Sometimes you don't want an art film; you just want porn. In the world of burlesque, much ado is made of the artistry of the tease and what—if anything—separates it from strip, dance, theater, or cheerleading. But sometimes audiences don't care about the finer points of glove removal or the history of the shimmy; they just want to ogle showgirls.
The Heavenly Spies have figured this out. Their XOXOX is a sexy hybrid of contemporary dance and burlesque that dispenses with the pretense. The Spies don't need story lines and lectures to carry their raw, full-bodied dance moves—they have several BFAs in dance and years of professional training between them.
Their flashy, club-style choreography leaps from the music of Barry Adamson to Lily Allen to a Jane Fonda/Princess Superstar mashup (the four bounce on gigantic blue exercise balls to "Perfect"). Bejeweled brassieres whip through the air faster than drinks can be refilled. Clocking more stage time in an hour than most burlesquers do in an evening, the Spies' frenetic pace only sags with one number, whose cute sailor outfits couldn't carry the lackluster moves—this number, set to the Sleigh Bells song "Beach Girls," could be cut without being missed. But the Spies are beautiful, they move like rock stars, and in an intimate space like the Can Can, they make you wonder where you'll be caught resting your eyes.
As for cheerleading, founding member Fae Phalen—aka Agent Rhinestone—met Honey Sexpot during their brief stint as Sea Gals (the Seattle Seahawks cheerleading squad) in 2005. Phalen performed in the 2006 Super Bowl in Detroit. The confluence of professional sports and modern dance was a surprise: "I never thought I would have met women to collaborate with on an artistic level through the NFL."
The Heavenly Spies, XOXOX, Aug 18 at the Can Can; see excerpts from XOXOX in Red Hot Summer, Aug 26 at the Triple Door.