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White Mink

Tuesday, 7 June, 2011

Bath – Spiegeltent – 4 June 2010 – 20:30 (3.50)

Featuring The Real Tuesday Weld VJ set, The Bees Knees dance duo, Dutty Moonshine DJs, The Killer Bunnies pole dancers, Matt the Hat and The Big Swing Soundsystem, Miss Merlin’s Hoop Show, Chris Tofu and the World’s Tallest DJ.

Electro Swing is taking the UK by storm, and Bath Fringe Festival embraces the craze with White Mink at Spiegeltent. An event and an experience in one, to enter the Spiegeltent is to enter into the explosion of light, laughter and music that has all the flavour of 1920s nightlife.

White Mink is a collaboration between Electro Swing enthusiasts Freshly Squeezed Music, Continental Drifts, The original Electro Swing club London, Vaudeville Rave, Matt The Hat, The Big Swing Soundsystem and the Freakeasy Crew.

Many would recognise the Spiegeltent as one of Glastonbury’s finest late night venues, the Pussy Parlour. Advertised as ‘from makers of Glastonbury’s Shangri-La’, a festival atmosphere is reflected in the outdoor seating, the heavy sponsorship by Courvoisier, and the ease in which the crowd accepts that the Courvoisier has run out by 10pm. After all, this is a speakeasy, and limitations on alcohol consumption pose little problem for a crowd thirsty for fun.

For those yet to experience the Spiegeltent, it is a perfect location for White Mink, as the dance floor is not only wooden, and, therefore, perfect for tapping dance shoes, but it is surrounded by mirrored pillars. The result is, fittingly, something like being inside a life-sized Zoetrope. Along with stained glass windows, sequins aplenty, and clever use of lighting, space is distorted and boundaries are blurred between old and young, acceptable and ridiculous, vintage and Primark, mundane and surreal. Revellers find themselves halfway between clubbing and theatre as they dress up, dance and cheer along to the likes of Dutty Moonshine, playing an eclectic set of Electro Swing which cannot be listened to whilst sitting down. This requires participation. Welcome to the roaring 20s revived.

The Real Tuesday Weld provides a VJ set in fitting with the Electro Swing movement, which celebrates good old Swing whilst experimenting with exciting new Electro. Images of early screen sirens, footage of the dancing everyone wishes they could copy, and authentic 1920s early animations are projected onto stretched fabric and gilded frames. A true montage of 1920s nightlife, sounds and images are juxtaposed and clashing, creating a dissonant harmony. Advances in technology made the 1920s an exciting era for the arts, and the mirrors, looping images and synchronized sound in the Spiegeltent aid a similar explosion of music and colour. The scene is set for the most swinging speakeasy in town.

Enter Miss Merlin and her hula hoop act, a regular at Bristol’s Invisible Circus. Although hula hoop may not be considered the most outrageous choice, Miss Merlin has a real skill. She creates patterns with hoops, juggles hoops and manages to keep up about twenty hoops in one go, and all with a smile on her face. The Killer Bunnies provide further entertainment as they dance and spin provocatively around a pole, holding poses off the ground, dressed in playboy bunny outfits or something similar. But it is The Bees Knees who steal the show. Often heralded as ‘London’s finest flappers’, they lindy hop, shimmy and flap the crowd into a frenzy. They are all at once in time, inventive, and truly incredible. With the bendiest knees and the shiniest smiles, these girls throw each other around as they remember an impressively long and varied routine. They remain in character throughout, wearing their tiny and very sparkly leotards with style and good humour.

Closing the night, Matt the Hat MC’s with speed, skill and high crowd participation, as many feel they have no choice but to dance. Lack of spirits at the bar aside, the only pity is that the speakeasy is abruptly broken up at 12am, some might say adding authenticity to proceedings at the Spiegeltent. Some leave disappointed as they had been misinformed that this was a late one, but most are simply sorry to stop dancing.

(c) Claire Higgins 2011

Reviewed Sunday 5th June, Bath.

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