Macabre Delights of La Petite Mort

Angela Petite Mort, photo by Wolfsrun Photography

La Petite Mort’s Anthology of Erotic Esoterica is a dark and frangible flower that exists only in a delicate aesthetic, artistic and temperamental balance. Bachelorettes and beer-belching bros won’t cut it in this crowd, buster, and the basic need not apply. Stay home and chill your Netflixes or something.

The darkly glittering world of The Anthology (as its earnest and rather cult-like fan base calls it) is an eldritch pagan circus populated by contortionists and stilt dancers, beautiful women accomplishing enchanting feats of classical burlesque, slightly crazed jugglers and corny stage magicians.

“I’m weird,” Angela Petite Mort says, at the most recent incarnation of Anthology, on April 28. “I don’t fit in anywhere else and I crafted a space for me and others like me.” She and her husband Kevin Incroyable are the progenitors and raison d’etre of the show. Kevin hosts and plays the ukulele (he’s in the band The Peculiar Pretzelmen), she dances and strips, they both sing.

The Anthology is part performance art, part party and all classical cabaret—no plot ever thickens, no characters suffer emotional growth. But this show sits thick in its style, and so does its audience. Much of last Friday’s sold-out crowd seemed to know one another rather well and clearly shop in the same hip old granny’s trunk—think a cocktail party at a carnie funeral. The crowd waiting outside before the show could easily have been mistaken for a particularly well-heeled coven, and drew several remarks from curious passersby. (“Is this an event”? “Is this a party?” “What’s going on?”) If nothing else, The Anthology will light a fire under you to level up your sartorial game.

The production happens once a month, every final Friday, in beautifully brick-y old Georgetown (as it has done for two years now), and the neighborhood’s enduring shabbiness and rusty, vintage, steampunk-y feel does much to set the tone of the show. It’s staged at The Conservatory, an ostensible bar and coffee shop that is quite obviously a haunted apothecary selling black magic on the sly. It’s an intimate space (read: pretty dang small), and La Petite Mort packs it wall-to-wall.

Each month is an entirely fresh, new show, with a rotating cast of talent. For the April iteration, The Anthology was joined by two accomplished performers from Portland, Rocket and Miss Indigo Sky, among others. Rocket is a well-known burlesque dancer and performance artist who titillated the crowd (no pun intended) with interesting and innovative masks, glitter and dance to the tracks “All Must Die” by The Oath and a personalized mix of “Fire Walk with Me” by Fantomas. This was her first appearance at the show. “Anthology spoke to the side of me that loves all things spooky and secretive,” she explains. “I’ve been performing for over a decade, and this was one of my favorite shows to be in!” Miss Indigo, however, is an Anthology veteran. Her performances were lithe and hypnotic, and she works with magical levitating hula-hoops.  

But the highlight this time around was doubtlessly Seattle’s own exquisitely beautiful Gale Force (Alison Gale), who enchanted the room with a mysterious and sexy stilt-dance, and even an original spoken-word piece—an excerpt from her original work, Burning it All to Light My Darkest Hour, an intense one-woman theatre piece featuring spoken word, aerials and dance.

It’s important to note that to fully enjoy this show, you should ideally have a well-cultivated appreciation for boobs. They are literally bouncing off the exposed-brick walls—it is burlesque, after all. But the nipples are quite tastefully (and legally) pastied and bedazzled, in accordance with Washington State law, so don’t get too excited.

There’s a marvelous wabi-sabi, DIY feeling to The Anthology, which only increases its charms. The ermine stoles are a bit dusty, there are holes in everyone’s fishnets, and even the tipsy juggler, Jpeace Lovecircus, kept dropping his pins, and not always as a clever gag (I could have lost an eye!). But the small flaws just made the crowd cheer louder. To appreciate such things is to appreciate this show. But the wrong crowd could easily burst The Anthology’s magic bubble and wipe the powder from its butterfly wings. Think long and hard about that before you buy a ticket.