Armitage Shanks’ Red Light District: Seattle Erotic Art Festival
– Written by Madeline Rider (Contributor, Seattle)/ Photos by POC
I rarely find myself in Fremont on a Friday evening as the Capitol Hill nightlife tends to cater to my natural proclivities. This past weekend proved an exception as the Center for Sex Positive Culture brought the annual Seattle Erotic Art Festival to the neighborhood. This year’s astounding bill of performers, from aerialists to drag sensations, sealed the deal on my trip and my ticket.
Entering the thematically appropriate velvet clad studios, I was instantly impressed at the vast amount of visual art on display. After perusing the two immense spaces dedicated to the craft and lingering maybe a little too long at the live action Lusty Lady replication, I searched for a comfortable space to watch the main stage performance. The crowded room lent itself to only a few tables and scattered chairs so most of the audience was obligated to stand. Lights dimmed, a brooding tune filled the hall and our bodies pressed together as more and more patrons filled the room, drawn by the harsh yet darkly beautiful musical motif. Although previously aware of the Festival’s current theme, it was as the melancholic sound filled the room that I truly found myself transported to The Red Light District.
As fans or frequenters of burlesque, I assume that most readers of Burlesque Seattle Press are familiar with striptease as a medium for social or political commentary. In my own experience, willful presentation of sexuality has an uncanny ability to evoke intense emotional response wherein I find myself either strongly attracted or incredibly repulsed by the display. Either way, I feel some way about something. The “Red Light District”, as historically understood, possesses similar qualities- both the allure of primal indulgences, as well as the violence that comes with the illicit trade. This year’s main stage performance at the Seattle Erotic Art festival articulately illustrated this dichotomy, all the while providing the audience with a delectable display of Seattle’s finest performers.
Prior to the Festival, my only experience with the 2011 performance director Armitage Shanks had been with his work as an emcee. An early assumption that the performance would run as many shows do in Seattle, as a series of acts sequentially introduced by the host, was shattered as each individual piece (often a combination of several different performers from aerial to modern dance to pole dancing to boylesque) seamlessly transitioned from one to the next. The only verbal communication emanated from the fantastically talented and hilarious Ben DeLaCrème. Armitage’s extensive musical background nourished the auditory landscape of The Red Light District. Sound-or lack thereof, in the case of Lou Henry Hoover’s silent modern dance piece- played an enormous part in expanding this multi-faceted world.
Another distinguishable characteristic of this year’s main stage production was its apparent male-centricity. With Paris Original, Trojan Original, and the Luminous Pariah bringing a tastefully campy boylesque ménage a trois right out of the gate, Trojan’s acrobatic modern dance duet with Elizabeth Rose, and Luminous’ stunning final entrance as show reached its end, The Red Light District eloquently manifested the multiplicity of masculine sexuality. Fortunately, the stand-out performances made by the trio in no way overshadowed the various feminine explorations such Evilyn Sin Claire’s now infamous burka act. In its entirety, Armitage Shanks’ intellectually charged Red Light District succeeded in encompassing the many external and internal conflicts that sex and sexuality provoke in all of us and the humanistic beauty of it all.
For more stunning photos of 2011’s Seattle Erotic Art Festival from POC Photo, please check out his private Facebook collection HERE.