Thursday 6 November 2014

Geeks are Sexy! Meet Three Nerdlesque Performers

By Angela Hartwick

Burlesque, as in the cabaret-style stripteases of the late 19th century, has made a revival in the last few decades. As opposed to common modern stripteasing, burlesque focuses on creativity, self-expression, it can be funny or political, and its audience is mostly female. Burlesque and geekdom have teamed up so many times that “nerdlesque” is now a subgenre and, Ottawa, being a geeky hub, is seeing it thrive. I only recently heard of nerdlesque and I’m fascinated at how it redresses the stereotype our community has of being socially-awkward basement-dwellers and instead brings us together in a glittery show of confidence, allure, artistry and winsome tassels.

I wanted to learn more about it and these three local(ish) performers were lovely enough to virtually speak with me. Read on for their insights into the business.


Photo credits: Victor S. DeVice

What are your geeky interests? 
Sci-fi is definitely at the top of my geek list. I’m a big fan of Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, Stargate and the Mass Effect series. I also enjoy a good dose of fantasy, which I watch and read. Oh, and I cosplay so hard (I won Best in Show at the Ottawa Comiccon Masquerade 2014)

How did you first discover burlesque? 
It was less of a discovery and more of a crazy random happenstance. About a year and a half ago, I was complaining to one of the temps at work about how much I missed performing. She suggested I try burlesque (she herself moonlighted as local dancer Bibi Bourgeon), because it’s a fantastically inclusive community and a great way to perform.

She also explained, after seeing my horrified expression at the idea of stripping, that you strip down to what’s comfortable, no more (or less?). That stuck in my brain, so when I stumbled across a documentary on TV about burlesque, and they mentioned “nerdlesque”, I raced to my computer to look it up. Lo and behold! Ottawa had a nerdlesque troupe! Now THAT was something I could get into! So I contacted Ottawa’s Browncoats Burlesque, created a routine, and ended up being accepted into their ranks. Now, I aim to misbehave! ;)

What do you enjoy most about performing? Are there any downsides? 
I love the adrenaline rush of being on stage in front of an audience. I’ve never been one for excessive drinking, thrill sports, and I’ve never done drugs, but I can’t imagine them being any better than the high you feel when performing.

And being able to fly my geek flag while performing is doubly pleasurable!! The downside is that creating a routine takes a lot of time, energy and money, which are not always easily available when you have a full-time job.’s worth it.

Tell us about your favourite past geeky-themed performance. 
My most recent act has become my favourite actually! I teamed up with Jasper Cox (a fellow Browncoat troupe member) to do Zydrate Anatomy from “Repo: The Genetic Opera.” I spent a whole day hot-gluing sequins to a black bra and corset to look like Amber Sweet’s getup from 
that scene in the film, and added a black wig, high boots, and pasties in a bright Zydrate-blue. I even borrowed a black leather whip from a friend. It was part burlesque, part lip-sync re-enactment, and ALL sexy. I loved it! I still have a soft spot in my heart for my very first routine, though, which was a tribute to Zoe from Firefly to Bon Jovi’s “Blaze of Glory” (the photo I sent is from this routine). I’m still proud of my Serenity pasties, ha ha!

When are you performing next and where on social media can fans follow you? 
My next official performance is Browncoats Burlesque’s annual “GeeKISSexy” show in January 2015, but I will probably end up slipping into another show or two before then. Different troupe members frequently guest in other troupe’s shows because we love to mingle! 

Interweb links: 
Twitter: @Lady_Gallifreya 
Also by liking Browncoats Burlesque, you can learn about our upcoming shows (in which I frequently perform)
Twitter: @BrowncoatsBurly 

Photo credits: Darren Boucher

What are your geeky interests?
I am mostly interested in games and literature. I play tabletop RPGs with friends (our current campaign is about the Roman conquest of Britain) and occasionally GM as well. On the video game front I am fairly casual, preferring horror games and Twine games with a staunch enthusiasm for Guild Wars 2 on the side. I studied English Literature for my undergrad and I am an avid reader—mostly of mystery, horror and fantasy. Few places make me happier than a library. I enjoy webcomics a great deal, and have been following Questionable Content and Gunnerkrigg Court for so many years that I almost feel like the characters are personal friends of mine. I like conventional comics, but I only keep current with Mouse Guard and Saga. Anime is also a cherished guilty pleasure of mine. 

How did you first discover burlesque?
I attended my first burlesque show after reading about it in an Apartment 613 blog post in 2009, and began performing in early 2010. I got my start through Rockalily's Burlesque Idol in 2010, which was a fundraiser for breast cancer research that ended up jump-starting not only my own burlesque career but also those of Lana Lovecakes, Bessie Mae Mucho, Del Roba and Kicky Laroux.     

What do you enjoy most about performing? Are there any downsides?
I enjoy interacting with audiences and sharing my passion and physicality with appreciative observers. I'm also a fire artist and I love exploring the movement of flames. I like that burlesque can be funny, challenging and creative, which are not characteristics immediately associated with sexiness in mainstream culture. It's a very personal art form and every performer brings something different to the table; even within Ottawa there is an enormous breadth of style and skill, and no single show or artist could be representative of burlesque at large. There are downsides to every industry, but most problems in the burlesque industry are reflections of problems within our wider culture: racism, sexism, fatphobia, ableism, classism and other various oppressions. We also encounter the same challenges of all performing arts and live theatre, so it always means a lot to me that people spend their hard-earned cash to attend our shows. 

Tell us about your favourite past geeky-themed performance.
It's hard to pick a favourite! I definitely have a soft spot for my interpretation of Amon from Legend of Korra, because it sort of brought my headcanon to life: at the start of the series, I had initially hoped that Amon would be revealed to be a woman. Obviously the mask is central to that costume, but my favourite element is actually the pasties; I made them from plaster and hand-painted the symbol of the Equalists on them, for a "revolutionary propaganda poster" look. For music, I used a custom mix of music and dialogue from the show with "Uprising" by Muse. I also really enjoy my Carnage number, and my portrayal of Shinobu from Bakemonogatari was a geeky thrill. 

When are you performing next and where on social media can fans follow you?
On December 5 I will be at the National Arts Centre, as part of a spectacular vaudeville variety show co-produced by Stanley Mansfield, Critical Miss and Retro Joad. I am particularly excited because I think I may be the first burlesque performer to grace an NAC stage, and I'm also performing to live accompaniment courtesy of my Rockalily sister Sorry Sinatra. There will be cabaret, opera, hula hooping, magic, comedy and more! Tickets are available at the Comic Book Shoppe. 

Interweb links: 


Photo credits: Photolena

What are your geeky interests? 
I have all sorts of geeky interests, I like to think of myself as a well-rounded, and nicely curved, nerd. 

I began playing Dungeons and Dragons when I was 12 and have kept up with role-playing games as much as I can as an adult. I generally get to play more board games now, but I still join campaigns that will have me! I've taken this love and merged it with burlesque by producing a monthly show with my troupe, Nerd Girl Burlesque, called Tassels and Tabletop, where the audience watches an hour-long burlesque show, then enjoys a board game social with the performers afterwards. 

I'm very much into video games, with RPGs and FPSs being my favourite genres. I love most things made by Valve (I haven't even given up hope on Half-Life 3), as well as the Fallout and Elder Scrolls series. I also play more casually on my 3DSXL. My thesis work for my Masters centres around gender and sexuality as presented in modern North American video games. 

As a kid, I used to have to make my dad drive me to the comic book store, because we lived in Hamilton and there wasn't one within walking distance. Now, I live under a ten minute walk from that same store's newest Toronto location, and I can get my fix along with a tea latte! I read everything from indies to superhero books. My favourite titles are Fables, Chew,and Batwoman. 

I don't want to bore you with too many details, so an abbreviated list of fandoms that have my heart includes Sherlock, Buffy, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Game of Thrones, Tolkien, and Hannibal. 

How did you first discover burlesque?
While it feels like burlesque has always been in my life, I know that isn't so! I saw my first show about seven years ago through some friends and was immediately hooked. I began attending shows, including the Toronto Burlesque Festival, and eventually began lessons with Coco Framboise.  

What do you enjoy most about performing? Are there any downsides?
I come from a performance background, and have always loved performing. Burlesque allows me creative control over nearly all aspects of my artistic expression. I get to choose the story I want to tell, the costume, the music, the choreography, and craft and explore my own vision, rather than conforming to someone else's. I can pick the characters I want to perform as, rather than waiting for the parts I desire to become available. 

That said, I am only one person! My capabilities, and budget, only go so far. I may be able to dream up fantastical costumes and props, but ,without a team, I cannot build them. While many people imagine us to have teams of glamour minions at our service, most of the work of a burlesque dancer is done solo. I'm very lucky that I have a troupe and community around me to help me out when I'm in a costuming rut or at a loss for musical choice. 

Tell me about your favourite past geeky-themed performance.
Picking a favourite is incredibly difficult! One of them is my tribute to Sappho, the Ancient Greek lyrical poet. I was inspired by the call from local producer Scarlett LaFlamme for acts based on bad (or badass) women from history. As a queer history nerd, there was no one better I could think to base my act on. 

The act is set to an alternate version of I Kissed a Girl. I wear a (historically inaccurate) satin toga, a laurel leaf head piece, a blue underbust corset, and white rhinestoned g-string and bra. I also have a prop scroll with a bedazzled image of something very naughty and Sapphic on it and a very large ostrich feather quill pen, both of which are also used as costume pieces.

When are you performing next and on where on social media can fans follow you?
Fans in Toronto can next catch me at The Night is Dark and Full of Tassels, a Game of Thrones burlesque show on November 29 at the Great Hall, or the next day at a more intimate show at Cherry Cola's. 

Interweb links:
Twitter: @deliciapastiche
Instagram: @heroofkvatch 

Angela is a 30-something year old mom of three kids - a baby, a school-aged kid and a teenager – and a furbaby, living in Orleans with her geek soul mate husband. She studied English Literature and Social Work but took an unexpected turn somewhere and ended up working as a policy analyst for the feds. Hobbies include reading, playing boardgames and Magic: the Gathering, cooking healthy foods, blogging, and discussing favourite tv shows and movies. She is the proud organizer of the Ottawa Geek Social Club, which strives to provide meetup opportunities that reflect the many facets of geekdom and beyond!

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