THE LEAGUE OF EXOTIQUE DANCERS (Rama Rau). 90 minutes. Opens Friday (May 20). See listing. Rating: NNNN
There were some brazen women lighting up burlesque stages all over the U.S. more than 50 years ago, and Rama Rau focuses on their stories as they prepare to enter the Legends of Burlesque Hall of Fame in Vegas.
These unique individuals – all proud, creative and fiercely independent – worked at a time when all-out nudity was illegal and stripping was powered by the pasty.
One of the doc’s key sub-themes is how the clubs in Vegas changed in the 70s when the venues were corporatized. Once performers relished designing their costumes and choreographing complex routines then they became compelled to dance naked and have contact with the customers.
The film gives an important context for the work of the women in the original League. True, they performed for entitled men, but they make clear that burlesque gave them independence and freedom at a time when those were at a premium for women.