"I hope these stay on."
"I know, it's really hot out there,"
It's 30 minutes before show time and the mood backstage at
Some performers practice dance routines, while others warm up their voices. Some have forgotten eyelashes or glue, or just need a bit of reassurance to calm their nerves.
"Performance nights are absolutely manic, but in the best possible way,"
"With so many troupe members trying on costumes and changing between acts, it can get hectic, but we try to help each other out in every way possible. The camaraderie backstage is sensational."
Meanwhile, house music blasts and a line snakes out the door at WeAD, an old train depot turned art gallery/work space,
A towering presence enters the room from backstage, and the room breathes a collective sigh of relief as the evening's emcee,
"Leggs has always been a crowd-pleasing performance artist and an activist all throughout the Southwest. Her personality and humor are not an act, she makes a lasting impression," Cinema said. The audience seems to love every bit of it.
"It's great fun," said attendee
The heart is confidence
Cinema said burlesque might seem silly to people who see it simply as a good time. For performers, it can be mentally exhausting. Inspiration comes from everywhere -- even a simple photograph -- and meticulous research going into finding songs, creating first-class costumes on a budget and honing performances.
"The biggest part of the mental prep is doubting yourself," Cinema said. " Doubting if you feel weird about your appearance or your ability or even if your other responsibilities are hindering your focus."
The members of her current troupe, she said, support each other and work on the tasks at hand until they have built the courage and strength to nail a performance.
The preparation paid off during this particular show, "Lucy Luvs Cinema," which took place
He performed two acts. The first, "Jailhouse rock," showcases one of his biggest influences: Elvis. For his second act, he chose a "Rocky" theme.
During intermission audience members said they enjoyed what they had seen.
"So far so good,"
A group of women commended the troupe for getting up on stage and doing something they wouldn't dare.
"Good for them. You wouldn't catch me on stage in a million years. It takes a lot of courage to get up there and perform in front of a group of strangers like that," said
"It's great to be able to come out on a weekend and see this type of show in
The Strangeluvs troupe was created by Cinema and
"Lucy and I had a big vision that was against the waves of that troupe at the time," Cinema said. "In a month, we had our name, a couple of new faces to burlesque art and a fan following."
Most of the performers in The Strangeluvs are in their early- to mid-twenties, grew up in or around the
"I am a burlesque performer because I think it is a beautiful art form that showcases the human body in a seductive but thoughtful manner,"
Cinema grew up around the pinup and rockabilly culture, and her look attracted the attention of local photographers and filmmakers.
"I was always a
"She is one of the most inspiring performers, and every time I talk to her she tells me to push myself farther," La Bamba said. "She's one of those performers that you just absolutely cannot take your eyes off of, and that's how I want to be some day."
Keep calm and carry on
Not every show will go off without a hitch. The key,
"The audience can feel if you're stressed out and it definitely shows in your routines if you're worried about something. If music cuts off, you end gracefully; if your pastie pops off, you put your hand over yourself and keep dancing. ... Laugh it off later and learn from it."
It's hard for many of the troupe members to choose a favorite part of the burlesque experience, but one aspect most of them could agree on is their love of performing in front of a live audience.
"My absolute favorite part of doing burlesque is how I feel about my body when I hear people screaming and cheering for me. I have struggled with body issues for most of my life and with eating disorders throughout my teen years,"
Cinema has similar feelings about the art.
"(Burlesque) is the only thing in my life that still makes me nervous and deeply confident at the same time. Because when I see body shaming around me constantly, but then I see a very petite girl and a voluptuous woman with equal confidence, zeal and support, I fall in love with the art all over again."
To these performers, burlesque has everything to do with positive body image, self-empowerment and conquering the stereotypes surrounding human bodies.
See them perform
Keep up with the troupe and find out about future performances on
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