Shanghai flirts with legacy of 1920s heyday

Fri Jul 9, 2010 12:49am EDT
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By Farah Master

SHANGHAI (Reuters Life!) - Leggy dancers sporting nipple tassels and lace suspenders sashay on stage, while a cheering audience hoots and whistles from red-velvet boudoir-style booths.

This is no seedy strip joint, evading the watchful eye of China's ruling communist party -- but the country's first modern burlesque club.

Chinatown, popular for its showgirls and cabaret style performances, is one of the latest attempts to recreate the glamour of Shanghai during its heyday in the 1920s and 1930s when the city was a thriving trading port and colonial enclave.

Shanghai was transformed from an idyllic fishing village into a city of late night jazz clubs and dance halls during Western occupation in the 1800s when it became home to British bankers and French artists.

The city's melting pot of cultures was what prompted New York nightclub veteran Norman Gosney, 62, founder of Chinatown, to open his new venture in Shanghai, instead of London or Hong Kong.

"Shanghai has a reputation as the 'Paris of the Orient' and we thought it would make a great backdrop. Shanghai is certainly the city with the most promise at this time," said the grey-haired Briton.

Gosney's sentiment is echoed through this year's flood of new luxury hotels, private clubs and global brands like Apple opening flagship stores, as more businesses set their sights on Shanghai.

Authorities in Shanghai, already China's most modern city, have gradually unshackled many of the constraints during the Communist revolution by allowing clubs like Chinatown to operate but maintain they must still abide by party rules.   Continued...