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Nerdlesque : Cosplay Strip Tease

Updated: Sep 16, 2019 12:07
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By: Hannah Harkness

What do Spock, GladOS, Carl Sagan, Hermione, the cast of the Venture Brothers, Finn, Poison Ivy, Sailor Moon, Magneto, Krodos/Kang, Tank Girl, Wonder Woman, Pennywise, Loki, a Storm Trooper, Daria, Delirium, and Silent Hill nurses have in common?

I have personally witnessed a striptease act based on all of them. My name is Hannah Harkness and I’m a lifetime Nerdlesque-aholic.

Before I got lost in the world of comedy, I was a veteran convention goer. I was an attendee, volunteer, staff member or exhibitor/vendor at over 40 anime, comic book, renaissance, pop culture, fandom specific (Doctor Who etc.) conventions between the ages of 17-22. These events have been and will always be my home because of the amount of people that aren’t afraid to get excited about pop culture, especially other women.

As a 13 year and counting Rocky Horror Picture Show cast member, I’m always looking to befriend people who understand why someone would like a movie enough to dress up as the characters and act it out over and over again.

So you can imagine my delight when I discovered an entire genre of performance dedicated to celebrating pop culture with the same sexy and bizarre vaudeville spirit that permeates The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I went to my first Nerdlesque show at a New York Comic Con after party back in 2009 and was immediately hooked. At the time, I knew there had been a revival in burlesque with performers such as Dita Von Teese, but I only knew about classic burlesque with glittery gowns, ostrich fans, and elbow length gloves.

What I did not know about, until this after show, was that this new era of burlesque produced a sub-genre where women dress up as characters like Sailor Moon and take their clothes off in sexy choreographed dance routines.

Since then, I’ve been to dozens of performances by talented people of all genders, races, and sizes paying homage to their favorite characters. Nerdlesque doesn’t limit itself to genres typically associated with geek culture, either. I’ve seen acts inspired by Crash and Mulholland Drive. Troupes/producers I follow have done tributes to Game of Thrones, Star Wars, Adult Swim, David Cronenberg, John Waters, Archer, even It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (they called the show “The Gang Does Burlesque”).

I even had the amazing opportunity to write the script for and co-host a Wes Anderson Burlesque tribute with Envoûté Magic Burlesque in Philadelphia. By the way, if you want to give yourself a headache, try writing a crossover plot between EVERY WES ANDERSON MOVIE where they all strip. I pulled it off though, and Nerdlesquer Liberty Rose and I hosted the show as Max Fischer and Rosemary Cross from Rushmore. I didn’t strip – I left that to Max.

Liberty Rose and Hannah Harkness doing a Rushmore Nerdlesque performance. Photo Credit: Dave Garrett Sarrafian Photo Credit: Dave Garrett Sarrafian Photo Credit: Dave Garrett Sarrafian

Since I wanted to get more than the fan perspective, I caught up with some of my favorite performers and asked them what Nerdlesque means to them.

Liberty Rose as Beetlejuice. Photo Credit: @OhHoneyBeavers (Shot at the 2017 Nerdlesque Festival in NYC) Liberty Rose as Beetlejuice. Photo Credit: @OhHoneyBeavers (Shot at the 2017 Nerdlesque Festival in NYC) Liberty Rose as Beetlejuice. Photo Credit: @OhHoneyBeavers (Shot at the 2017 Nerdlesque Festival in NYC)

Liberty Rose: “Nerdlesque is the most intimate way to tribute one’s nerd-dom. Most of us burlesque babes grew up outside the realm of the cool kids. As adults, there’s something wonderfully liberating about celebrating our once shunned passions and turning the dichotomy of cool vs. geek on its head by baring our butts, breasts, and hearts in tribute to our favorite pop culture icons.”

Quorra Vahn Tassels. Photo Credit: Brian Kerner

 Quorra Vahn Tassels: “Nerdlesque is something I enjoy doing because I identify as a huge nerd and, as a burlesque performer, it’s a way for me to express my love for certain characters and fandoms. I love bonding over comic books and D&D campaigns, but Nerdlesque gets to combine my love of nerdery and my passion for burlesque, with the end result of getting to share twice as many interests with the world I perform to!”

Little Miss Rollerhoops as Jessica Rabbit. Photo Credit: Paul Nomad

Little Miss Rollerhoops“Nerdlesque gives me the freedom (and then some) to relive my childhood -“adulthood” through art and be as ridiculous as I want or pay as much homage to each fandom as I’d like. I’ll always be a big kid no matter how old I am, and being able to put characters I love on a stage regardless of their age makes me feel ageless as well. I can be an adult like Pamela Isley (Poison Ivy), a childlike Madeline, a High school student like Daria, or an ancient demon stuck in a high schooler’s body but who’s been alive for centuries like Anya from Buffy the vampire Slayer

Want to take a journey to the land where the references drop as fast as the underwear? You’re in luck – New York has everything, including bawdy nerd dancing.

The Nerdlesque Festival 

Aw darn, you just missed it New York, but have no fear, they’ll be back! This annual celebration of nerdy burlesque has been bringing performers from all over the globe to rock Webster Hall since 2014. Check out their highlights and keep on top of their website  – you won’t want to miss this next year!

D20 Burlesque

As the website states, “Where our charisma is only matched by our dexterity”! This troupe has been stripping nerd style since 2011 and regularly brings the heat to the Parkside Lounge in East Village. Get on their website and search for their next event!

Cosplay Burlesque

These saucy nerds have been holding it down since 2008! My first Nerdlesque show was one of theirs. If you’re a convention-goer, keep your eyes peeled for them-they tour conventions nationally.

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Hannah Harkness

Hannah Harkness

Hannah Harkness is a stand up comedian, writer, and neo vaudeville human surviving in Brooklyn, NY.

1 Comment

  1. Peter Straus
    April 20, 2020 at 7:22 am

    /What happened to the Junkyard Kitty (Cat?)? I only saw one match, it was on Hannah Harkness’ FB page, and it was awesome. Meow!!!!!