Part of the changing face of the Angeles bar scene is the prominence of more and more show girls. In this article I will examine the concept of show girls, both the good and bad aspects, citing specific examples along the way.
The concept of show girls acting as an individual specialized dance group separate from the bigger body of normal go-go dancers has been around for a long time however the first bar to actually make their dance troupe prominent and try to attract customers utilizing a dance group, was Jools in Makati.
With their emphasis on show girls and specialized dance troupes, Jools was singlehandedly responsible for the emergence of showgirls and professional dance troupes into the mainstream girlie bar industry. The shows came about primarily because they saw the opportunity to cater for a sizeable niche market, that of local business men and their international clients.
Secondly the shows were perceived purely as entertainment. Rather than selling sex, the bar was seen as selling entertainment.The issue of bar fines has always been contentious in Makati and the shows basically took the emphasis away from bar-fines and placed it on entertainment. Lastly the shows were professionally choreographed and offered something different from the norm. At this time the majority of bars simply offered rows of bikini clad girls standing on stage hardly moving or the old fashioned Filipino style where a solo dancer would perform one or two numbers either removing articles of clothing or at the very least gyrating her body in a sexually provocative way. When Jools came along with their emphasis on professional dance troupes they raised the level of the bar so to speak and developed a whole new facet of the girlie bar industry.
The second stage in the evolution of dance troupes particularly those composed exclusively of female members was the emergence of the “sex bomb dancers” on mainstream television. In approximately 2003 -2004 the “sex bomb dancers”, who performed on a local afternoon show “eat bulaga”, suddenly became famous and a role model for every female from age 5 to 45. The sex bombs represented a celebration and the public aggrandizement of female sexuality. This was a sort of girl power movement taking the form of a dance troupe and complimented by a hit single. The Sex Bombs represented the slightly naughty and sexually provocative aspects of femininity as such it was only a matter of time until they became role models for females across the country. With their constant exposure through a national television station and airplay of the sex bomb song, it was in some ways inevitable that they should come to define certain aspects of femininity in the Philippines. Indeed, it was not uncommon to see female kids in the slums of Manila and in the remotest provincial areas gyrating their hips to the sex bomb song and directly mimicking the sex bomb dancers. Their popularity was to some extent ground breaking and it wasn’t long until rival groups such as the Viva hot babes came into existence and between them they paved the way for the emergence of all female professional dance troupes within the girlie bar industry and even within everyday Filipino culture including in the provincial fiestas.
Over my years of working in the bars I have seen numerous dance shows and so called professional dance troupes. I have made my own observations and talked to numerous customers and as such have formed definite opinions regarding dance groups. Basically I see more disadvantages than advantages but for the purpose of this article I will simply highlight both and let the readers form their own opinion.
The Blue Nile show girls during their seventh anniversary show.
In AC bars the Blue Nile Group was the first to introduce an individual group of dancers and they were called the Blue Nile Executive Cultural Dancers. Initially this group performed cultural type dances which reflected aspects of Filipino provincial culture. In the beginning the cultural style dancing was somewhat unique and was seen as different from the show girl groups that were later to dominate the scene. This however is no longer the case and now the only difference between the cultural dancers and any other group of show girls is the name.
One major advantage of a separate group of show girls, or cultural dancers, is that they break up the monotony of just more bikini clad girls standing on stage looking bored. When they first started in AC they were something different from the norm and helped distinguish the Blue Nile Executive from its competitors.
A second advantage was how the Cultural Dancers were perceived. As in the case of its Makati predecessor Jools, local business men would take their friends and business clients up to the Exec and watch what was perceived as a politically correct show. There could be no innuendo or allegations of sexual impropriety bought against cultural dancers whose dance reflected the cultural values of Filipino society. The cultural dancers helped the owners position the Executive so as to appeal to an affluent niche market and a more up-market clientele in general.
A third advantage is that it appeals to the guys who are already committed to a relationship with a girl and are looking for someplace acceptable to take her. Basically Filipina wives and long term girlfriends do not appreciate the girlie bars where bikini clad dancers make eye contact and flirt with their husband, however a show bar where the emphasis is on entertainment via a professional dance group, is a lot more acceptable and less threatening to them.
A further advantage is that when done properly a dance group can create an energetic atmosphere in the bar. In Neros it was not uncommon for the majority of girls to gather round and cheer on the show girls especially when they had a new dance routine. The newness of the routine was not necessarily appreciated by the customers but the atmosphere created by the girls cheering on the dancers, certainly was.
For every girl there is always a limit to her bar life longevity. All girls go through what I call the “barizing” process and after a while they are either too old or jaded to be dancing in a bikini however these same girls will often make excellent show girls because the emphasis, in their mind, is on dancing and providing entertainment, as opposed to dancing so as to attract a man for sex.
One major advantage is in terms of the image the showgirls portray. The professional show girls take away the emphasis on bar fines and sex for money replacing it with an emphasis on professional entertainment. This is a particularly relevant point considering the political environment at the current time.
The saying states, competition is a wonderful thing, and when it comes to show girls this is certainly true. Now that there are several different groups of bars providing show girls and competing for the same market, the standard of the dance routines has risen considerably and a new level of professionalism has come into being.
Another distinct advantage is that show girls attract the better looking girls. Generally speaking the better looking girls, or the class A girls as they are often referred to, will work in the bar as a show girl as they see this position as being above the normal dancer. These same girls will not work in the bar as a normal dancer as they see this as being beneath them.
A final advantage is that when the show girls are on stage this gives the normal dancers a chance to mingle and communicate with the customers. It allows them time to approach the customers on the ground level and talk to him rather than having to make eye contact from the stage. When communication occurs between the girls and the customers everyone wins.
Perhaps the major disadvantage of having show girls is that it creates a division between the girls who work in the bar. As already discussed it is often the show girls who see themselves as being better or more important than the normal dancer when in fact the opposite is true.
The Filipinas who work in the bar often have what I call a clannish mentality where they like to form their own little gangs and in my experience having a separate group of so called show girls very much panders to the gang mentality.
Traditionally the showgirls see themselves as being better than the normal dancers and this falsehood is reinforced by the bars that try to charge more for the show girls to go bar fine with the customer or for her ladies drink. Indeed many times I have seen customers ask the showgirls to go out with them only to be told the bar fine is significantly higher because the girl is a show girl not a normal dancer. A perfect example of this is the Dollhouse spotlight dancers. In short I think the concept of show girls is often misused by the bar owners as an excuse to charge higher prices especially in terms of the bar fine and ladies drinks.
In many cases there is an over emphasis on the showgirls and a classic example of this is the Bad Influence Dancers. They are now being promoted as a major attraction supposed to entice the customer into the soon to open Golden Nile. The Golden Nile is a rather large building which will incorporate two floors of poker machines and other gambling activities with a large show bar on the third floor. In this bar there will no doubt be numerous dancers and yet the promotional banners outside the club only feature the Bad Influence dancers. Personally I think an advertisement stating that they have over 100 beautiful dancers would be a much more powerful enticement for me to visit the bar than an advertisement for the Bad Influence dancers.
The Bad Influence dance group. They are performing in Cambodia but being advertised outside the Golden Nile.
In economic terms the show girls do not make sense. Basically they cost the bar more because they draw a higher salary and yet they do less wok than anybody in the club. Take for example the Neros show girls who get paid more than the normal dancers and yet they only dance for five to seven minutes out of every hour. The normal dancers in Neros get paid less and have to do a solid 25 minutes of dancing every hour for a nine hour shift. The showgirls on the other hand only have a 6 hour shift and are on stage for a maximum of 7 minutes every hour.
One big negative for me is the fact that the so called show girls often exist at a cost to the normal line up. A classic example of this is Tropix Bar. Here the mamasans have created a showgirl group by taking the best girls out of the normal dance lineup. As a result the normal dance line up is severely depleted of good looking girls.
The lack of variety in the shows is a big problem. Most often they will have a bakla dance instructor and the dance moves are just so obviously choreographed by a male trying to look feminine. When the real females copy these moves it tends to look ridiculous. What’s more most of the baklas have very similar dance moves so it looks like the different groups in different bars have all been choreographed by the same dance instructor. Here I must give credit to the Bad Influence at least their show is original and different from the show routines that exist in other bars.
The lack of variety is also a problem for the all female professional dance groups such as the Bad Influence. The Bad Influence originally came from Makati the spawning ground of professional showgirls and even though they have been working in the Blue Nile Group for over one year, I am yet to see a new dance incorporated into their routine. They are doing exactly the same dance numbers as when they first started.
Far from dying the Bad Influence group is in fact expanding.
One very negative aspect for me regarding the showgirls is their lack of friendliness and interaction with the customers. Too often show girls develop an attitude that they are better than the normal dancers and this attitude is passed on to the customer in the form of aloofness. It is almost like they adopt a different perspective and see themselves as above going bar fine. In their minds they are now professional entertainers as opposed to normal dancers that have to go bar fine to make enough money. Indeed this attitude is reinforced by the bars who pay the show girls substantially more than their normal dancers. To often I have found the show girls attitude is one of aloofness and superiority. They think they are better than their fellow dancers and it is rare for them to smile at customers make eye contact with customers let alone interact with them in a friendly way. Lastly and perhaps most importantly these shows often become almost A sexual as the emphasis is placed on so called professional dance moves rather than flaunting female sexuality.
From the bar operators perspective shows are not actually profitable because it is a well established fact that whilst the show is on the customers do not spend as much. Rather than drinking themselves or buying ladies drinks the customers tend to simply watch the show and not spend any money. Having said this Cambodia bar is persisting with the Bad Influence dancers and by all accounts they are the top money earners within the bar. So much so that management have now started a second Bad Influence group composed of local Angeles girls.
Personally I cannot see how groups such as the Bad Influence make money but obviously there must be an angle here that eludes me because if they were not a profitable option they would no longer be in existance. At the end of the day they like everyone else working in the bar are part of a business and as such are there to create money for that business.
For the customer who wishes to date a lady from the bar the show girls represent a major inconvenience. In most cases their bar fines are more expensive and even then the girl cannot leave until after a certain time as she is part of the show group. For example the Neros show girls are encouraged to wait until after midnight before they can leave with a customer. To me this is clearly a case of placing an emphasis on entertainment at the cost of customer satisfaction.
Because the show girl position is seen as being a better position than a normal dancer it is valued and a much sought after position amongst the girls. Because it is valued, so too is everything that goes with the position, including the dance moves. These girls literally see their position as a source of pride and whenever they get the chance they will revert to the dance moves they have learnt. In the local disco Skytrax it is not uncommon to see groups of show girls actually dancing to a particular song utilizing their dance moves incorporated in their show. The same scenario can be seen when a customer takes a show girl bar hopping, many times the girl will be in another bar and when she hears a song which is incorporated in her show she will start doing the exact same dance moves as she would when performing a show. Personally I find this slightly annoying and inconsiderate.
The Atlantis showgirls.
Overall it has been my experience that people like to see a large volume of girls on stage and that a large quantity of girls generates a much more positive, festive and fun atmosphere. The point here is that the show groups by definition are composed of fewer girls which will in turn influence the atmosphere in the bar.
There are some advantages to having showgirls and professional dance troupes however there are also many disadvantages. As the Angeles bar scene evolves I can see a much greater emphasis on show girls and professional dance group type of entertainment. Could this be the future direction of Angeles bars, are we looking at a future scenario where the bars are strictly entertainment like in Vegas? I guess only time will tell but I certainly hope this is not the case.