Courtney Cruz is owner, producer, dancer, and nerd extraordinaire at Devil’s Playground Burlesque. California native, her shows are the pioneers in the realm of “Nerdlesque”. Her company produces shows such as The last Show on Alderaan, Video Game Girls, and A Dark Knight of Burlesque. We got her to sit down for and interview to tell us a little bit about her shows and what led her to create them.
JR:How did you get started in burlesque?
Courtney Cruz: I personally got started from my modeling career. Before burlesque I was doing alternative modeling from the time I was 18 to when I was 20 years old. I used to do a lot of fetish modeling, nothing triple X, for me it was always about the tease which is the same thing with burlesque really. Growing up in a family where we did a lot of theater prepared me to be in front of an audience. The reason I got into burlesque was because it was one of those lost art forms that disappeared in the 60’s. There was this revival for burlesque especially here in Los Angelos. So given that I was very comfortable with my body, nudity, and sexuality ,burlesque felt like home to me. It was very comfortable.
JR:How long have you been doing burlesque?
Courtney Cruz: I started doing burlesque when I was twenty-three so it’s been fifteen years for me.
JR:Why did you choose to create nerdy themed burlesque shows?
Courtney Cruz: Well to me that was a very personal thing. I began my burlesque career recreating that retro old style of burlesque. As a performer I got bored with doing the same routine over and over again. So I decided to meld burlesque with the beloved characters that I grew up being inspired by and were a part of fond memories of my childhood. The first crossover or “Nerdlesque Show” I produced was a combination of burlesque with batman and we called it “A Dark Knight of Burlesque”. And that was the first time I took these nerdy themes and applied them to burlesque. After that we did video games, comic books, and Stars Wars now starting in 2010. People call us the pioneer of Nerdlesque because we were doing it before anyone else.
JR:What is the difference between burlesque and pole-dancing/stripping?
Courtney Cruz: In my shows there are no difference since I’ve melded the old form of burlesque with modern strip tease which includes pole and different type of movements. Realistically in the Burlesque world there are a lot of people like me who have melded the two together.
JR:Who is someone you really look up to in the burlesque industry?
Courtney Cruz: There are lots of people who I’m inspired by and I look up to. Some of them I’ve seen from afar for years and recently got to see in Las Vegas. Some of the people that inspire me aren’t as well known in the industry, but are just as talented. There’s a lot of upcoming performers that I admire so much and look up to.
JR:Are you a star wars or star trek fan?
Courtney Cruz: Both actually. I grew up watching Star Trek with my dad but then my brothers were Star Wars guys. To pick one would be hard but I think I’m more of a Star Wars than a Star Trek.
JR:What is your favorite costume to perform in?
Courtney Cruz: For me my favorite costume and character to play is the joker. There’s so much freedom because the character is mad. The prop that is most fun is something the prop designer and I built. It’s a gun built on a leaf blower that has a toilet paper roll on it. So when you turn it on it just unravels an entire roll onto the audience. I get to pick up this big gun and put it between my legs. So there’s this look to it, a woman with a big gun between her legs. I turn it on in a specific point in the song and it unravels an entire roll into the audience. The look on people’s faces is priceless. You get to make them part of the routine. I’d have to say out of all the characters I do, that was my favorite.
JR:What’s your favorite thing about burlesque?
Courtney Cruz: The freedom. Live performance is unexpected. There’s a certain thing about being on stage and being in the moment. I really enjoy the freedom with burlesque. Not just because I get to run around in my underwear in front of people. It’s more about as an entertainer and performer you have that five minutes to capture the audience. To run with you, to laugh with you, whatever it is you’re trying to convey. It can be funny, it can be disturbing, it can be weird. That’s what I love about burlesque, the freedom of it.
JR:Has anything embarrassing ever happened to you while performing burlesque?
Courtney Cruz: Of course! I’ve fell on stage twice actually, which is never an awesome thing. Live entertainment is happening live, you have to be in the moment. There’s times when I’ve had costumes malfunction. I had a friend make me this pink latex showgirl costume for a fetish event. But I didn’t get the costume till the day of the event. I ended up getting stuck in a garter. I had to go from being this sultry and serious character to a a comedic routine. You have to go with what you have to work with.
JR:What does burlesque mean to you?
Courtney Cruz: It’s a form of expression for women. But to me it’s just about being able to get up on stage and then evoke the different types of feelings and different types of emotions. It’s a form of allowing people a break from whats going on out in the real world. For me Burlesque is about evoking different emotions. Whether it’s a dramatic piece that makes them think, or a funny piece that makes them laugh, if it’s sultry or sexy and supposed to turn them on it’s about evoking emotions. To me burlesque is about freedom and evoking different emotions. That’s what burlesque is.
Upcoming shows for Devil’s Playground Burlesque include May 13th Wryd Con, and May 19th Harvelle’s. To learn more about Courtney Cruz, Devil’s Playground Burlesque, or any of the shows discussed about, check out:
And as always, have a geek filled day!