The heart of burlesque is in the tease. It starts with a bawdy wink and a slow glove peel — one finger at a time — but in the end, it’s all about what is not revealed.
Take Ruby Mimosa of the Atomic Bombshells, for example. A Hawaiian-born burlesque dancer, her act begins with a glittering grass skirt twice the width of Mimosa’s tattooed waist. It gently sweeps the floor with every sensuous sway as she hulas to a lulling ’50s ballad: “True looove, is an enchanted island…”
Rrrriip! The music switches to a flashy ’20s swing. With a shake and shimmy, the garments start to fly. There goes the flowered shrug. Then the grass skirt. All that’s left is a dazzling coconut bra and peek-a-boo skirt when she bends backward into the splits.
“I don’t want to give too much away, but our style is very classic,” said Kitten La Rue, co-founder of the Atomic Bombshells. The troupe’s name refers to the golden age of burlesque in the ’40s and ’50s. “It’s kind of campy and tongue-in-cheek. It’s a combination of elements — striptease and dance definitely, but comedy is the cornerstone of what we do.”
The Seattle-based Bombshells will bring all seven of their doe-eyed darlings for a show never seen before at the Performing Arts Center of Wenatchee. It’s more risque than the PAC’s typical Saturday night, but the idea is to introduce a new kind of demographic — young 20- to 30-somethings, both men and women — said executive director Matt Cadman.
“We’re going from the Beatles to the Bombshells — one demographic to another — in three days,” he said.
The PAC booked the troupe after a detailed selection process that narrowed the field from 120 shows to 13. Of all the PAC’s shows this season, the burlesque show was the first to pick up a sponsor — For the Love of It, an adult store at Olds Station, he said.
“The Bombshells are more in the French tradition, like cancan,” Cadman said. “It’s not just a striptease show.”
“I kind of equate it to the ‘Rocky Horror’ show in August, there was a whole other set of people there all having a great time, but it’s not for everyone.”
So far, ticket sales have been brisk. As of Tuesday, the show was more than half sold.
“We’ve traveled and performed all over the world, at big opera houses and small venues, often we’ve found that the smaller communities are often our most incredible audiences,” La Rue said. “I think it’s because they don’t see stuff like this all the time. People get really excited.”
The Atomic Bombshells helped create Seattle’s hearty burlesque following. They were the first troupe to stage ongoing, fully-produced shows, and established the Triple Door as the go-to venue for burlesque in the city. When mainstream media began to take notice around 2004, the Atomic Bombshells served as the face of the art form’s resurgence, La Rue said.
“I’d say we’ve been instrumental in the burlesque revival,” La Rue said. “We weren’t the first troupe, but we were the first troupe to have successful long runs of shows.”
The Wenatchee show will be a best-of compilation of the Bombshells’ favorite acts, she said.
La Rue got her start in New Orleans. A classically trained dancer, she learned burlesque as part of the Shim Sham Review. When that show closed, she and Fanny N. Flames moved to Seattle and founded the Bombshells in 2003.
“There wasn’t anyone doing this kind of classic, fully-produced burlesque shows in Seattle,” La Rue said. “There were a couple of established performers, Indigo Blue was already doing amazing work, but a lot of our girls were new to burlesque. We trained them from the ground up.”
One of the performers, Honey D. Luxe, designs every costume, custom fit to the performers. She also operates a side business that outfits other troupes and performers as well.
“The thing that sets us apart is the production value — the experience of the performers, the costuming is incredible, the comedy is amazing,” La Rue said. “There’s just real artistry happening.”
Rachel Hansen: 664-7139
If you go
What: Atomic Bombshells burlesque
When: 9 p.m. Sept. 21
Where: Performing Arts Center of Wenatchee
Information: pacwen.org, 663-2787