How do erotic burlesque dancers relate to the nerd culture of video games, comics, and sci-fi? The act of burlesque evokes sexual empowerment and a sort of liberation from patriarchal subjectivity. On the other hand, comic cons often have a bad reputation for misogyny and elitism. From April 3rd – 6th, the very first international Nerdlesque Festival achieved a tantalizing mixture of burlesque and comi con, sans the misogyny thank Goddess! Nerdlesque 2014 was presented by RAWR! Burlesque, Epic Win, and D20 Burlesque. It was coined to be created by and for nerds, dweebs, and geeks as a way to indulge and celebrate nerdiness in an inclusive environment.
The weekend featured: performances from the top burlesque teasers throughout the world, workshops and classes for fellow performers, and lectures tackling the ins and outs of the business. The pre-party kicked off on Thursday, April 3rd at Drom in the East Village with performances by Little Brooklyn and one of the Fest’s headliners, Bazuka Joe. The festivities continued at Le Poisson Rouge on Saturday evening with over 20 performers hailing from the east to the west coast, Canada, and even the Land Down Under. They wrapped up with games, nerdy vendors, and the popular martinis and $10 manicures at the East Village’s Beauty Bar on Sunday, April 6th.
I was able to attend their first mega-lineup on Friday, April 4th at New York City’s legendary Webster Hall. The night, rightfully titled the “Legend Begins,” was truly a sensually delicious treat– nerd or not. Upon first arrival, the attendees enter the lobby to find multiple vendors selling sex toys, lingerie, and my personal favorite, the fabulous Haute Under the Collar’s custom rhinestone bowties and neckties. The host, Bastard Keith, opened the eve. The charismatic and wittily crude Bastard Keith hosted the night and made us all feel welcome, no matter if you were a comic fanatic or not. With nearly 20 performances, he kept the pace of the night upbeat, engaging, and light-hearted with dirty nerdy jokes and one-liners.
My appraisal toward Bastard Keith is not to say that there was a lack of excitement on-stage; the talent was all-around fierce! It’s impossible to truly compare one act with the rest because each piece reflects the individuality of a performer – thus they are uniquely special in their own way. However, a few stood out from the crowd for different reasons. The show opened with Peek-A-Boo Revue’s (Philadelphia) interpretation of the Silent Hill zombie nurses with staccato dance choreography and sexy nurse mini-dresses.
Lewd Alfred Douglas
Lewd Alfred Douglas (New York) created a very smart poetic exploration of Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Grey with a prop painting that he slashed before slithering his body through the canvas.
Lola LeSoleil (Atlanta)’s Princess Leia tribute was a show-stopper as she worked her way through the crowd to the stage before revealing two afro puffs, a fringed white halter, and white thigh-high platforms while strip-teasing to Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady.”
Comedic parodies are also always staples in burlesque acts in addition to political undertones. In this front, Stella Chuu (Astoria, NY) of RAWR! Burlesque made the audience roar with her Breakfast Princess act from “The Adventure Time” cartoon. Her costume was outrageously delectable with detachable donuts, bacon underwear, and a skirt made of pancakes. Also, Iris Explosion’s (Brooklyn) comedic rendition of the superhero Flash that can move at the speed of light; or in this case, dance in slow motion, was quite clever. The grand finale was given to headliner Ray Gunn from Chicago who played the mythical winged Jabberwock with sharp vicious teeth. Gunn surely raised the bar of the aesthetic of burlesque with the technical choreography of a well-trained contemporary dancer, a beautifully designed costume and an unparalleled grace and style. From start to finish, the line-up was inspired and even more intoxicating than the booze. If and when this Fest rolls around again, you won’t want to miss it!