Burlesque, the campy, sexy performance art that can trace its roots back to the mid-19th century, has been making a comeback over the past decade. Commonly referred to as neo-burlesque, this latest incarnation is as much about sexy stripteases as it is a celebration of feminine power.
In Austin, Black Widow Burlesque has been celebrating that power for five years. The troupe, which features Ginger Snaps, Betty Blue, Harlet Davidson, ND Licious, Zaftigg VonBonBon and Sailor Cherry, is composed of brazenly bad ass ladies who are taking this traditionally male-oriented art form and making it accessible to everyone.
It has shattered many notions about traditional burlesque performers, choosing to embrace anyone with confidence to get up on stage in nothing but a pair of tassles and smile.
"What's remarkable to me is most of our audience is female," says Zaftigg VonBonBon. "Most of [the] producers are burlesque performers themselves, and you have both men and women performing and producing."
And while you may find yourself stumbling over the idea of a male burlesque former, it's not terribly novel. Just as neo-burlesque has shattered many ideas about traditional burlesque performance, it has also shattered many notions about traditional burlesque performers, choosing to embrace anyone with confidence to get up on stage in nothing but a pair of tassels and smile.
"We're diverse in our background and our ideas, and we're diverse in our body type," says VonBonBon. "And I think that's why we have women drawn to us. We love celebrating the female form."
And while, yes, there are tassels and teases, Black Widow Burlesque is more than just sexy fun time, it's a platform. "We like to say we're keeping burlesque weird," says Snaps. "We like to approach [our show] from all kinds of ways. We have a lot of comedy, [but we also have] taboo subjects, circus arts ... I think it's a way to confront social issues that are relevant today." (During Saturday's show, look for a Chick-fil-A-themed number, something involving a glitter pool and leprechauns in addition to the sublimely sexy and erotic.)
For the Black Widow Burlesque performers, these shows are about more than just entertainment, they're about expression and showmanship. Though each act is just a few minutes long, they take weeks — sometimes months — to perfect. "There are different levels in burlesque, but I think the [most important] thing that comes into it ... is the commitment and the willingness to craft a really beautiful routine," says Snaps.
These amazing routines (and that glitter pool), can be seen during Black Widow Burlesque 5th anniversary show at The North Door. The performance begins at 8:30 pm on Friday, April 18 and, in addition to the current troupe, will feature special guest stars, drink specials, aerialists and non-Miley twerking. General admission tickets are $12 and special VIP seating is priced at $20. For more information, head to Black Widow Burlesque Facebook page.