‘Art of Tease’ in its true essence. In short, burlesque is for men and women alike, who are looking for a great night of entertainment!

So one night you might be swimming in a giant martini glass, and the next you could be in bondage mode… what can people expect from your shows?

I’ve been performing burlesque for over 11 years now, so I have quite a variety of acts. Actually, there are currently over 20 that I rotate through at LUSH that work for the stage and setup there.

I bring a modern spin to burlesque while still keeping many of the traditional aspects alive, and paying homage to the performers who have paved the way over the years. I like to have fun on stage, interact with my audience and make people smile! It gives me a lot of joy to see others having a great time and being entertained, so that’s my main focus when I’m creating an act.

How long have you been performing at LUSH, and what’s the vibe?

I’ve been the resident showgirl, performing my burlesque and aerial shows for over two years now – since LUSH opened. It’s a really cool space. The building used to be a live performance venue for bands in a former life, so it has cool layout. There’s lots of space, with booth seating as well as bar leaners and seats around the stage. It has a good-sized stage and two poles for the beautiful Lush exotic dancers, who are also make up our entertainment each weekend. There are two lap dance areas and an outdoor spa which can be booked for time with the dancers. There are two pool tables, arcade games, cool lighting and sound systems, and a live DJ every second Saturday as well.

One of the great things about the vibe at LUSH is that we have a really diverse audience that loves to come along on the weekends, and we pride ourselves on having a friendly and fun environment. During the evening’s entertainment you’ll see the amazing LUSH ladies up on the stage – who strip topless during their stage spots – as well as feature shows from myself and other super talented burlesque, pole or circus performers.

I also do interactive stage shows for Stag and Hen parties and birthdays on the main stage, and or in our private room. These are a lot of fun!

What do you get up to when you’re not at LUSH?

I do hens parties and burlesque par- ties, and I dance at Calendar Girls in Christchurch a couple of nights a week as well, so I’m a pretty busy gal!I’m an educator in the beauty industry, I teach my Burlesquercise Dance Fitness classes in person and online, I teach burlesque and also one-on-one lessons for a variety of things. I produce burlesque and variety shows around Christchurch – from rookie and novice performers right through to professional performers, and have regular sell-out shows. and I’ve been an importer and seller of Pleaser heels from the USA for around nine years now, selling heels all around New Zealand to a wide clientele of women and men.

How do you unwind when you’re not performing?

Haha, well I try and catch up on sleep where I can! The hours at Lush and Calendar Girls are all very late, so I do try and rest and do as little as possible on Mondays!

I’m a step-mum to my fiancé’s two children, and I also have a few pets which keep me busy, including two cats, a Flemish giant rabbit and a bearded dragon lizard. And, of course, I spend time with my fiancé, Mr Danger. AND I’ve taken up roller skating as a hobby this year, which I really enjoy!

Aside from burlesque, what’s your secret talent?

Is multi-tasking a secret talent? Haha. The girls always tell me that I’m always smiling. I guess I’m really good at connecting with people, and have the ability to command a room but also be approachable and friendly at the same time – even when I’m in super sexy mode!

What’s the thing you love most about per- forming at LUSH?

I’m really lucky to be part of a venue where I can do what I love, week in week out! LUSH is the only club in New Zealand that has burlesque every weekend! I also work with an amazing bunch of ladies, and our staff are also wonderful. It’s a great team! Our clientele is fab, and I meet some great people every weekend.

Follow Bonita Danger Doll for behind the scenes sneak peeks and upcoming events on Instagram (@danger- doll) and Facebook (@miss.bonita.danger.doll), or head to www.dangerdoll.co.nz for more info.

LUSH is an R18 venue, open Friday and Saturday nights from 9pm until late 32 Allen Street, Christchurch Central City www.lushchristchurch.co.nz

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