Burlesque past and present is one tale in different shapes. It's the story of female hustle, of women working with women and, often these days, for women.
To the naked eye, these curvy sirens capitalize on their bodies, on the tease, on "accidental" slips of fans or material. But they also capitalize on good business sense, the ability to rustle up shows and promote themselves, and on construction skills or seamstress work, as well. Though Albuquerque's performers vary in approach and ideology, one thread of conversation spun from the mouths of each: They work hard, hours and hours in practice, making a fistful of coin used to purchase the next bolt of satin or on-sale heels.
That work is bearing fruit, with burlesque summiting the mountain of respect, even putting on a show that nearly sold out the KiMo Theatre. And all of it traces back to Nan Morningstar, a woman who knows how to hustle.
"In a town this size, a lot of people complain,” she says. “The kids grow up and move out of town. One of the best ways to keep people around is to make it a great place to live."
Morningstar, who's from Atlanta, moved here in April 2002 and opened her store Free Radicals that August. She formed a burlesque troupe, Lonely Hearts, from which almost all of the scene’s performers originate. Their first show was on Valentine's Day.
"We get bored," she says. "If it sounds like fun, if it sounds like something I'd want to do, I assume there are a few other people who'd want to do it, too."
Nan and her husband John are also the founders of the Duke City Derby, which begs the question—do the Morningstars kick-start everything retro cool in Burque? "I don't want to run Albuquerque, but I love being someone who can bring new things here and plant them and watch them grow."
"I love that it's gotten way bigger than anything I could have ever done alone."