Advertising a performance as a burlesque show will surely draw some people looking to ogle scantily clad women, but Diana Lozano, director of Circ X, is quick to explain that the root of the word "burlesque" is derived from a Latin phrase that means "to make fun of." "Burlesque is not about arousing physically," she says. "It might do that, but only to get at you emotionally and mentally."
Lozano, a Miami native, founded the group in 2002. Working at Swig Bartini in Weston, Lozano wanted to do something more ambitious than choreographing go-go dancers. She was given a budget and went to her alma mater, New World School of the Arts, to recruit dancers who would become the seeding of Circ X. "I wanted to bridge the gap between highbrow and lowbrow entertainment. When you do theater in a traditional theater space, you're preaching to the choir. With our presentation, we reach nightclubgoers who might never go to the theater."
Described as "one part circus, two parts burlesque, a pinch of class, and a dash of trash," the 26-member troupe will take over the 200-seat Gleason Room at the Fillmore this Friday and Saturday. Using dance, clowning, and acrobatics, the show will rely heavily on audience interaction in a display that spirals toward scandal and insanity.
"It's a platform for Miami's fringe artists," Lozano says of Circ X, whose performers include an opera-singing drag queen. To help fund the group's performances, Circ X previously had to take gigs for corporate events with companies such as Red Bull and Sony, which requested a toned-down version of the show. That self-censorship ended temporarily after the troupe was awarded a Knight Foundation grant, which helped finance the upcoming shows at the Fillmore that Lozano has been tinkering with for nearly a year. The cast of Circ X has had a rigorous rehearsal schedule for more than a month and a half.
The show, which runs about an hour and 15 minutes, depending upon how overboard one game-show segment goes, has a distinct story line. Lozano and company slaved over the plot to ensure it had a definitive beginning, middle, and end. But underneath the whimsical insanity lies commentary and insight on decidedly unamusing subjects such as eating disorders and sex trafficking.
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Though Circ X deals with educational issues, the high-school teacher in Lozano — who leads self-expression and improvisation classes in the theater department at New World — cautions it is not really an all-ages show. "I don't think it's appropriate for my students. Everything is artistic. We don't do T&A for the sake of T&A. Everything we do is a commentary on society."
She jokes, "New World is a liberal school, but in a way, I don't know how I haven't been fired for doing this. I heard of one high-school teacher getting fired somewhere for posing in a bikini."
For an example of what to expect, Lozano provided a video clip from last year's shows, featuring five provocatively dressed women contorting their bodies into impossible positions to the rhythm of a Marilyn Manson song. Above them, a screen showed images of women being exploited and objectified. Other scenes featured tap-dancing contortionists and a performer dressed as an angry condom. Lozano says this type of behavior is what fans can expect from Circ X. "Come with an open mind," she says. "And expect the unexpected."
Circ X, 9 p.m. Friday, June 26, and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 27, at the Gleason Room, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-673-7300; fillmoremb.com. Tickets cost $30 to $80 plus fees via livenation.com. All ages.