The Fille Files: Alternate Choreographies

We’re most used to La Fille Mal Gardée in the 1960 version choreographed by Frederick Ashton, in which Lise is successively subjected to a smacking…

and then a spanking, usually on the seat of her panties,

occasionally with a few more layers for modesty’s sake,

but always aborted before it gets very far, and sometimes before it even gets started.

We’ve also encountered an older choreography which originated in Tsarist Russia and is still used in many parts of the world, in which the spanking takes place near the end of the story, and is generally done OTS rather than OTK:

But ballet choreography is an ever changing thing, and alongside classic interpretations there are many variant versions, which often include some spanking, broadly understood. We have three examples to look at today, all of them from Russia. The first is a production in Kazan starring the Japanese-born, Russian-trained Terada Midori as Lise.

Here she is in a striking Faux-TK moment in Don Quixote:

In her Fille, the spanking moment comes more or less in its customary place in the first act, just before Farmer Thomas arrives. As a contribution to Fille variety, the scene is interesting in that the widow tests Lise’s labors by checking the churn, to find that its contents have not turned to butter, which is proof positive that she has been slacking. However, the actual spanking is a disappointment, and not only in the fact that it’s over before it happens:

Later on, this version adapts elements of the Ashton spanking choreography for a new purpose, when an imminent and unexpected arrival puts Lise in danger of being seen in her underwear!

And the widow’s solution to the problem also echoes the pre-Ashton OTS spanking that happens around here, even though this time there isn’t any actual spanking!

It seems to be not uncommon for Eastern European Lises to end up in their undies in this scene:

But I’ve never yet seen a version that combines that business with spanking. The world waits…

Next up is a Bolshoi production from 1994, choreographed by Yuri Grigorovitch, which again has the spanking in the first act and is a lot closer to the Ashton version – except that it uses OTS positioning and makes it an  awful lot clearer that Thomas and Alain are watching!

Finally, here’s a version from the Bolshoi Ballet School, with the spanking in its pre-Ashton place near the end of the ballet. As we know, there’s a touching sequence when the mother plays the tambourine and her daughter dances. But here Simone, having discovered Colas’ scarf around Lise’s neck, finds a different use for the tambourine:

And sometimes the scarf itself is pressed into service, as in this variant with Artem Belyakov and Margarita Shrainer:

No doubt choreographers will keep on finding new ways of staging our favorite scene, but one thing is for sure: Lise is going to keep on getting spanked!

Photographer of the Week: Frédéric Leblanc

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Weddings and portraits, baby bumps and beloved babies… we know all about the daily round of a commercial photographer. But French Canadian Frédéric Leblanc also gets to shoot burlesque.

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Much of the fine photography we’re going to enjoy today is associated with the Quebec burlesque troupe and school, Les Burlesqueries de Miss Eva.

It’s an organization dedicated to the celebration of women’s sensuality through dance performance, and it offers a strong line on the importance of self-confidence.

Here’s Miss Eva herself, more fully and a little more improbably known as Eva Von Lips.

Also relevant today is her trainee of equally unlikely nomenclature, Katie Kat Couture:

Goodness knows why, but Katie was, shall we say, not entirely confident in herself. Unfortunately for her, Miss Eva won’t tolerate negativity and self reproach, and she has a way of dealing with excessively self-critical students:

If you are interested in Frédéric’s work, please visit his Instagram account.

Spank the Showgirl

The guy on the left looks unsure of what he should do next. But as he’s in a Chicago vaudeville show, ancestor of modern burlesque, he really ought to know!

I’ve never been very convinced by claims that burlesque shows were covert political statements, or any kind of statement for that matter. But I’ve also never been convinced by the view that burlesque is the lowest kind of theater, effectively just a form of striptease. These are sexy shows, to be sure, and they don’t function like plays or operas or ballets, telling a human story through the performance; but the acts are often witty and inventive, not to mention very diverse.

Here’s Trixie Little from New York, sitting atop some hatboxes – or is it three tiers of cake? – and spanking Booboo Darlin:

Here she is sitting equally pretty atop Trixie Malicious, with a similar end in view:

You guessed it: burlesque shows feature lots of spankings!

Some acts take their imagery from other performance genres,

while others draw on the erotica of the last century, sometimes overtly, as in this splendid Bettie Page tribute from Florida:

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(You can read more about them here.)

Some acts tell the old story of the bad girl in black who wreaks terrible havoc against a good girl in white panties. From North Carolina, here’s April LeQueen, with Eva Dasein across her knee:

And again from Florida, give a big hand to Betty Pickle while she gives her own version of a big hand to Miss Vivian Margiotta:

Sometimes a burlesque show gives itself a different spin by incorporating another kind of activity. Over by the other ocean, in California, Audrey Deluxe hosts Burlesque Bingo, which combines, what a surprise, burlesque with bingo. And in which Audrey sometimes gets spanked:

And still in California, Zip Burlesque’s 2017 show introduced an element of audience participation, along with a different type of random chance in the form of a wheel of fortune: the wheel span, and where it came to rest determined what the audience member got to do with performer Kitty La Petite Mort. Our photo shows a performance when it evidently wasn’t Kitty’s night:

Kitty, along with several others we’ve met so far, illustrates one frequent feature of burlesque: improbable stage names, sometimes French or German to offer homage to burlesque’s other roots in 1930s European cabaret, and to enable more suggestiveness than they might get away with in English. (Kitty would sound like a performer in an entirely different and far less creative genre if she had called herself Kitty Orgasm.) But English-language stage names are also used. Time to meet the Denver performer Fannie Spankings, and for her to meet her colleague, whose stage name is Midnite Martini but is dressed on this occasion as a schoolgirl:

Looks like naughty Midnite’s reading a slightly risqué publication – which means Miss Spankings has something for her.

That wasn’t part of a stage act, but a studio shot for a 2014 poster:

(It also gives you, at lower left, a further selection of unlikely burlesque stage names.)

Publicity material often features spanking imagery. Here’s another example, also from 2014, by the Toronto troupe Love Letters Cabaret:

And Dirty Little Secrets of Los Angeles publicized their 2011 Christmas show by putting one of their number, Bunny Jones, across Santa’s knee:

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(You can see more from this shoot here.)

Bunny’s predicament illustrates one of the downsides (and, for us, upsides) of getting a burlesque spanking. The performers tend to wear less than they might in the street, which means there’s a very good chance that they might get spanked on their panties. On the other hand, stage panties are sometimes more elaborate, and protective, than whatever they might wear under what they wear in the street, as we can see in this performance by the Lollie Bombs of Texas:

But not always. Here’s Saturday Addams at Green Mountain Cabaret, Vermont, being smacked on a charmingly everyday pair of black lace panties:

And there is always the menace of the thong, seen in this performance in Missouri:

I bet she’s regretting her choice of underwear now!

Burlesque spankings aren’t generally presented as a mutual bedroom activity which the audience happen to be looking in on as if they were voyeurs. On the contrary, most burlesque draws on the older tradition of spanking as a spectacular punishment in which one participant has all the power and the other doesn’t enjoy what is being done to her, but can’t do a thing about it. And many of the spanked performers do an outstanding job of showing that, as in this example from a 2018 performance at Boom Boom Burlesque in Lafayette:

Video shows this even more effectively than stills photography. Over to New York to see Lydia Lael administer a spanking on St Patrick’s Day 2012, and to see just how vigorously Tara Tied responds:

But there are exceptions. Here are the San Diego troupe Vaudeville Vixens rehearsing a routine entitled ‘Fee Fi Fo Bum’:

And here they are performing it:

In other words, a completely mutual bout of onstage bottom-smacking!

Obviously that isn’t how it works in a spanking, narrowly defined, where one person is seated and the other upended, but it does illustrate the truth that any performance, including of a spanking, is a collaboration between the participants, and that contradicts the apparently obvious inference that spanker and spanked are in a power relationship, with the spanker in control.

In fact, we can take that point a little further if we consider the case of a Canadian burlesque artist who gets spanked a lot, Coco Framboise. She has occasionally doled out punishment, as in this glamor shot by photographer Andrea Hausmann, in which Mina LaFleur is being smacked:

But more often, far more often, she’s the one on the receiving end.

Here she is in 2013, over the lap of her fellow performer Obskyura.

And Suki Tsunami did the honors when Coco performed the same act at the 2015 Toronto Burlesque Festival.

There are two points here. The first is that it’s Coco’s act; the spankers are guests. And the other is that Coco is one of the organizers of the Toronto Burlesque Festival where the 2015 performance took place – so in many senses, Suki Tsunami was spanking the boss!

We’ll press the point with another example, involving Darrce Grace of California, seen first dealing with Desi the Unicorn:

And now, evidently on the same occasion, she metes out sterner treatment to former ballerina Lola Demure while Desi watches.

And the reason this is significant is that Lola runs a burlesque show in San Diego, at which Darrce sometimes performs: Desi got away with keeping her skirt down, but the red panty spanking goes to the woman who does the hiring!

We shouldn’t find this particularly surprising: it’s one of the basic principles of stage violence – of which spanking scenes are a minor example – that the performer in charge is the one who’s taking the blows, never the one who’s giving them. But in the end, they are working together to create the scene, however much their characters may be at loggerheads (or whatever the spanking equivalent may be).

You may have noticed that, except for Santa, all of my examples so far feature exclusively female performers giving and receiving the spankings: burlesque is a predominantly F/F genre. Indeed, many performers and glamor models say they especially enjoy spanking scenes, even if they are the one being spanked, so long as the other performer is also a woman. I guess it takes a complication out of the equation, but let’s not simplify matters too much. To reintroduce a measure of complication, here’s Nikki Trash, spanking Poppy Pie at Two Lips Burlesk in Oklahoma:

And not all male burlesque performers drag up…

… though Jet Noir, who performs at Manarchy Male Burlesque in San Francisco, has been known to ‘Santa up’ for his act:

And just as there are occasional burlesque acts with male spankers, so there are more than occasional burlesque acts with no spankers at all. We’ll stay in San Francisco and take this Can Can dance performed by Red Velvet and friends:

No, it’s not the sort of Can Can that features bottom-smacking as part of the act. Afterwards, however…

That’s Red smacking Amelia Zahra while Bella Sims waits her turn, if you want to know. Spanking, it seems, is such a strong feature of burlesque culture that it even happens backstage. Take Lulu Mon Dieu, a member of the Bootleg Bombshells in Los Angeles. Well, actually, Lili von Schtupp did take Lulu – right across her knee!

Then there’s this pair of naughty nurses backstage in Los Angeles:

Likewise, here’s the late Portland performer Burk Biggler, faced with a choice of bottoms: on the left, Kristen Barrett, and on the right, Krystal Blystone:

Krystal was the unlucky one, which on balance I think was the right choice:

So naturally whenever there’s an occasion that would call for a celebratory spanking, you can be sure burlesque artists will seize the opportunity. In 2016, for instance, Vancouver performer Harlettes Chow got married, and her colleagues duly played spank the bride!

Then there was the time Kitty McMuffin of San Francisco had a birthday:

The same thing happened to Juliette Dragon, the lead singer of Rikkha, only with enthusiastic group participation from her fellow artistes.

We’ll start to establish another significant point if we observe that, strictly speaking, what Juliette got was not a birthday spanking but une fessée d’anniversaire.

For she got it in Paris, where she performs with the Filles de Joie troupe.

So far I may have given the impression that modern burlesque spanking is exclusively a North American phenomenon, and indeed that is the continent where the genre most flourishes. But it can also be seen in many European countries such as Britain…

and Denmark, where they seem to have a thing about carpet beaters:

There’s also a burlesque scene in Australia, where the performers include Lyra LaBelle, seen here spanking Miss May on a visit to San Francisco:

Italy hosts a ‘funny burlesque contest’, though it looks as if Michelle Blum is sorry she entered:

Anyone who knows the city’s history won’t be surprised to know there’s burlesque in Berlin:

The Rocka Burlesque group travels all over France, bringing joie et fessée wherever it goes:

And let’s face it, the French bring a real sense of style to these things:

So what better way to sign off than with Vive la Burlesque!

The Schooling of the Shrew, Part 2: The Heyday

We tend to think of the mid-1960s as the time when spanking scenarios began to tail off in the mainstream media, but the history of school Shrew spanking bucked that trend: the ten years from 1965 to 1974 were a period of uncommon plenitude in this phenomenon, or at least its visual documentation.

We get off to a promising start in 1965, with three entries in the Shrew spanking stakes. At Catholic Central High School, Steubenville, Ohio, with Joe Dittmar and Beth Arthurs:

At Macalester College, Minneapolis, with David Eldridge and Pamela Petersen:

And at Whitnall High School, Greenfield, Wisconsin:

Then things slumped again for a few years. From 1966, we have only the February 23-26 production at Sandia High School, Albuquerque, New Mexico, with Mark Timmons and Barbara Utter:

And from 1967, the sole entry is from David Douglas High School, Portland, Oregon, with Ken Standing spanking Jane Logan in a production that ran March 9-11:

But things inched up in 1968. At Roosevelt High School in Virginia, Minnesota, John Ziegler and Marcia Hill weren’t in a full production but an entry in a one-act play contest, in which, according to the yearbook caption, ‘Petruchio demonstrates the simplest way to tame a shrew – spank her‘:

In Tennessee:

Nor should we pass over the memorable production in Birmingham, England, in which a student Petruchio spanked his 22-year-old teacher, a story recounted at length here.

And in 1969, Shrew spankings began to occur in abundance across American high schools. In January, at Garland High School, Texas:

January 30-31, at Arlington High School, Texas, with Bob English and Debbie Duket:

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At Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with Dave Ramsey and Pat Foran:

And at Kennett High School, Conway, New Hampshire:

On to 1970, and on March 13 Stanley Swartz was to be seen spanking Carol Moyer at Christopher Dock Mennonite High School, in Lansdale, Pennsylvania:

At Burke High School:

And at Edwardsville High School, Illinois, with Jeff Rider and Kate Richards:

From 1971, we have a rehearsal shot from Hazelwood Central High School, Florissant, Missouri, with Hank Oughton and Sue Milfelt:

And at ROWVA High School, Oneida, Illinois, with Debbie Brown as Kate:

In 1972, a cut-down version played as part of ‘an evening of comedy’ at Rainier High School, Oregon, though unfortunately for Debbie Chappelle, it was actually two evenings of comedy, May 4 and 5, and therefore two spanking sessions with Jim Rivenes:

At Denver City High School, Texas, with Don Short and Sara Mitchell:

And at Edina High School, Minnesota, The Taming of the Shrew was on the acting class syllabus, which was good news for Craig Harrison and bad news for Pam Finn:

1973 was the high watermark of school Shrew spanking, at least going by the visual record. At Fountain Valley High School, California:

At Okanogan High School, Washington, with Randy Clifford and Kristen Smith:

At Twin Falls High School, Idaho:

On November 15 and 16, this happened to Cindy M. Adams at Brunswick High School, Ohio, courtesy of Dale Krupla:

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And December 8-10 at Bishop Carroll High School, Wichita, Kansas, with David Kessler and Chris Eckberg:

After all that activity, there was a dip in 1974, with just the one production at Charter Oak High School, Covina, California, on March 7-9, with Randy Ford and Barbara Grubert:

But that’s just a slight pause: there’ll be plenty more spanking action to come when we move into the late Seventies and beyond!

Photographer of the Week: Rebecca Cresta

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Coming from a background in the music industry, London mother-of-two Rebecca Cresta simply adores taking photographs of anything that’s alive. Especially if it’s a family or a band. Or, occasionally, a spanking.

There are two other people in our story, which took place in 2013. One is burlesque performer Ruby Jones. The other is Heidi Mellish. Say hello to Heidi.

Now, Ruby, say happy birthday to Heidi:

Hurrah for Heidi! And Ruby! And Rebecca!

If you are interested in Rebecca Cresta’s work, please visit her website.

Spankable Vivling

Kenneth Tynan once gave grievous offense to Vivien Leigh when he described her as ‘pert, sly and spankable’.

This was in a review of her 1951 performance in Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra, in which she and her husband Sir Laurence Olivier played the title roles. And since ‘pert, sly and spankable’ is a very fair description of the youthful Cleopatra in Shaw’s play, you might think that Tynan was complimenting her on nailing the part, with an extra helping of admiration from his own particular enthusiasm.

One thing that certainly wouldn’t have offended her is the word spankable. For one thing, it’s not just a very fair description of Shaw’s Cleopatra but also of several of her other roles, including Anouilh’s Antigone (who is actually threatened with a spanking) and of course the most iconic of them all:

Spankable was already written into the dynamics of Scarlett’s character and her relationship with Rhett Butler even before Vivien won the part after a long and much-publicized casting hunt by Gone With the Wind’s producer, David O. Selznick. There’s a hint of it in the later stages of the original Margaret Mitchell novel (1936), when Scarlett considers spanking her daughter and Rhett, by now her husband, responds ‘that if any spanking were to be done, he would do it personally and to Scarlett’. And that was also how some readers felt: ‘Scarlett O’Hara still has me puzzled,’ wrote a reviewer in 1938. ‘One minute I’m cheering for her and the next I’d like to take her over my knee and administer a sound spanking.’

And she provoked the same reaction when embodied on celluloid. Here’s a Pennsylvania film critic writing in 1940: ‘Vivien Leigh plays Scarlett O’Hara to perfection and there are times when one wishes for a hairbrush to give her a spanking, so realistically does she play her role.’ It’s a view that has persisted into later generations, as witness this slightly amended line from Clark Gable’s Rhett Butler:

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(In the film, he says kissed, not spanked.) And another person sharing this opinion was Vivien Leigh herself: ‘Scarlett fascinated me,’ she said, ‘but she needed a good, healthy, old-fashioned spanking on a number of occasions.’ This was an actress under no illusions about her consummate ability to play spankable.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that spankable is an epithet an actress would want to be applied to herself, as distinct from the characters she plays. But Tynan wasn’t the only person who expressed a wish to spank her: she had already been paid effectively the same compliment by Olivier himself, only in more direct terms, at the time of their initial courtship in the late 1930s.

During the making of Gone With the Wind, in May 1939, she took an overdose. Olivier wrote on the 18th to scold his beloved ‘Vivling’, as he called her, and told her precisely what he wanted to do with her:

‘I do adore you Vivien my darling little girl. O but I ought to be soooooo cross with you. Urrrrrrggh! Urrrrrrgh! How dare you take four pills like that you hysterical little ninny … Urrgh! Bend over – Yes, take your drawers down – no, lift your skirt up – now then: – Smack! Smack! Smack! – ! – ! – ! – ! – ! – ! – ! – !*!!! Yes – Eleven! Naughty pooossey. Now you come here and I’ll kiss it and make it better.’

Other people’s love-letters rarely make for edifying reading, but this one does establish that, for all that Vivien Leigh was never spanked in a movie or on stage (her narrowest escape is a subject for another time), spanking was an accepted and apparently semi-erotic part of her life. We won’t follow her and Olivier any further into the privacy of their bedroom to find out more, but then we don’t need to. There was also an occasion, witnessed by Kenneth Tynan himself, at a mid-1950s country house party when she stripped down to her bra and panties in front of her parents.

Her mother’s response was to tell her, ‘Now, Miss, that’s quite enough of that, You mind your manners!’ Vivien replied, ‘What are you going to do, mummy? Spank me with a hairbrush?’ And in the account Tynan later confided to his diary, ‘Mum seems on the point of doing just that (what a scene that would have been!)’

And the very same house party gave him his chance, when Vivien presented herself in his bedroom late at night in a state of undress.

Tynan’s high regard for Olivier restrained him from taking advantage – he later said he couldn’t cuckold a man he hero-worshipped when they were both under the same roof – but what the incident indicates is how unlikely it is that the sexually adventurous Vivien would have primly objected to the hint that Tynan wanted to spank her.

But that wasn’t Tynan’s point: what he meant was that ‘pert, sly and spankable’ defined the whole of her range as an actress. He was calling her a limited talent, which looked all the more limited alongside her great spouse. And while Vivien may not have objected to being literally spanked, a metaphorical spanking from a critic was quite another matter: she knew she was spankable, but she wanted to be more than only spankable.

And maybe, just maybe, she was.

Kiss Me Kate: 1983

We begin, as Kiss Me Kate histories often do, in Baltimore. The musical was produced in March by the Dundalk Community Theatre, and Harriette Sherman played Lilli. Want to see her rehearsing?

At Goshen Central High School, New York, Charles Eisenhart spanked Celine Bach…

and all we got was this lousy program cover:

Not that we’re ungrateful, it’s just that we’ve seen the toon before – quite often. So let’s pass swiftly on. Next stop, Mars Hill College, Asheville, North Carolina, where Sara Page Hall was spanked by Winston Shearin from April 29 through May 1:

But this wasn’t a full production of Kiss Me Kate, just an extract in a musical revue entitled He, She and Us. For the next complete KMK of the year with the all-important spanking imagery, we’ll have to wait until June and go down to Florida, where the Tampa Players staged it and Marc Streeter spanked Lissa Knopke:

Madison Summer Theatre, New Jersey, produced the musical July 27-30, with Scott Graeber and Jennifer Thomas:

In the fall, there was a production that’s worth recording even though we have no spanking picture from it.

Anne Jeffreys, who had first played Lilli in the 1940s, and who was now 60 years old, returned to the role at Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pennsylvania from September 28 through October 16; she gave what a reviewer called ‘a sparkling performance’ and was spanked ‘with finesse’ by Guil Fisher, who was the playhouse’s musical director as well as the production’s Fred.

Also that fall, we go to Atchison High School, Kansas, to see Allison Ziegler get spanked by Ricardo Gorman:

December 7-10 takes us to Dallas, Texas, where Highland Park High School, was the location for a scene featuring Amy Meyers, Josh Larson and what looks like a rather remarkable false beard:

And finally, an undated 1980s shot from the US:

That’s Nancy Leavitt being spanked in a high school production in New Jersey, but exactly when is lost in the mists of time…