The moment Sweett Biscuit takes the stage, you know you’re in for a great night. “This one is about loving yourself. Not like that,” the emcee says to an eruption of laughter. “In general.” Hairspray’s body-positive paean “Big, Blonde, and Beautiful” pours out of the speakers, and the Bogart’s curtains open to an elaborately costumed dancer and set.
Ginger LeSnapps (stage names, clearly) started Cin City Burlesque in 2009. Having taught ballroom dance for years, she began with classes. Then people asked about performances. “I’d been to a couple burlesque shows, and I was a little bored,” she says. “Like, you spent 10 minutes walking, then standing there taking something off, then walking…I thought, there’s got to be a way more entertaining way of doing this.”
After all, burlesque began as a way to poke fun at those in positions of power and privilege. “It was to turn something on its head,” she says. “The nakedness was secondary, just because of the ridiculousness of it. And the shock value.” LeSnapps maintains that M.O. today. “It’s a way of getting everybody’s attention, of saying I have something to say.” Appropriately, entertaining comes second only to hilarious in describing the troupe’s shows. “We’ve always geared our shows to women,” she says. “I don’t care what men find attractive, entertaining, whatever. I want my female audience members to feel great when they leave. I want them to laugh their asses off.”
On May 20, they return to Bogart’s—as the house troupe, they perform quarterly—for Live Fast, Die Young: The Rock Show. “We’ve got everything from rockabilly and Johnny Cash to punk to hair bands to classic rock,” says LeSnapps. Buy tickets in advance and show up early. Then settle in for a riotous night. And, in the immortal words of Sweett Biscuit, “Keep your eyes on the dancing, but your heart on the nip.”