She’s already breathing fire and as usual I’m late but unusually, this time it’s not my fault. I walk into a surprisingly packed McQueen bar, restaurant and club, considering the venue virtually lives up to its club night’s name, tucked away along Tabernacle Street off the much busier Great Eastern Street not far from Old Street.
Being a Thursday tonight is Secret Rendez-vous, Irish brothers Dezzi and Ricky McCausland’s newly revamped cabaret, circus and burlesque night. The venue clearly displays their passion for Sixties screen star and ‘King of Cool’, Steve McQueen, in the sheer quantity of prints of the actor and racing legend and extremely slick masculine décor.
Catching the end of Kelly and Karleen’s fire act, my group sit opposite a party of young girls dressed for a night on the town who are somehow linked to MTV (according to the seat reservation sign clearly displayed on their table). Although far from the small stage at the other end of the room, we’re conveniently placed near to tonight’s star attraction. World Champion Pole Dancer, Tracey Simmonds is due to perform three times throughout the evening and I’m waiting with baited breath, gazing longingly at the shiny silver pole just in front of me.
Packed with a trendy Shoreditch crowd seemingly predominantly populated by singletons, McQueen thankfully offers a table service, making avoidance of the enormous busy bar a possibility. Drink in hand, we stand to watch Marnie Scarlet, a strikingly presented dance performer who delves into the ‘twisted and strange’ darker side of burlesque in bizarre eye-catching attire.
Finally the moment I’ve been waiting for arrives, Tracey Simmonds appears wearing a floor-length stripy jersey dress and carefully wipes down the pole before removing her outer garment to reveal a sporty black bikini set. Her modest functional attire perfectly challenges the sexualised bad reputation pole dancing has and as a performer, Simmonds is less erotic and more acrobatic in the series of exceedingly controlled moves she showcases that are less of a structured routine and more like a warm-up or chance to educate the masses.
All eyes are fixed, some mouths are open and I’m wondering whether male onlookers are slightly disappointed by Simmonds’ distinct lack of bump, wiggle and grind. Before her second stint on the pole, we’re given time to digest her performance and Kelly and Karleen return, illuminating the room with their Britain’s Got Talent Girls Roc act.
Once ‘lead pole dancer’ for Madonna’s 2007 film Filth and Wisdom, Simmonds is undisputedly the main draw of tonight’s Secret Rendez-Vous. The sheer upper arm strength she displays is impressive alone and watching her should convince any sceptics that pole dancing is undoubtedly a sport and one certainly involving a hell of a lot of skill. Wowed by Simmonds, we leave as the party begins to migrate to the downstairs club, wondering what next Thursday’s talent will be.
Secret Rendezvous takes place from 9pm every Thursday at:
55-60 Tabernacle Street