Ashes to flashes: The funeral strippers who dance to honour the dead
By LEE MORAN
Last updated at 7:31 PM on 11th July 2011
They bring new meaning to the phrase Drop Dead Gorgeous - as the strippers who dance for the deceased at funerals.
For a modest fee the scantily-clad women arrive on the neon-lit back of a diesel truck, dubbed an Electric Flower Car, to gyrate erotically in front of the departed and his mourners.
The Taiwanese phenomenon is labelled by some as scandalous, but many hail it as an important part of the grieving process - and the perfect way of sending off their loved ones with a smile.
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Provocative: Marc Moskowitz's new film 'Dancing for the Dead: Funeral Strippers in Taiwan' looks at the Taiwanese tradition of employing strippers at funerals
The authorities are trying to crack down on the mainly rural practice documented by anthropologist Marc L Moskowitz in his new film Dancing For The Dead: Funeral Strippers In Taiwan.
His 40-minute documentary sheds light, through interviews with the strippers, government officials and academics, on the folk tradition heavily criticised by those in power.
It also reveals the stark contrasts between rural Taiwan and its cities, its mainstream pop culture versus its marginal folk legends, and the thin line between legal and illegal behaviour.
The associate professor at the Department of Anthropology of the University of South Carolina said he created the film to show the practice to U.S. audiences 'who generally have a very narrow idea of what culture is, what a proper funeral is and how to grieve'.
He also wanted to counter the shame shown by the Taiwanese officials towards the Electric Flower Cars.
He said: 'As an outsider, I could lend a very different set of perspectives to a dialogue that was going on in Taiwan that was very critical of the practice.'
Neon-tastic: The Electric Flower Cars sees scantily-clad women erotically gyrate in front of the departed and his mourners
Moskowitz, an expert on Taiwan and the author of two books on religion and pop music in the country, said the Electric Flower Cars were common place in rural settings.
He admitted he had not seen any 'full stripping' himself because they knew he was filming, but everyone he spoke to had seen complete nudity.
He told website io9: 'In general, what I witnessed was two stages of performance.
'One was in the equivalent of a miniskirt and a dress top that ranged from something you might see average people wearing on their way to a friend's house to a bit more revealing.
'The second stage was inevitably bikinis. It's absolutely true, though, some of the performers emphasized their singing ability whereas others gyrated in fairly risqué ways.
'The third stage, that of full nudity, is something that everyone I spoke with had seen, but since that is now against the law the performers were careful not to do that when I was filming.'
The working-class associated Electric Flower Cars came to the fore in Taiwan, apart from in its northern capital Taipei, in the early 1980s.
During his research, Moskowitz said he heard several explanations as to why people hired them for funerals.
Some said it was because new ghosts get picked on by older ghosts so the performance was to distract the older ones to let the newer ones get used to his environment.
Others said the lower gods, usually ghosts of real people who were deified because people worshiped them, liked the entertainment so it was for them.
A third theory said that they were employed because the deceased enjoyed watching strippers when alive.
'These events are providing live entertainment for a group of people who would normally be excluded from, say a live performance of Taiwan's latest pop songs, because they couldn't afford to buy a ticket.'
And a final reason was the more people who attended the funeral then the more honour was given to the deceased - and so the strippers were used to 'bribe' mourners to turn up.
He added: 'Most people agreed that an important component of this is the Chinese and Taiwanese emphasis on hot and noisy (renao) which is the excitement of public events.
'In the West, we have this in rock concerts or amusement parks, in that the noise and the hustle and bustle is part of the fun.
'In Taiwan, all public events need to be hot and noisy to be a success, ranging from going to the beach to funerals,.
'So temple events that we filmed frequently had Chinese Opera performing on one stage, Electric Flower Cars singing on another, and people noisily selling stuff all around them. It's really a sight to see.'
He also believed that it could simply be popular because it was the only form of live entertainment for many of the rural poor community.
'These events are providing live entertainment for a group of people who would normally be excluded from, say a live performance of Taiwan's latest pop songs, because they couldn't afford to buy a ticket,' he added.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2013513/Ashes-flashes-The-funeral-strippers-dance-honour-dead.html#ixzz1RqIibUsN