What good is sitting alone in your room
Come hear the music play
Life is a cabaret, old chum
Come to the cabaret.

A place of refuge for the freaks, a place of discourse for the savants, a testing ground for the scribes, and the perfect smokey stage for the burlesquers and minstrels; it is a bohemian space of wonderment, risk, wild debauchery, a raw and fleeting world of beauties and beasts all wrapped in satin and sequins, this is the cabaret. Ultimately it is a divine distraction of pleasure to help us forget our troubles, for a moment, allowing us to laugh at our current political dramas and to act out the absurdities of our time. In this wintertime, we seek warmth, intimacy and enjoyment, what better way to find that joy by going to the cabaret?

Put down the knitting, the book and the broom
It’s time for a holiday
Life is a cabaret, old chum
So come to the cabaret.

Originally the french word cabaret referred to any establishment serving liquor. In 1881 Rodolphe Salais opened Le Cabaret Artistique as a fashionable popular local haunt attracting the likes of Claude Debussy and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and grew so large it was then renamed to La Chat Noir. The Moulin Rouge, famous for the red windmill on the roof, followed shortly thereafter in 1889. Still standing today, the Moulin is and was known for a thriving seductive dance scene. Located in the Montmartre district of Paris, functioning at the time as the bohemian center of the city, cabarets began as a creative hub where dancers, musicians, poets, writers and intellectuals gathered to socialize, discuss ideas, and trial their pieces over drinks. Patrons sat at tables and drank alcohol as the master of ceremonies introduced a variety of acts while interacting with the regulars and well-knowns in the audience. This entertainment style born in the cabaret brought a new intimacy and informal playground to public performance and quickly became a significant aspect of the glamorous Parisian culture.

Come taste the wine
Come hear the band
Come blow that horn
Start celebrating right this way
Your table is waiting.

Now the cabaret is less of a place and more of a performed dream space that can hop theater to theater across the world transporting us through the magic of music, dance and spectacle. Having stolen the Edinburgh fringe in 2011 with their first show, Briefs have quickly become the international leaders in cabaret-circus theatricality. Their newest award winning show, The Second Coming, offers New York City’s village a raucous retreat to a queer all male contemporary cabaret. Described as a “gender bending cabaret circus featuring six Aussies & one New Yorker,” they have cooked up a fabulous stew fusing a punk circus and adult cabaret with a large dash of glamor heavily seasoned with burlesque, drag, dancing, tumbling, juggling, acro-yoga, trapeze, and yes, hooping. Through the vehicle of cabaret they help us look at current politics and societal trends through a bent lens of fanatical fun, sometimes queer, sometimes absurd, these performed philosophies will bring us together to let go, and deal with the truths of the lives we live. Through the theatrical contortions of Briefs we will laugh, scream, moan, cry… this is why we go to the cabaret.

What could permitting some prophet of doom
To wipe every smile away
Life is a cabaret, old chum
So come to the cabaret.

As humans we have an unquenchable desire to be a part of something, we crave intimacy and community. The cabaret offers us this, with a strong ruse of audience interaction that we simply do not get in most theater, dance or music shows. Led by vivacious flirtatious characters, glamorous costumes that make you gasp, and lewd behavior that may incite cat calls, heckling, hollering or cheering, it is a purposeful mish-mosh of glitter and gore to help us release the suffering we carry, to purge our ghosts, to exorcise our demons, and to come together in a dream world that helps us laugh out loud and forget for a moment all of our worries. It is good medicine my friend, so take a hearty dose. With these challenging times we find ourselves in, we need the cabaret today more than ever. I hope you’ll find your way… with a little help from Briefs and their fabulous cabaret.

Oh, take me to the cabaret!

Sing with me now …

Start by admitting from cradle to tomb
Isn’t that long a stay
Life is a cabaret, old chum
And I love a cabaret.

Associate Professor of Dance & Technology at NYU Tisch School of the Arts,  Cari Ann Shim Sham is a wild artist who simply cannot ignore the sparkly things. You can find her in the forest hunting wild edible mushrooms, in the sea free diving with dolphins or deeply rooted in collaborative creative journeys that deal with immersive dream and empathetic wonderment.