Hot on the stilettoed heels of the burlesque boom, Tokyo Tease founder Erochica Bamboo created Far East Exotica Burlesque in 2008; a performance that flounces both Vegas showgirl charm and elements of Asian allure. Collaborating with a list of performers that reads like a brood of excessively named Bond girls, the Tokyo Tease troupe combines campy flirtation with costumes of feathers and glitz. Backed by live retro jazz acts such as The Martini Kings and Mauriat Mancini, it makes for an entertaining celebration of an era typified by elegance, saucy romps with danger, and a sexiness that was shaken, not stirred (think Tura Satana meets Dita Von Teese).
How did you first get involved with burlesque performance?
I've been a burlesque dancer since I was a teenager at art school. I was first approached by a cabaret promoter, who asked me if I would like to perform at a cabaret. At first, I said no; I didn't like the idea of taking my clothes off in front of people. I was young and had never done anything like that. The promoter asked me, 'How do you know whether you'll like it or not; whether it's good or bad?' I realized that I didn’t know, so I agreed to do it. After the first two shows, I realized that it was not so bad and finished my commitment to the company. After that I took a cabaret job in Osaka, but this experience was a little different. The audience laughed at me, made fun of me and booed me. I was so upset that I cried! I didn't want to do it any more, but I'd made a commitment to the promoter and cabaret venue. So I had to think of a way to do my show better. I decided to add a comic element to my performance. It worked and the audience began to like my act. By this point, I couldn't stop performing.
Who are some of the lovely ladies that influenced you?
At first, I wasn’t influenced by anyone, but later in my career I discovered famous dancers like Dixie Evans, Satan’s Angel, Tura Satana, Lili St. Cyr, just to mention a few. There are also a lot of old Japanese performers, as well as my friends who perform, such as Dirty Martini, Michelle L'Amour, Kitten DeVille and Michelle Carr (Velvet Hammer Burlesque), that influence me. There are so many. They are all great and contribute to the burlesque scene.
How did Tokyo Tease first start?
I came back to Japan in 2008 [Erochica spent several years in the States, winning the Miss Exotic World Pageant in 2003] and started Tokyo Tease Burlesque. Burlesque is very popular in other cities around the world but there was nothing like it in Tokyo. Japan used to have a great burlesque and cabaret culture before WWII, but it slowly faded away, being replaced by cheaper strip joints. It became my mission to revive and keep burlesque culture going in Japan.
What is the burlesque scene like in Tokyo now, compared to other cities that you've performed in?
Burlesque is still a baby in Tokyo. You can’t compare it to New York, Seattle, Chicago or London, but we have our own style and we are starting to show the world how we do it here in Japan. Tokyo Tease is encouraging other girls to start their own burlesque acts. I also have a burlesque workshop called Tokyo Burlesque Academy.
Who are the sexy women you're working with at Tokyo Tease?
Mary Sunayama is very powerful! She always surprises people with her creative performance, which only she can pull off. Cabaretta is a sexy explosion of dynamite, with a lot of positive energy. PiPPi Silkstocking is the secret agent of love. She can sneak up on you and knock you off your feet with her slow and seductive moves. Aqua Dolce is a river of pure honey sweetness that will make any romantic melt. We also have Momo and Chisa, a duo of cute go-go girls called The Rice Cake Chicks. Our MC is Madam Regine: Queen of Amaranth Lounge. Our DJs are Bambi, Akakage and Mr Death.
How do you choreograph your dance routine?
The music and my ideas for the costume help guide my performance, but a burlesque dancer must be flexible because there are changes in audiences and stages and, sometimes, time constraints.
And what has the audience reaction been like?
Well, I feel that the audience really has a good time. They are so excited – It's like a great big party! Many people come again and again. Also, more and more people attend each time. Many girls come up to me after the show. They are so excited and want to learn burlesque, or [find out] how they can get involved. That's a really great feeling. I want to teach the art of bump and grind and all the things that
are needed to be a real burlesque dancer – a professional performer – such as how to move, how to tease, how to make costumes, how to draw in the audience. There are so many things that are important to create the magic on stage. Having a beautiful body is not enough. It's about your energy and the way a burlesque dancer interacts with the audience.
See Erochica Bamboo bump and grind her audience at Tokyo Tease's Rock Strip 'n' Roll, Trump Room, March 20. The troupe will also perform at Thumbs Up in Yokohama, June 18