A Wink and a Smile
Deirdre Timmons' documentary A Wink and a Smile is a love letter to Seattle's thriving burlesque scene. Our tour guide is Miss Indigo Blue, veteran performer and headmistress of the Academy of Burlesque, which offers classes including a six-week Burlesque 101 course culminating in a public performance. The film focuses partly on the ten women who took the Fall 2007 course. We learn about their diverse backgrounds and reasons for being attracted to the art of burlesque, and follow them as they develop their routines for the performance.
As the women learn to dance with feather boas between their legs and apply pasties, the film also takes us beyond Burlesque 101—a smart decision, as it allows us to better understand what the students are working toward and what attracted them to burlesque in the first place. Miss Indigo Blue discusses the history and makeup of the burlesque scene in Seattle, and we're treated to full performances by a diverse cross-section of the city's most daring and talented burlesque artists. They show that burlesque can mean any number of things and involve complex props, body paint, professional-level dancing, humor, men, drag, and social and cultural commentary of all kinds. In addition to being entertaining and titillating, a routine by a great performer can truly be an artistic achievement.
With the proliferation of reality shows on TV offering drastic makeovers and consistently delivering against-all-odds radical transformation narratives, it's easy to assume that A Wink and a Smile will do the same in regards to the Burlesque 101 students. However, Timmons doesn't exploit her subjects and set us up to be shocked or entertained by the fact that a woman of any particular age/size/type would or could do burlesque. In the end, the biggest surprise is that after learning more about burlesque and its endless possibilities, it's not a surprise to see any of these women morph into burlesque performers. A Wink and a Smile is a unique and joyous celebration of the human body, mind, and spirit—complete with tassels.