Burlesque is not what was seen in that awful Cher/Christina Aguilera movie. It is performance art wherein the performer has complete control over the number: costume, song, and choreography. It also involves nudity (though this post does not). Nerdlesque is an offshoot of the burlesque scene, combining burlesque with all things nerdy and geeky.
Dangrrr Doll is an award-winning burlesque and nerdlesque performer living in New York City. She has performed all over the world, is a professional costumer by day, and was ranked #34 on 21st Century Burlesque’s Top 50 Burlesque Performers of 2014. She took a few minutes from her busy schedule to talk to me about nerdlesque and share some beautiful photos.
Chris Arnone: Panels readers will include a lot of “burlesque virgins,” as we call them. To you, what is burlesque?
Dangrrr Doll: Burlesque is the art of exposure. Sure- exposure of skin, but also the exposure of intimacy, emotions, pain, beauty, and conflict. You have three to six minutes to make an impact on someone. It’s quite exciting.
Chris Arnone: How did you get started performing burlesque?
Dangrrr Doll: I was always hugely into costumes and, frankly, nudity. I was super into theater, and musical theater… in college I ran a live Rocky Horror Picture Show troupe. We had a thirty minute pre-show cabaret, and I started doing burlesque as a part of that. It was pretty infrequent but I loved it…!
Chris Arnone: What attracts you to nerdlesque in particular?
Dangrrr Doll: As a kid, I became obsessed with books and video games, probably because I was kind of a loner. In them I found characters who reflected my own life, personality and desires. These characters sought out adventure, freedom; they fought injustice and created better worlds for themselves and their loved ones. By using familiar pop culture characters, I can invite people in with something relatable and then use it as a lens through which they are able to more clearly see my vision.
Chris Arnone: How do you feel nerdlesque fits into the burlesque scene at large?
Dangrrr Doll: I think it fits great! To me, there’s no difference between someone using a cat or a nurse to get their point across, and someone using Batman. I do think it is important for nerdlesque performers to remember that not everyone in their audience will recognize whatever it is they are referencing in their performance; without our audience, we are nothing. To purposefully decide not to entertain the whole audience is to fail as a performer, so it’s important to make your act with that in mind and create a performance that is accessible for everyone.
It’s also a great introduction into the larger burlesque scene for many audience members who might not have felt comfortable going to a traditional burlesque show at first. They get drawn in because they already know they love the theme, and then they fall in love with what the art form presents.
Chris Arnone: How do you choose your character/routine?
Dangrrr Doll: I choose characters that are visually interesting and have personality traits, problems, or circumstances that speak to me.
Chris Arnone: Nerdy is the new black with the rise of comic book movies, TV shows, and merchandising. How has the rise of nerd culture affected nerdlesque?
Dangrrr Doll: As nerd culture becomes more popular, of course nerdlesque would too. More people can recognize and relate to pop culture characters and themes than ever before. I’m excited about it because it means nerdlesque can gain some legitimacy, and the quality can improve.