Dayton works its burlesque grind R.U.D.E.-ly


R.U.D.E. performers Taylor Daniels, Eric Chastain; photo: Lamar Pacley of Shutter Eye Photo

By Arnecia Patterson

Prevailing images of what conjures burlesque are given to scantily clad women who coax high levels of anticipation and egging on from male onlookers, anticipation that they will “take it off…take it all off.” Many burlesque dancers do—the ones who include striptease in their performances.

The association between theatrical burlesque and striptease gives burlesque a clandestine quality as a dance genre. It is what many believe to be hidden in the dim lighting of gentlemen’s clubs and limited to movements building up to the nude reveal the men pay to see. Unlike ballerinas, modern and contemporary, or tap dancers, strippers claim their profession as dancers with ambiguity.

Yet striptease and burlesque, while related, are not always mutually inclusive.  Burlesque has a broader scope than disrobing. It is (at least) a far removed descendant of a literary device, of the same name, used as early as the fifth century in satirical characterization and evolved to theatrical critique in 16th century Britain.

Contemporary burlesque dance is loosely attached to the 16th century employment of mockery, either written or acted, of serious subject matter. In addition to defined categories like travesty and parody, dramatic burlesque could be seen as the forerunner of the sexy, critical commentary that hit North American entertainment in the mid-19th century. Striptease became a part of burlesque later, in the early 20th century.

Today, a burlesque can include a striptease; however, the genre of nude dancing on display at strip bars may not have parody at the heart of its intent. Burlesque performers usually contain their acts to the stage, interacting with their props, which are often lavish, and other entertainers, who are usually women. A famous example of the new wave of burlesque’s neo re-creationists is Dita Von Teese. World renowned, she has popularized burlesque with sumptuous dances with the tone and look of mid-20th century performances—sensual movement to big, brassy music ending in an artful, semi-nude reveal. They are choreographed to complex lighting and use custom props and designer costumes. Images of Von Teese splashing around in an oversized martini glass are now iconic of the growing rise in burlesque dance.

She creates a different spectacle than a group like The Scandelles that made burlesque popular and commercial social commentary, particularly regarding heteronormative, gender, and sexual viewpoints. At both ends of today’s burlesque spectrum, each group is decidedly unlike the starkly unclothed strippers with heads and tails swinging in multi-directional adroitness at the bar near the airport.

No matter where a dancer or group exists on the continuum of contemporary burlesque, sex is the common criterion. Dayton’s R.U.D.E. Burlesque keeps the sexy without stripping down to G-strings and tasseled pasties. The group entered the growing popularity of the genre three years ago when it was called “DNA.” It has been performing and operating as R.U.D.E. Burlesque since 2016.  Its focus is on using sexy entertainment tastefully—the letters R.U.D.E. stand for “respectfully utilizing dance and entertainment”—an acronym that underscores the seven-member group’s range of talents. Acting, dance, and musical abilities are among the five women and two men who auditioned and were chosen to comprise R.U.D.E. Burlesque. Davida Lattimore, one of the group’s original co-founders and its current CEO, says, “We have high regard for the talents and artistic growth of our members, so we want people to see us in a positive way with respect to music, dance, and art.”

Dance is central to R.U.D.E. Burlesque. Lattimore along with members Vanae Pate and Jasmine Gates are contributing choreographers. Additionally, it reaches out to local choreographers who have a skill for narrative and strong dance vocabulary that can mock or play to themed storylines and special occasions for which R.U.D.E. Burlesque is commonly booked. “Our shows have a storyline. They usually last an hour and a half to two hours and include eight or nine short dances. We have done milestone birthday themes, sports, and holiday themes. We choose music and costumes to accommodate the client’s occasion,” explains Lattimore. To round out the shows, R.U.D.E. Burlesque adds a host and, sometimes, guest poets, musicians, or actors. “Our point of reference is a mixture of sex and theatre. A variety of dance and music. Our entertainers are constantly taking dance, voice, or acting classes to stay well-rounded and become better professionals,” says Lattimore.

Artistic versatility is required to capture the origins of burlesque’s historical signatures—mockery, commentary, humor—and exploit its modern expectation of sexual fantasy delivered with professional burlesque technique. And yes, there are technical movements to master, some of which are designed to burlesque classical technique. A classically trained dancer rises up from feet in a tightly closed fifth position while her burlesque counterpart straddles a chair in a frontal position with feet in a wide-open second position. Turns done upright and rigidly in ballet are inverted mid-turn, put into the floor in a split, and worked into an arched back in burlesque. The polar opposite of rigidity. Each is suitable to its aim of engaging entertainment. “We want the audience to feel like it can relate to the theme or situation,” says Lattimore. “We want them to have emotion and be engaged.” In R.U.D.E. Burlesque’s case the fantasy stays in the mind and onstage. The presentation, while suggestive, stays scantily clothed.

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Arnecia Patterson has an infinite capacity to view concert dance. She found her former career as dance executive, funder, and consultant extremely satisfying—and finds writing about dance equally rewarding. Reach DCP Resident Dance Critic Arnecia Patterson at

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