We’ve all seen it. The dim lights, the glittering diamonds, a whoosh of feathers, the crook of a hidden smile and bright red lips. Burlesque is instantly recognizable if not for the sex appeal for some, but for being a piece of the performing arts that has managed to make its way back to center stage once again. Burlesque and cabaret, although usually used interchangeably by having the same roots, are two genres of entertainment that keep the audience riveted throughout an entire show by using variety as a secret weapon. And Miami’s own underground burlesque show, Clubesque is as varied as they come.
That’s the key to keeping audiences happy. Not just the slinky dancing and nostalgic music, but the constant surprises in programming. The acts that you’d never expect to experience back to back, or witness inside a theater. When Clubesque’s founder, Sunni Stephens first decided she wanted to get on stage, she realized the key to connecting with people was by making the program inclusive of all performance styles. As an Atlanta singer-songwriter looking for venues and bookings back in the 2000s, she noticed the uniformity of performance programs. Only drag, only burlesque, only comedy. Very few places brought back the idea that an audience would be into a little bit of everything. So, on July 3, 2014 at Atlanta’s East Andrews Upstairs, Clubesque opened to thunderous applause.
Photo by Clubesque
In just a few years, her shows grew from 125-seat venues to over a thousand seat theaters. Eventually though, she decided to bring the show to her current home in Miami. While many of you might think burlesque is a thing of the past, you’re quite right. In fact, burlesque and cabaret are embedded in the artistic make up of this city. “Back in the late 50s and early 60s, Miami was the Premier destination for everyone. It was the number one tourist site in the world” said Stephens. “At that time, believe it or not, burlesque played a huge role in Miami’s entertainment industry. Many of the top burlesque performers in the world on film and television would come down to Miami and had residencies with The Rat Pack, Marilyn Monroe, and of course Jackie Gleason.”
Photo of The Rat Pack circa same era
To Stephens, bringing back the appreciation for the art form of burlesque is essential in showcasing Miami’s cultural variety, to move it past the pigeon hole that nightclubs and beachside blackouts have brought us to. “It was important to me that I brought a level of excellence to the burlesque scene down here” she said. For her, Clubesque isn’t an attraction built for Instagram, or an excuse to get lit. For her, she’s resurrecting the grace behind an art form that, like Miami, has a story that hasn’t been properly told. “It was important to me that I made sure that Miami knows what Burlesque is. That it’s not a bar-style entertainment but a top-notch and glamorous art form that we all should know and love.” Her shows retain the golden Hollywood charm, but enforce the modern perspective behind self-expression.
In December of 2018, Clubesque premiered in Miami Beach just in time for Art Basel, and with her already well-known accolades, her show sold out almost instantly–with each monthly performance following suit in selling every ticket. Because of her popularity, the show has now been promoted to The Fillmore’s Gleason room where, for the very first time this month, Clubesque will perform to over 200 people with their new show: Cocktails & Cabaret. “The overarching theme of the show is a little song, a little dance, and a lot of fun” Sunni said. As glamorous as they come, this show is meant to evoke a sense of pride in femininity, the drama of carnavale, and a sensuous experience the likes of which you haven’t seen before in the city.
On April 26th, Cocktails & Cabaret will feature burlesque queen, the Golden GlamAmazon, currently among the top 10 burlesque performers in the world. She performs nightly in New York, and has graced some of the biggest stages in the world including the Sydney Opera House, Helinski Festival, and Stockholm. The show will also feature guest drag queen performer, Queen of the Bus, currently Miss Miami Beach Pride 2019 Queen. Each show is hosted by Miss Florida at Large, their very own drag queen, Miss Noel Leon.
Whatever your interests are, witnessing a burlesque show is a bucket list item. Witnessing a GOOD burlesque show is even more rare and Clubesque is a perfect way to start. Grab tickets here.
Cover photo by Clubesque