Suicide Girls: Blackheart Burlesque
When: 8:15 p.m. Friday
Where: Sokol Underground, 2234 S. 13th St.
Tickets: $20 at Ticketmaster.com, Ticketmaster retail locations or by phone at 800-745-3000
Information: Sokolunderground.com or 402-346-9802
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Music, dance, laughs and “Star Wars” will come together in a most sexy way for the Suicide Girls.
A cadre of dancers sponsored by the pinup website will perform in Omaha on the Blackheart Burlesque tour, which features burlesque dance and tongue-in-cheek humor based on “Kill Bill,” “Game of Thrones,” “Planet of the Apes,” “Dr. Who” and “Star Wars,” among other properties.
The tour comes amid the revival of burlesque that has been happening since the 1990s.
Currently, popular tours include the Super Happy Funtime Burlesque show, which has come to Omaha several times, and pin-up model Dita Von Teese's Strip Strip Hooray.
Super Happy Funtime Burlesque is more of a bawdy comedy than striptease, while Strip Strip Hooray is like something out of the movie “Moulin Rouge,” with fanciful costumes and sexy dancers.
The Suicide Girls tour is similar to classic burlesque, but one dancer known by her stage name, Bambu, told The World-Herald that the show's dancing is more “fierce.” It's choreographed by Manwe Sauls-Addison, who has worked with Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez and Lady Gaga.
“We're hitting the dance floor really hard,” she said. “It's more of a professional dance show with a striptease essence. It's not a Bettie Page burlesque show.”
Many modern burlesque shows are more than their antique counterparts. Some shows are focused on sci-fi or horror movies while others are straight-up striptease, but the art form is popular for its humor and for featuring all kinds of women, including those with tattoos and different body types.
“The things that make us different are also the things that make us beautiful and desirable,” Von Teese told Creative Loafing.
Or as the Suicide Girls' slogan puts it: “What some people think makes us strange, or weird, or (messed) up, we think is what makes us beautiful.”
Burlesque has quite an obvious appeal to men, but women often make up a large chunk of the audience. Some burlesque shows say their crowds are majority female.
Bambu thinks burlesque's revival comes from both its entertainment and cultural value.
“It's kinda something that's fun and empowering to do. Everybody kind of loves it and it's timeless,” she said. “(Burlesque) is fun. You get to say what you want to say without saying anything.”
The renewed popularity in burlesque has brought good (Bambu makes a living dancing instead of teaching dance classes) and bad (the shows have to keep reinventing themselves to outperform other performers, she said).
Dancers for Blackheart Burlesque are all professionals, and several are also models on the Suicide Girls website. They practiced for weeks before heading out on tour, which should make the show much more enjoyable than previous Suicide Girls tours in which the dancers were merely models.
“Enjoy all the hard work and vibes and love that we put into it,” Bambu said. “Burlesque is a little bit in a box, and we're trying to think outside the box. I'd come with an open mind.”
More about burlesque
Burlesque wasn't always stripteases and homages to “Star Wars.” In its heyday, it was a combo of entertainment, dance, music and comedy that kept audiences laughing and occasionally titillated.
» The word “burlesque” comes from the Italian word “burla,” which means to mock or joke. Early burlesque was essentially parody. In the 1840s, burlesque shows often mocked operas, plays and other entertainment of the upper classes.
» By the 1860s, shapely and immodestly dressed women, who were introduced to keep audiences interested, were a staple of burlesque shows. (And by “immodestly dressed,” we mean women in tights instead of full dress. At the time, that was pretty dang sexy.) Most anything became a target for burlesque parody. “Ben Hur,” a popular stage play, inspired the burlesque show “Bend Her.”
» In the late 1800s, burlesque shows were big touring productions that included dancers, jugglers, singers, comedians and other acts. (The famous sketch “Who's on First” descended from burlesque sketches such as “Who Dyed.”) They would tour the country for most of the year. Performers often worked with burlesque troupes before moving on to vaudeville.
» Stripteases were introduced to burlesque in the late 1890s. Of course, they brought in a slew of new customers as well as attention from moralists. Stripteases didn't go all the way. Dancers often stripped down to pasties and a G-string to avoid getting in trouble. Doing more could land someone in jail.
Doing the “Boston version” meant cleaning up the act for a particular show. Doing the “Sunday school show” meant really cleaning it up in case cops were in the audience.
» By the 1920s, most burlesque shows went from big productions with a variety of acts to a series of stripteases with a few bad comic bits in between.