What’s nerdlesque and why is it everything I ever dreamed of?

Photo courtesy of D20 Burlesque

Photo courtesy of D20 Burlesque

When geeks go wild, everybody wins.

It turns out that geek and nerd culture wasn’t the only thing to have a sort of mainstream resurgence in the mid-2000s; burlesque performances also came back into vogue and starting dazzling their way across stages worldwide. However, it’s far more than a coincidence of timing how well these two fields have blended into the sexy and fun world of nerdlesque.

It should really come as no surprise that burlesque performers are turning to geek culture for inspiration. Many life-long nerds cite fictional characters from their favourite series or films in their youth as the source of their sexual awakening, and I’m not beyond admitting that the majority of my most passionate infatuations have been with people that never existed (or the actors who played them). When you take into account the online culture surrounding erotic fanart, fanfiction, and other transformative works, it seems like the comics, TV shows, movies, books, and games we all love are irrevocably connected to sexuality in some way or another. Whether that sexy cosplay across the con floor is screen accurate or a creative interpretation, there’s some extra little thrill that comes with the association to something we’re already passionate about.

And nobody brings that passion to the stage quite like a nerdlesque performer. Don’t think that this is as simple as a casual burlesque performer buying a Toys’R’Us lightsaber and calling it a day; these ladies and gents bring some serious skill to every facet of the show, be it crafting, costuming, music, lights, or the dance itself. I can’t imagine trying to build a cosplay that looks as good on as it does coming off piece by piece, considering most catsuits have me wiggling around on the floor trying to do up the zipper, which is definitely not a sexy image. Somehow, nerdlesque performers are able to do the tease with as much camp, grace, or tongue-in-cheek humor as necessary to dazzle.

Loretta Jean of Nerd Girl Burlesque

Loretta Jean of Nerd Girl Burlesque

Those who have never been to a burlesque show before may not know what to expect, and there are a few basic rules that attendees should be aware of. First and foremost is that at a burlesque show, you look with your eyes, not your hands. Your hands should be used for clapping, because rule number two is to cheer as loud as possible pretty much all the time! Every performer deserves just as much enthusiasm from their audience as they bring to the stage, so “ooh” and “ahh” with every piece of clothing dropped or sultry show-stopper executed. Last, but not least, tip well and don’t make it a competition. Many burlesque performers don’t like hearing that they were “the best of the night” or the “prettiest,” because they aren’t competing against their fellow performers when it’s all about sharing a stage and having fun together. Tell them that you thought their performance was especially charming, you really liked the details of their costume or their comedic timing, or that they’re a wonderful dancer. These compliments will be much better appreciated than something that puts down everyone else. Even the newest burlesque performers deserve incredible praise for their bravery, spunk, and confidence! Burlesque shows also often feature a variety of performers, including male and female burlesquers, vaudeville routines, drag kings and queens, and other kinds of live performances.

This is not a one-off thing either; in certain cities every comic-con or geek themed event seems to have at least one nerdlesque show dedicated to it. Some burlesque troops are even devoted almost entirely to the sub-genre of nerdlesque, such as Ottawa’s Browncoats Burlesque or Toronto’s Nerd Girl Burlesque. It’s not rare to see a weekly or monthly burlesque show host the occasional nerdlesque themed night and require all performers to add at little geekery to their tassels.

Nerdlesque can be sexy, funny, heart-warming, and wild all at the same time, while also celebrating sexual autonomy and body positivism. Because burlesque is for everybody and every body! If you’ve never been to a show before, I highly recommend looking into what your local talent has to offer. They’re wonderful spaces of self-expression and geekery, if you’re lucky enough to find yourself a nerdlesque night or troupe!

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Genevieve LeBlanc
Genevieve LeBlanc 126 posts

Genevieve LeBlanc is a contributing writer for NerdReactor.com and lives in snowy Canada.