Burlesque ebbs and flows with the times. It, much like any other form of art, is influenced by societies politics, fads and pop-culture. These are, after all, what breathes new life and energy into show themes and inspires performer’s with new acts. Classic burlesque themes and acts are vital to keeping touch with its roots, but ideas culled from pop-culture are what helps it grow and expand to new audiences.
The newest breath of fresh air to burlesque is called Geek or Nerdlesque and its exploded onto the Seattle burlesque scene.
For the sake of the article, I’ll use the term Nerdlesque. “Great, but what is Nerdlesque” you might ask? In the simplest of terms, Nerdlesque is the fun and tongue-in-cheek sexiness of burlesque melded with fan obsession of geek-culture icons. It is, in some respects, an evolution of CON based (ComicCon’s, etc.) cosplay, fanboy (or girl) obsession and fan-inspired art.
Let’s face it, geek is hot right now. TV shows like The Big Bang Theory and Glee have busted through the ‘geek ceiling’ to rule the air. Superhero movies have taken over the box offices. Video games have become the subject of many a common conversation. People can’t survive a day without their fix of Facebook, Youtube and email. Without geekdom, none of these things exist. There’s never been a better time to be a geek. As Jesus famously said “The geek shall inherit the earth.”
I was fortunate enough to attend the second year showing of Seattle’s (I’ll get to this later) Whedonesque Burlesque: Burlesque Inspired By The Works Of Joss Whedon. I was treated to a selection of amazingly diverse, fun and sexy acts that were welded together with sharp, witty and engaging character interaction.
“I chose to submit an act about Faith because I have always felt we share a kindred spirit.” -Solange Corbeau.
To do the show justice, I’d need to write an in-depth collection of essay’s covering each act, their relevance in the Whedonverse, and what new side or aspect the performer is exploring with his/her specific character. And trust me, when asked, they had answers aplenty to this. I’ll boil those answers down to this simple statement. Each character, in some way, had a relevance in their lives. This is the difference between burlesque and Nerdlesque. Burlesque is, for the most part, a purely entertainment based performance art. Nerdlesque adds a personal connection to the performances that burlesque itself has a hard time offering. With this personal attachment to the character in their performance, they give their very best.
It is the audience that’s rewarded by this. They get the performers best and are treated to a sneak peek into the life of a favored geek-culture icon. Here are a few highlights of one of the best burlesque shows I’ve ever seen.
- The interaction between Emcee Rebecca M. Davis and Jake Groshong as Captain Hammer was razor sharp, slick and wildly entertaining.
- The Norse Goddess took Thor’s obsession with his mighty hammer MjÃ¶lnir and ran with it.
- Al Lykya gave us a fabulously tortured and undeniably memorable Dr. Horrible.
- Tootsie Spangles & Hattie Hellcat blew me away with an incrediblely, smoldering & entertaining Doll House act.
- La Petite Mort killed with a hauntingly beautiful and entrancing Cabin In The Woods act.
- Rachel Jackson & Paul Velasquez (of Vox Fabuli Puppet) struck gold with a puppet-filled, Â entertaining romp through the Whedonverse.
- Scarlett O’Hairdye may have stolen the show with her absolutely wonderful Wil Wheaton (Wheatonesque!?!) performance.
This last one made some real noise. Scarlett actually got to meet Wil Wheaton, present him with the illustrious Cape of Dicks 2.0 (one of her act’s props) and grab a little face time with one of Geekdom’s most recognized personalities.
“The Professor of Nerdlesque”, JoJo Stilleto and her production company (the aptly named JoJo Stilleto Events) is the driving force behind Seattle’s Nerdlesque movement. Herself a former burlesque performer and a founding member of the Rat City Rollergirls, she made the move to producer in 2008 with the production of Black-Eyed Burlesque featuring the Rat City Rollergirls. After three straight sell-out years she decided to focus her attentions to something a little different: Nerdlesque. She has presented on the topic at events like NerdNite Seattle and GeekGirlCon.
Inspired by a production in Madison, WI (and specifically performing artist Firstbane Fannie) of a similar name, JoJo created a Seattle version of the Whedonesque Burlesque. To say the show has been a success would be an understatement. In it’s first year the 2 performance show sold out in less than 48 hours. This year, the 5 performance show sold out less than 12 hours.
“Drucilla is the Whedon character I identify with most. I adored and empathized with her instantly.” Â Â -TaTa Hari
For her newest show, she’s teamed up with Critical Hit Burlesque (from Portland, OR) to give us the one night affair Geeklesque Unites on Friday, October 19th at Re-bar It’s a two-show engagement, with performances at 7:30 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. featuring performers from both Portland and Seattle. With performers like Randi Rascal, Lady Drew Blood and Wil Wheaton lover Scarlett O’Hairdye in the mix, this should be a fun night. There’s only a limited amount of tickets left, so get your’s now!
JoJo will be hitting BurlyCon in November to take part in a Nerdlesque panel and host a Nerdlesque Happy Hour (how cool is that!) and has plans for an X-Files inspired burlesque show sometime in 2013. Burl-X-Files anyone?
JoJo put it best with this “As long as audiences don’t feel exploited and performers aren’t just recreating what already exists, I think this trend won’t just be a footnote in burlesque history.”