Editor’s note: As a geek I was excited to hear we won. The final shot in the culture wars was the unibeam powered success of the Iron Man films and as mainstream bowed before their new rulers of popular culture I’ll admit I was smug. Since then the ensuing Pax Geekania has been beneficial for all. But, have we gone to far? Has the power gone to our heads? Has the metaphorical Infinity Gauntlet consumed our good judgement? This week Jim shares with us his experience at a video game themed burlesque show. That’s right, we’ve mixed pixels with nipples and I can’t help but wonder if we’ve gone too far.
Three years ago, Karin surprised me on my birthday with tickets to a July 4thweekend Star Spangled Spectacular. Sounds meh? Well, the surprise was that it was a burlesque show. Let me repeat: My wife got us tickets to a burlesque show. I mean, she’s no Pollyanna McPrudepants, but she’s usually not one to partake in things that feature flagrant exhibition of unmentionables.
The show turned out to be a lot of fun for both of us, with clever, well-choreographed routines, elaborate costumes, singing and of course… lots of jiggling.
There we discovered a kind of “courteous hooliganism”, where catcalls and howling are encouraged but yelling graphic language is against the rules. We’ve gone to a few other Viva Dallas Burlesque shows together when they have themes we’re into, like Disney Cartoons & Fairy Tales, Superheroes or the British Invasion. But this past week, Karin was out of town visiting her parents and, for the first time, I went to a show alone.
It was called Naughty Bits. The theme was video games. There was no way I could possibly notgo.
The theater was packed as usual, but things were different this time. The tables in the back, usually selling jewelry, retro clothing and pin-ups were joined by an indie videogame shop, complete with Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis demo stations. There were a few cosplayers in the audience, among them Final Fantasy VII’s Tifa Lockhart and Zelda: Ocarina Of Time’s Navi. The pre-show band had been replaced by game tracks like the theme to Toejam & Earl. And the idea to put my Nintendo 3DS in my pocket was a good one; I wirelessly StreetPassed with some other gamers who had the same idea.
The show opened with a gong and a run of 90s synthesizer. The audience roared, knowing exactly what was coming. Some even yelled on cue, “MORTAL KOMBAT!” The dancers, dressed as characters Kitana, Mileena and Jade, performed some acrobatics and followed up with some very clever stage fighting. Yes, they each had their signature weapons. And yes, the number finished with boobs. It was an excellent intro to burlesque’s body diversity for the newbies in the audience; whether a performer is athletic, skinny, a curvy average or an ample plus size, everybody gets a generous helping of whistles, cheers and applause.
Next was a routine featuring Final Fantasy VII’schocobo farm, in which a performer created a fan dance out of the yellow tail feathers of her costume, much to the dismay of the chocobo trainer. (For the uninitiated, Chocobos are birds found in every Final Fantasy game.)
The third was a Super Mario routine, with a very glittery warp pipe, a question block, a koopa, a goomba, a piranha plant and a costume featuring a cute-but-holy-cow-that’s-really-short “overalls dress”. You know when you’re playing a Mario game and you jump over and over again as fast as you can to get all the coins out of a block? That happened.
Mad Moxxi represented Borderlands with a sultry-style routine to Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody To Love”. That is, until opening up a nearby loot crate and finding a purple weapon. From there, the dubstep wubs kicked in and, to use Borderlands terms, it went from bazillion to bazillionder.
The last dance before the intermission was a Sonic 2 duo with Sonic and Tails, performed by two Jigglettes, protégés of Houston’s Jigglewatts troupe. At one point, Tails flew around the stage for a bit, just like in the video game…by twirling her tails at high speed. I can only imagine the fan-fiction to be born from that one.
After the intermission, we were welcomed back to our seats with heavy industrial clanks, screeching and an air raid siren. Out to the stage stumbled a monstrous nurse from Silent Hill. Her performance was brilliant, having completely nailed the game characters’ freakish twitching. The nurse lurched forward, zombie-arms flopping about, inadvertently clapping once…then twice. A beat began and she began to twitch in time. By the time Pyramid Head shambled onto the stage, the nurse was in full boogie mode to Kool & The Gang’s Ladies’ Night. The nurse spun the female Pyramid Head around, tied her to a chair and gave her the most comically surreal lap dance ever.
A Bob-Omb was up next with a very bubbly dance done entirely to a chiptune selection from Super Mario World. Her costume consisted entirely of black balloons, a “fuse” hat and a wind-up key on her back. Stripping off the key reveled a pin at the tip, which she used to teasingly pop the balloons one-by-one, and in the process unleashing enough confetti to welcome home an astronaut.
People cheered as the Song Of Time began to play and Princess Zelda came on stage to perform to a medley of the songs from Ocarina Of Time. This routine incorporated a lot of waltz-like dancing, which fit both the ocarina music and the “feel” of the game perfectly. However, it seemed that instead of performing their usual game-related spells, each melody just made an article of clothing vanish.
Dr. Mariorummaged through her medical bag for the right color pills to get rid of the virus on stage. Once the virus was cured, it just so happened that the pill props were conveniently sized to be teasing “peek-a-boo” props for the rest of the routine. I’m glad the first item she cast off was the big Mario mustache. Otherwise, it would have been really awkward.
The next was a surprisingly dramatic and graceful number. (Like the Sally Rand scene in The Right Stuff.) It portrayed the story of Aerith Gainsborough in Final Fantasy VII. Seriously, the performance hit all the major plot points, including her introduction, the flower garden in the church, the White Materia and ultimately, her death at the hands of Sephiroth. To give you an idea of the detail, the dancer actually performed a series of Aerith’s Limit Breaks on stage with a replica staff.
Finally, Parappa The Rapper performed to Chop Chop Master Onion’s “Kick-Punch-Block” rap. The most charming bit here was how, in between the kicking, punching and blocking, the dancer copied the big smile and goofy dancing stance that Parappa does in the game. When the karate moves got too fast, a record scratch switched the music to George Clinton’s Atomic Dog.Parappa gave up on karate and decided to get (almost) naked.
The whole thing was great, especially for the gamers in the audience. While a troupe could have simply adorned video game costumes and gone about doing a regular burlesque show, these routines were cleverly thought out and really put the source material into action. I wish Karin could’ve joined me, but it turns out that Naughty Bits is an annual theme, so we can catch it together next year. Co-op is always better than single player, right?
Regardless of the theme, I highly recommend checking out one of the shows. It’s a wild-but-welcoming atmosphere and, for reference, comparable to a John Waters film on the pervy scale. If that sounds like fun to you and your significant other, you’ll have a great date night.
Trust me on this one.