They are burlesque's
triple threat--three sisters who are shimmying and shaking their way to
world domination. They are The World Famous Pontani Sisters!
And this summer, Angie, Helen, and Tara
are hitting the road with with their big show: Burlesque-A-Pades.
(Java is actually going to play guest DJ for their June 27th
show in Champaign, Illinois.)
Pad recently sent off a set of questions to these three lovely
ladies asking about their tour, their recent appearance at Exotic
World, and that ever important question...how does one tell these
three sisters apart?
Java's Bachelor Pad: So, tell me about your latest tour Burlesque-A-Pades.
What can people expect to see from the Pontani Sisters and
Angie Pontani: Expect the unexpected! This tour really combines
so many different types of performers. We've got classic burlesque,
modern burlesque, circus, side show, live music and Corn Mo, who
is beyond words, I can't really explain him but I can promise you will
love him! The entire cast is amazing. Everyone brings something fabulous
and different to the stage!
Helen Pontani: As a performer this is personally one of my
favorite shows that we do. It's pure fun, and outrageous entertainment.
Just when you think it can't get any better. It does! Monkey's jumping,
tassels twirling, hula hoops swirling, fire breathing, hips a shaking,
glitter glittering, Sensory overload!
Tara Pontani: They can expect to see gorgeous gals, glamorous
costumes, outrageous stunts! But there are tremendous sounds, too!
The vocal and comic ability that Corn Mo brings to the stage is
outta sight! Not to mention the groovy tunes of Fisherman.
It's a party.
For those few people who don't know about you, give us a thumbnail history
of the Pontani Sisters.
AP: thumbnail story is we have been dancing since we were
itty bitty Pontani's. We grew up under the influence of the Rat
Pack, MGM Technicolor Musicals & other over the top styles of
entertainment that our family favored. When we got older, Helen
and I were performing professionally in NYC and asked Tara to join
us for a stage show we were hired to put together for the popular swing
band The Flying Neutrinos. Of course our stage show emulated all
the things that had inspired us when we were young and impressionable,
the Village Voice dance editor reviewed us and exclaimed, "Now that's Burlesque!"
We've been globe trotting and tail feather shaking ever since! Full life
story is available at www.pontanisisters.com
HP: We are a trio of dancing sisters that started around 7
years ago mainly performing all over NYC. Our act is very Carmen Miranda/Gene
Kelly/Vegas Showgirl. The act just started to snowball. We kept putting
together more numbers that covered every genre you could possibly think
of, and started touring all over the country. Here we are! I have lived
out many performance
TP: We've been together forever. Our performance history
has really been shaped by our lives experiences and our over-the-top taste
in costumes, dance, entertainment. We've been traveling the world
for year's trying to spread the glory of glamour in entertainment.
Be prepared to smile.
JBP: Since you're sisters, is there cheat sheet on telling the
three of you apart?
AP: I'm the tallest by 1/8", Helen doesn't have any
tattoos that you can see and Tara is typically the one wearing the
most sensible shoes. But good luck, people always confuse us!!
HP: I'll never tell. I like to confuse people. When people
talk to me, and think that I am one of my sisters I just pretend that I
am. That's the fun part of doing a sister act. You have to take advantage
of those moments.
TP: Hmmmm...That’s always been fun. Growing up, we used
to confuse everyone and love it! I am sporty spice--Angie
and Helen always help me to bring my inner glamour girl to the surface.
Helen is funky gal and Angie is Raquel
(Welch) meets Sophia Loren!
me about your approach to burlesque. It seems to me what the Pontani
Sisters focus on more is choreography and costume with a mod sensibility
rather you classic bump and grind striptease. Am I close or way off the
AP: Our approach is more towards what is inspiring us
at that moment. We have dances where we are doing straight on 60's go-go
in fringe, tap dancing in mini tuxedo's and others where we are doing more
classic bump and grind. We never set out to really recreate a style
of entertainment, but rather to do what we loved in entertainment, and
there are so many things we love. We have a repertoire of over 40 routines
and they are all different! To me, burlesque is a huge umbrella of performance
that encompasses everything from the can can to a fire dance to a classic
strip tease, and it's the variety that makes it so enjoyable.
HP: You got it! We are very much into the choreography, and
way over the top costumes. Although the Pontani's have been known
to pull out some classic bump and grind from time to time.
TP: The Pontani Sisters don't focus on one particular
aspect of Burlesque, rather we incorporate all of our favorite things into
our numbers. If a number requires the bump and grind, we put it in,
if it requires a shuffle ball change, there you have it. It's all
relative to what fits the song, the moment and we all bring our ideas to
JBP: At the most recent Miss
Exotic World weekend, you recreated Blaze
Starr's famous panther dance. Talk about putting that together.
I heard you actually contacted Blaze Starr herself and got
her blessing. What were your conversions with her like? Did you get a feel
on how she feels about the current generation of burlesque girls.
AP: I have always been a huge Blaze fan. She is a woman
who went for it in life and when you watch her performances she is literally
smoking. Wildly sexy and brash yet classic, classy and gorgeous, not to
mention her brains, sass and style!!!! A few years ago, one of our favorite
promoters in Alexandria, VA, asked us if we could do a Blaze tribute
number at his venue. I contacted Blaze through the museum to get
her permission to recreate some of her acts. She was very behind the idea.
The routine we put together encompasses several of the elements that Blaze
is really known for. Her usage of live panthers in her act, her smoldering
and smoking couch and the bongo, which she posed with in one of her most
famous photographs. I have a great photo she signed to me, I carry
it in our costume trunk when we are performing the tribute, I love to look
at it the second before we go on! When Luke and Laura
of Exotic World asked us to to the routine in Vegas at the Miss
Exotic World Pageant and use Blaze's original smoldering couch
from the museum I really almost passed out. Just knowing that Blaze
and Dixie (Evans) both approved that we
could use this amazing piece of history was such a huge honor. That couch
had not been active in over 25 years and the last person to do what I did
on it was Blaze! That is so fantastic to me. That entire performance,
from the moment we stepped on the stage was amazing for me, a total moment
in time that I can hardly remember, but know I loved. It was without
a doubt one of the top 3 stage moments of my lifetime, probably #1.
Folks can visit Blaze's site www.blazestarrsgems.com
where she sells a lot of hand crafted jewelry, photo's art work and more!
She made most of her costumes back in the day, and they were amazing and
that carries through in her fab jewelry.
HP: Angie contacted Blaze to do the number,
and it was such an honor to get her permission to recreate her act. Tara
and I played the panthers in the Blaze Starr tribute. It was a performance
dream come true for me. Not only did I get to play a sexy panther, but
the panthers die in the end of the number. I know this sounds weird, but
dying on stage is something I always love to do. It's so dramatic.
TP: I have to say that the Blaze Starr number is one
of my favorites. Angie does a fantastic job capturing the exotic,
sexy spirit of Blaze and Helen and I slip quite easily into
our feline roles. It must have been our overexposure to CATS (the
that the same lines, what's your take of modern burlesque? How have you
seen it change over the past few years? Is there something else you would
like to see from the burlesque community?
AP: Sure, the new burlesque has certainly changed over the
years, and will no doubt continue to. There are a lot more performers doing
it, people incorporating even more performance aspects into it, like singing,
side show, circus, performance art, etc.. The public has a much greater
awareness of it as well. I think the growth of the community is fantastic,
it is as well a very supportive community and that is a very unique aspect
to it that I think especially
HP: Modern Burlesque is like anything that is revived. It
has many nuances of the old style, and people make it there own with current
influences. Sometimes you will see it in the costume creation or some girls
do very performance art style pieces addressing current issues while they
peal layers of clothing off. That's what so great about this community
of performers. You will see just about anything and everything. As far
as something else I would like to see. I am surprised every time I see
a show with something new. So I guess that means the performers are doing
a good job.
TP: We've been performing as the Pontani Sisters for
over 7 years now. The changes have been exponential and marvelous.
It's spreading like wildfire and so many performers bring such innovative
and creative ideas to the stage, redefining conventional ideas about Burlesque.
Were there ever conventional ideas about Burlesque?
It's a fantastic community – very supportive.
JBP: How about those people who come out to see your shows. Are
the crowds changing? Do you see a hunger to see more burlesque shows? Why
do you think that is or is not?
AP: When we first started our fans/community was a mix of
drag queens and the swing dancing crowd. Now our shows are wildly mixed.
Though it is still a niche style of entertainment, the great press that
the new burlesque has received has really helped to widen the audiences.
You'll find all kinds of people in the audience. It's not just for the
underground anymore. People read about the show, or the burlesque revival
in a main stream magazine, or see something on television, and when
the show comes to their town, they want to come out and see it live, and
that is just fantastic. I really love the variety. Some of my favorite
audience goers are the folks who were around when ladies like Blaze
working the circuit and they come out to see it and they love it and tell
us stories of the old days!
HP: The crowds seem to be growing. The audience has always
been a nice mix of all kinds of people. I especially enjoy the fact that
so many women love this form of entertainment and come to see it. I do
feel that even though a few years ago it seemed to be growing in popularity
it's really reaching a wider range of people today.
The crowds are getting bigger, which is fantastic!
JBP: What else are the Pontani Sisters working
AP: A vacation, I really want one of those!
But first...we just wrapped a CD/DVD release
project with Los Straitjackets &
Kaiser George that will come out this fall, and we will be touring
East Coat/West Coast and Mid West in conjunction with the release. The
DVD will feature several music videos, dance instructional segments and
more. It is really fantastic, we had such a blast shooting. A lot
of the material is a real departure from what we normally do. We got to
act, we even got to do a fight and limbo scene!
HP: We are always working on something. Right now focus is
Burlesque-a-pades. There has been talk about movies, and did
you know that the we made our singing debut on Conan O'Brien last
month? Watch out!
TP: World domination. Taking over the White House!
Or maybe a TV show or feature film.