Rising from the ashes of the now disbanded Dust Bowl Dolls, the 7 Deadly Sins Burlesque Revue has established itself over the last three years as one of the city’s premier performance troupes focused on resurrecting the art of burlesque for modern audiences.
“Burlesque is all about mystery and fun and fantasy. It has a glamour and playfulness you don’t see much anymore, and an appreciation for sensuality,” said Sins performer Eva Aphrodisia. “It may be big and bawdy and glamorous, but it also relies on the little things, like a gesture or a glance, that can give you that special frisson. Slowly rolling down a stocking can be as seductive, if not more so, than blatantly shaking your ass in a G-string.”
Burlesque originated in the 19th century as a form of theatrical satire that used skits, songs and dance to skewer social, political and artistic conventions in a humorous, often ribald manner. Unlike strippers, burlesque performers never get completely nude.
“Modern burlesque retains that sense of transgressiveness and the willingness to poke fun at social norms, combined with a celebration of female sensuality,” Aphrodisia said. “It really shows that women can enjoy their sexuality for its own sake, on their own terms, that don’t have to be based on others’ standards.”
Incorporating elements of both classical and neo-burlesque, the Sins’ 10 members have a variety of routines — from sensual to funny to kinky — that play to the personality and interests of each performer.
For example, Mary Ann Moan is known for comedic numbers that include a bra with working headlights and a rendition of “Oklahoma!” that ends with the eruption of a miniature oil derrick. Meanwhile, Aphrodisia wears a costume made of candy and cellophane that showers audiences with sweets.
In addition to creating original costumes and choreography, Aphrodisia said that choosing a stage name is a big part of defining one’s burlesque persona.
“It can be punny, cutesy, sexy or edgy, but most of all, it should be evocative,” she said.
The troupe also features two men — aka “boylesque” performers.
“Burlesque at its beginning always involved men. I’m sad to say that now we are a very minor part of the movement,” said Eddie Mercury. “Men put their personality, their humor and their sexuality out there just the same as the women do.”
Mercury began performing with his wife, Vera Voodoo, but has become a popular solo performer, earning loyal fans who attend just to see him and other male performer, Pepe LaRue.
Since its inception, 7 Deadly Sins has performed at numerous clubs, exhibitions and festivals. The troupe also performs to packed houses on the first Sunday of every month at the Prohibition Room.
Aphrodisia said audience response has been overwhelmingly positive, and encouraged those interested not to be timid about attending.
“If you’re intrigued by the idea of an intellectual striptease, enjoy dance and comedy and indie entertainment, are a nostalgia fan, or like sparkly things, you’ll have fun,” she said. “We’re sardonic, good-natured, a little offbeat and completely irreverent. And then we take off our clothes.”