Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 (coronavirus)

San Diego’s Diversionary Theater Is Bringing Back Burlesque

Photo credit: Raymond Elstad

The cast of "In the Va Va Voom Room" display the diversity of burlesque dance styles.

San Diego's Diversionary Theater Is Bringing Back Burlesque


Michael Mizerany, choreographer, "In The Va Va Voom Room"


San Diego's Diversionary Theater is bringing back its very popular burlesque show, "In The Va Va Voom Room," to ring in 2017. The first run of the show in Jan. 2016 played for sold-out audiences.

This year's show features four men and four women dancers performing acts designed by four choreographers.

Burlesque is not often talked about as an artform. Choreographer Michael Mizerany said the show is not about taking off clothes, "It's about how you take off your clothes and the way you do it is empowering."

One new addition to this year's "In the Va Va Voom Room" is pole dancing.

Pole dancing often conjures up negative connotations. Even the online Oxford Dictionaries link pole dancing to strip clubs. But pole dancer Victoria LeBrun challenged those stereotypes: "It’s quite a battle because there’s the issue of wanting people to take away that stigma, you know people need to know that pole does exist outside of strip clubs but at the same time I find it just as important for people to take away the negative stigma that comes with strip clubs."

Dancer Steven Beasley added, " There’s also a whole other preconception or stigma with men doing pole. So they say how does a man look sexy or how is a man be masculine with a pole but there is a lot of movements that are not just feminine there’s a lot of strength that’s involved."

Beasley displays that strength in the dance "Way Down We Go" choreographed by Cara Steen in "In the Va Va Voom Room." Steen, who is also one of the dancers, sees pole dancing as an art form.

"Just like any type of art, it can go in so many different directions and that’s why I believe it’s so important to bring it to a stage, to bring it to a theater so that we are experiencing the diversity of what pole has to offer instead of simply just seeing it in the form of a strip club," Steen said.

Steen’s background is in classical dance but she began pole dancing three years ago.

"I found that it fully resonated with who I am and what I love and combined so many different elements of strength and flexibility and sensuality and an element of feminine side and it combined it all with musicality and performance and so pole kind of felt like a direction that I wanted to go in my performance art career," Steen explained.

Her choreography has such beauty that you might miss how much strength and athleticism is involved.

"Oh my goodness it absolutely takes a lot of discipline, a lot of training, a lot of bruising," Steen said.

"The biggest difference that I saw from going from aerial to pole was just the different type of pain," Beasley said. "I definitely had the strength I needed to have in terms of the conditioning aspects but I had a lot of points on my body that usually don’t touch the apparatus in terms of like inner thigh, or the side of my back or my rib so I didn’t have any callouses and I had to work some of those nerves down a little bit but other than that it worked out pretty good in terms of the transition."

LeBrun said she used to be overweight, "I could not do a push up when I started pole nor could I do touch my toes. Now I can bust out ten pull ups solid, I’m relatively flexible. It’s done amazing things for my mind and body. I am more comfortable in who I am."

"It’s a full body workout," Steen added. "We are using our upper body strength to pull, we’re using our legs to push and to squeeze, we are using our core to engage and to lift so it really is it’s full and it’s dynamic and… With that practice comes a sense of lightness and I think you can see that and you can feel it as you progress and as you train and as you get stronger."

Last year audiences were treated to an "In the Va Va Voom Room" that was decidedly burlesque from start to finish but LeBrun said "Way Down We Go" won’t adhere to traditional notions of burlesque either.

"I definitely think it has beautiful, sensual elements to it, definitely accents that are similar to burlesque. I think it’s definitely more on the side of just the pole fitness and the contemporary I’d say it’s more contemporary than anything," LeBrun said.

"So just come and experience something that maybe you haven’t experienced before," Steen concluded.

And after, you might be inclined to define pole dancing in a whole new way.

"In The Va Va Voom Room" runs Jan. 5 - 8 at the Diversionary Theater located at 4545 Park Boulevard in University Heights.


San Diego News Matters podcast branding

KPBS' daily news podcast covering local politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings so you can listen on your morning commute.

  • Don’t have time to keep up on the latest news? We’ve got you covered with a mid-week check-in every Wednesday afternoon.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Midday Edition banner

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.