Lucha VaVoom Brings Burlesque and Wrestling Back to the Mayan
by Lea Lion
It is a hazy Thursday morning in early February and three women are doing warm-up stretches in an unassuming, wood-floored dance studio in Atwater Village. They are chatting about their upcoming Valentine’s Day show and killing time waiting for the fourth dancer to arrive.
One of the dancers, Rita D’Alpert, who goes by the stage name Ursulina, has two-tone hair – blonde on top, black underneath – cut into a shaggy ‘do. She is wearing black low top Converse sneakers and matching arm-warmers. Moana Santana has dark brown bangs across her forehead and is dressed head-to-toe in black, including a tank top that reads “Sexo y Violencia” in cursive script across the chest. Audrey Deluxe, a tall blonde, embodies the most all-American look of the crew.
They could be any dancers with any troupe in the country. But their conversation reveals otherwise.
“Why don’t you try wrestling?” D’Alpert asks in her gravelly voice.
“We’ve been dying to get in the ring,” Deluxe responds.
They are the burlesque dancers of Lucha VaVoom, a laugh-packed modern vaudeville show that alternates striptease acts with Mexican wrestling matches (and, on occasion, the dancers get in the ring). Today, they are rehearsing for a run of upcoming shows, dubbed the “Valentine’s Sextacular,” on Feb. 13-15 at the Mayan Theatre.
This is the fourth year that Lucha is bringing its tongue-in-cheek blend of sex and violence to Downtown Los Angeles audiences for Valentine’s Day. The line-up promises to be chock full of new acts and old favorites.
Finally, the fourth dancer, Victoria Vengeance, arrives – hair wrapped up like a 1950s movie star, eyebrows shaped into dark arches, lips painted a shocking red – and rehearsal begins.
D’Alpert hits play on the boom box and a drum-heavy soundtrack fills the diminutive space. The dancers pair off in the middle of the room and begin to shake their hips. One by one in time with the music each stops, strikes a pose and brandishes a six-foot-long spear over her shoulder.
Fairbairn’s initial attempt to spread the word about lucha libre involved hiring vans to shuttle people to matches in Tijuana. When that wasn’t a hit, she decided to bring the wrestlers to the people. D’Alpert and Fairbairn shortened the matches, added burlesque dancers and comedians and, voila, Lucha VaVoom was born.
“You don’t really have to understand who is winning,” D’Alpert says. “You can automatically tell who is good and who is evil. The wrestlers are like living comic book heroes and I think that is what people are drawn to.”
One of the good guys slated to wrestle in the “Valentine’s Sextacular” is Blue Demon Jr., son of luchadore Blue Demon, who dons the family’s electric blue mask with white accents. It may come as no surprise that black-and-white masked Misterioso, described on Lucha’s website as “master of the street fight and death match,” is one of the bad guys.
Lucha’s eccentric cast of characters in the ring includes mini luchadores, Crazy Chickens and the pink spandex-clad gender-bending duo Los Exoticos.
The burlesque acts include D’Alpert and crew; the Wau Wau Sisters, who do a heavy metal trapeze routine; the sexy Poubelle Twins, who duke it out in the ring; Roky Roulette, a male pogo stick-riding burlesque star; and Karis, a hula-hoop master – who also has another trick up his sleeve.
“He’s so beautiful, everyone thinks he is a girl when he comes out,” D’Alpert explains.
Veteran Lucha MC Blaine Capatch, who hosts the show with help from guests Patton Oswalt, Tom Kenny and Dana Gould on Feb. 13, 14 and 15, respectively, provides the comic relief.
Each time D’Alpert hits the play button on the boom box, the opening bars of “Ungawa” by San Francisco-based band Chow Nasty fill the studio and the dancers start gyrating to the chorus of “Un-Ungawa my baby’s got the power.” That is until, inevitably, something goes wrong, like Vengeance getting stabbed by one of the other dancer’s spears.
“Ow! It really does hurt,” she exclaims.
Later, sitting around family-size platters of pasta at an Italian restaurant in Echo Park, the dancers reflect on the intersection of burlesque, comedy and Mexican wrestling.
“It is hard to try to incorporate humor into burlesque like they used to in the old days because people don’t have the patience to sit there for a 15-minute skit,” D’Alpert explains. “So it is like, how do we incorporate burlesque humor into a burlesque show? I think Lucha VaVoom kinda found the answer, accidentally. Our fast-paced physical comedy comes from the dancers and wrestlers and our topical comedy comes from the comedians.”
The conversation eventually makes its way back to the upcoming show and each of the dancers takes a stab at summing up the Lucha VaVoom experience.
“It’s like a modern day vaudeville show,” Deluxe says.
“It’s wrestling for people who don’t like sports,” D’Alpert counters.
“It’s completely original,” Santana offers.
“This could only have happened in Los Angeles,” D’Alpert adds.
Lucha VaVoom runs Feb. 13-15 at 8 p.m. at the Mayan Theatre, 1038 S. Hill St., luchavavoom.com.
Contact Lea Lion at email@example.com.
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