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Bela Von Gosi wielded flapper-era feathered fans to cover and reveal her body during her act at The Cicada last Friday. Photo by Madison Simmons.

Vivienne Vermuth has produced burlesque shows in North Texas for 15 years.

She has some thoughts.

“It’s like a slow trainwreck but in a positive way,” she said of the artform. “There’s a weird pull, and you can’t look away, but it’s a good thing.”

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Nightshade Burlesque, co-founded and -produced with friend Violent Lavender, began in May 2023 and takes place the first Friday of every month at The Cicada on the Near Southside. Unlike perhaps some other, similar troupes, Nightshade fits right in with Pride Month.

Ophelia Winter belted out “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” the Barbra Streisand classic that sometimes serves as a queer anthem, which is especially apt for Pride Month.
Photo by Madison Simmons.

Vermuth said, “I wanted to create this vibe that celebrated all of these elements — dark, goth, art, queer art, BIPOC art — [for] people who never really felt they had a place to really shine.”

Vermuth makes it clear that burlesque is not only about the nudity bit.

“The power lies in the performer,” they stressed. “We control what’s happening onstage. We control your experience. There’s an inherent enjoyment [for the audience] in showing up and not knowing what’s going to happen.”

I knew that firsthand. As a kid, I had a violent obsession with Moulin Rouge, which isn’t exactly a documentary of the artform. When I showed up at The Cicada a few days ago, I felt excitement with a shadow of apprehension.

That shadow tucked its tail as soon as Buck Wylde appeared beneath the lights. The Dallas-based drag king swaggered and smized across the stage, playing a vampire from the funny FX show What We Do in the Shadows. While emceeing, he worked in anonymous confessions solicited from the audience which ranged from the fairly tame (catfishing people online as a teen) to the raunchy (did a couple actually spend intermission hooking up in the parking lot?).

Six other performers danced, sang, and stripped the night away. Luxurious goth goodness (are plague doctor masks sexy? they might be sexy) segued to gut-wrenching soulfulness (a lip sync to sad-girl music reduced half the audience to tears) and good, old-fashioned stripteases and titty shaking (with a gender-bending slant).

Vermuth described the outlandish burlesque personas as distilling existing or aspirational parts of oneself into a concentrate.

“It’s almost like an elixir you can boil down and give to the audience, and they can drink it and be intoxicated by it,” they said.

Makes sense to me. I stuck with Topo Chico all night and still left feeling giddy, buzzed, and even drunk off the energy and passion in the room.

The cast of Nightshade Burlesque’s June show at The Cicada could not leave without a final bow last Friday.
Photo by Madison Simmons.
Around 60% of Nightshade’s crowds are repeat customers.
Photo by Madison Simmons.
Fairy Despair captivated the Cicada crowd last Friday with a lip-synced rendition of “Hot to Go” by Chappell Roan, a queer darling who recently went mainstream.
Photo by Madison Simmons.
Ophelia Winter belted out “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” the Barbra Streisand classic that sometimes serves as a queer anthem, which is especially apt for Pride Month.
Photo by Madison Simmons.

Read about the places where food and fabulousness meet in our Ate Day8 of Drag Brunches article here.

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