Burlesque is back!
After a two-year absence, the variety-style show has returned, thanks to a new troupe, Hard Heart Burlesque, that was founded by local talents Marina Elaine and Amanda Heisey. The troupe debuted in February to a sold-out audience at McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre.
“We’re excited to bring all sorts of performers and types of shows to Sarasota," says Heisey. "As such an artistic city, it deserves to be representative of a wide variety of art and entertainment.”
The pair say they feel honored by the support of local producer Laura Daniel Gale, whose Black Diamond Burlesque delighted crowds for a decade with glamor and mischief. Gale says she is pleased to pass the torch to Elaine and Heisey.
“Hard Heart is bringing the best of the best burlesque and variety performers to the stage and this gives our audiences a chance to see the full range of dancers that embody all sorts of styles," says Gale. "They are my dream team to carry on the mantle of sophisticated burlesque that Black Diamond had established.”
So what might you see at a show?
There is, of course, the art of the striptease, acts that demonstrate there’s more than one way to take off a glove (and more). On any given night, there also might be comedy routines, live music or singing and circus numbers, such as aerial feats or sword swallowing. Though acts may be united by a cheeky theme (like the upcoming Spring Fever, which debuts Sunday, May 8), individually they can be funny, coquettish, poignant, absurd or thought-provoking.
Each number is largely self-produced, with the dancers conceptualizing their work from start to finish. After imagining the piece and selecting music, they compose the choreography, make set pieces or props and design the costumes. The duo laughs as they explain that it takes a lot of rhinestones and patience to make a gown light up under the spotlights.
Part of the pleasure for entertainers is creating a transformative stage persona. Is their alter ego sweet or spicy? Do they embrace their spooky side, fuse pop culture references for “nerd-lesque” or keep it classical?
“Burlesque is for everybody and every body,” says Elaine. “It allows a diverse group of entertainers to embrace themselves as creators. Everyone has a story inside them, and we want our audiences to see themselves reflected in the variety of performers on stage.”
Elaine describes her persona, Miss Marina Elaine, as “Florida’s sweetheart with a switchblade.” As the online manager for Canned Ham Vintage, she is inspired by Hollywood glamor from yesteryear, with a rock ’n’ roll twist. Imagine a modernized Scarlett O’Hara doing a floating feather fan dance to Santana tunes.
Drawing on her background in musical theater, Heisey’s Karma Kandlewick persona plays with camp, character and comedy. She mixes songs to create musical mash-ups and often contributes her vocal talents.
“As a theater person, I’m usually told who to be," says Heisey. "Burlesque is an opportunity to make up my own characters and explore my own ideas."
With the forming of Hard Heart Burlesque, the pair hopes they can share with Sarasotans a sense of escapism that leaves them feeling energized and entertained.
“The past few years have been hard on everyone,” says Heisey. "We want to transport our guests someplace magical for an hour and a half and send them home with a little sparkle.”
Hard Heart Burlesque’s next show, Spring Fever, starts at 8 p.m. on Sunday, May 8, at McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre. Tickets are $37. Guests must be 18 or older. For more info, call (941) 925-3869 or visit the McCurdy's website.