Did you know you can watch ladies dance sans clothes and it doesn’t have to be in a suspicious-looking bar that sells unlimited buffalo wings with every lap dance under aggressive fluorescent lighting? It’s true! You have no doubt heard of burlesque, the comical dance that, while indeed involving the removal of clothes, also involves choreography meant to tell stories typically involving themes of empowerment and feminism, emphasizing the bawdy as well as the bold. It’s a night out that everyone can enjoy without the soggy embarrassment of a strip show. You might not get quite the same, er, rousing excitement as you would otherwise, but you might just be enlightened and have your eyes opened to an alternative form of art and sexuality.
But where do you see it, I hear you asking? Well here is a handy list of some of the best and most popular venues across the country.
New York City: Nurse Bettie 106 Norfolk Street, Lower East Side
This LES bar is so small (let’s call it intimate) it could be classified as a hole-in-the-wall. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that the shows here are fantastic. The cocktails are tasty and the dancing is first-class and while it can indeed get quite crowded, the atmosphere here — with its candles and spotlights and posters of exotically-posed women on the wall — is perfect for a night out.
Los Angeles: Harlow Gold Santa Monica and Long Beach
Hailed by the LA Weekly as the “best bump n’ grind on the West Side” and described by their own crew as “not for the faint of heart,” this ensemble of dancers perform predominantly at Harvelle’s Santa Monica and Long Beach locations, but are also be available for private bookings. Whether they’re dancing on your tabletop (not a euphemism!) or performing acrobatic tricks, this cabaret show has something for everyone. Those in the mood for some Star Wars cosplay to go with their dancing (because why not?) might want to check out the Comic Book Girls at Dragonfly.
San Francisco: Red Hots Burlesque 3158 Mission Street, Potrero Hill
Sexy bodies, outrageous costumes and a healthy sense of humor make Red Hots Burlesque at El Rio the best of the Bay. Routinely hailed as the city’s best (and not just for the dancing either), and even labelled by Playboy as one of the “top 3 burlesque shows in the country to take your girl to,” this place is a can’t miss when in San Francisco. Affordable and conveniently located in the Potrero Hill district, with views outside of the skyline and the bay just as stunning as the sights inside. They even have beds upon which to sit and watch the show.
Seattle: Sinner Saint Burlesque Various Locations
This troop used to perform every Thursday at Noc Noc, but since that bar near the water closed down last year they have taken their crew of dark yet glamorous dancers on the road. As disappointing as it is for local Seattle residents that they don’t get to see Evilyn Sin Claire, Diva Le Deviant and the rest every week, there are still plenty of chances to catch them around the city.
Chicago: Wiggle Room at The Everleigh Social Club 939 W Randolph Street, West Loop
Every Friday at The Everleigh Social Club, a wonderful little club that looks a bit like an updated 19th-century bar, is Wiggle Room. Not only are they burlesque performers, but stand-up comedians as well! They recently just returned for their sixth season, promising a show by the best burlesque group in the world as voted in 2010 by the Burlesque Hall of Fame. Make sure you reserve seating as there is limited space.
Dallas: Viva Dallas Burlesque 1825 Abrams Road, Lakewood
The biggest burlesque show in Texas is hosted at The Lakewood Theater in Dallas every first and third Friday of the month, and have earned themselves a “Best of Dallas 2012” award. Cheeky and colorful, Viva Dallas Burlesque is part theater, part comedy, part storytelling, part stripping and specializes in neo and vaudevillian styles. The venue is less intimate, but the show is essential.
Montreal: Blue Velvet Burlesque at Café Campus 57 Prince-Arthur East
And for those north of the border, you should check out Blue Velvet Burlesque with their monthly show that puts the ‘tease’ in striptease, running until May of 2015. Featuring an assortment of dancers like Red Rocket, Miss Melicious, Coco Vanille, Trixie Cups and Lili Lollipop, they will charm the audience with laughs and naughtiness, reliving the glory days of Montreal burlesque with a contemporary twist.