Burlesque saw a bit of a resurgence in pop culture in the early 2000s, enough to garner its own so-bad-its-meh movie featuring Christina Aguilera. In a completely separate lane of the pop culture highway, geek culture became more and more mainstream. We’re lining up for movies featuring caped crusaders, Jedis, and robots in disguise instead of the Van Dammes, Stallones, and Schwarzeneggers of yesteryear (Expendables notwithstanding). Nerdery and burlesque—-no way these two could meet, right? Wrong!
Nerd burlesque is a beautiful thing that combines the art of the tease with a geeky theme. Traditional burlesque performances may not have the same draw as they did a few years ago, but tassel-twirling might just have found a third life dressed up in cosplay on the convention circuit.
One such performance was a themed show from Ft. Lauderdale’s Shimmy Shake Revue at Florida Supercon. While the group usually prefers a more traditional route, they had geek-themed shows on Friday (Star Wars!) and Sunday night (DC Comics). We had a chance to catch Saturday night’s show which, up until the lights went down, had remained a closely guarded secret.
The Miami Beach Convention Center’s Flamingo Ballroom 4 played host to an over-capacity crowd. The room could hold approximately 700 people, but there were way more than that standing against the walls, all the way in the back, and sitting in the aisles or in front of the first row of chairs. “I am SO happy I sat here for three hours,” said a woman in the second row with every ounce of sincerity. The people standing were not so lucky. They were asked to leave the room and wait outside in the hallway—-and the doors were closed to them.
Once those doors closed, the lights dimmed, the music started, and the theme for tonight’s festivities was revealed: "Tron." One by one, the burlesque artists walked on the stage in impressive light-up costumes and performed to the Tron: Legacy soundtrack. An homage to the soundtrack’s composers, Daft Punk, was included in the form of a pair of burlesque DJs in their signature helmets, often acting like hype women for the featured act of the moment.
In between each act was an equally entertaining host, Matt Havoc, who was quick-witted and had a cyber-themed line for everything, including shout-outs from the audience and a malfunctioning pasty on one of the girls. Of the audience seating troubles that plagued people earlier, he quipped, “We’re trying to fit a terabyte of people into 500 gigs.”
I found myself “aww”ing in disappointment when he revealed that he himself would not disrobe, as I would’ve appreciated some diversity in the all-woman line-up—and because I knew that, as quick on his feet as he was, he was sure to deliver an entertaining burlesque performance.
The teases the ladies delivered were impressive, but the outfits they took off were even more so. According to Shawn Landsman, the guy responsible for all of the electronics on the outfits, each of the girls wore approximately $500-$700 worth of electronics on them—a total of about $3200 on stage all told.
This particular night was four months in the making, as soon as they received word that they’d gotten the Florida Supercon gig, and their hard work was well-received. They entertained a long line of fans after the show for pictures and a few extra tips for their tip jar.
Morgan LaRue, the leader of the Shimmy Shake Revue, was “absolutely blown away” by the over-capacity crowd and the response from the audience. They normally don’t do themed shows, but it doesn’t mean her and her troupe don’t wear their geek hearts on their sleeves—literally. Morgan showed off her R2-D2 and Arkham lady tattoos, proving she practices what she teases.
With a grateful audience slowly trickling its way out of the conference room doors, Morgan again reiterates what a thrill it is to be performing in front of that many people—especially considering how the burlesque trend had died down in recent years. There were more than a handful of troupes, and now Shimmy Shake is one of the only ones left on the scene. With the rousing success of Florida Supercon, however, it looks like the ladies of Tron have plugged into a fresh, new kind of program.