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Highlights: Black Diamond Burlesque strips down the past two years

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  • | 4:00 a.m. September 5, 2012
  • Arts + Culture
  • Performing Art
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Black Diamond Burlesque started in about the same amount of time it takes a person to disrobe, assuming she doesn’t have to fumble with a 100-hook corset.

Two years ago, founder Laura Daniel Gale and her business partner at the time, DJ Rus Deep (who has since left on good terms), decided to produce a burlesque show in Sarasota.

“I knew Sarasota was hungry for something it didn’t even know it wanted,” Gale says.

Within an hour of pitching the initial idea, Gale had freelance photographer Virginia Hughes on the phone. Gale met Hughes while working on Rosemary Rising (a now-defunct art walk in the Rosemary District). Gale knew Hughes was performing with a burlesque troupe in Tampa and that she was unhappy there. Hughes had her own ambitions of bringing the art to a burlesque-less city.

Hughes was added to the team as the “burls expert” in charge of scouting and recruiting performers. In her eyes, Black Diamond Burlesque would perform classic burlesque — sophisticated, glamorous and full of class and glitter.

Hughes, whose performance name is Miss Petite Coquette, and her recruits were ready to perform a show only six weeks after the group’s inception.

In September 2010, Selva Grill, which typically seats 86, accommodated a standing room-only crowd of 140 at the inaugural Black Diamond Burlesque show in the restaurant. Since then, the group has performed every four-to-six weeks around town.

The group has transitioned over time, with members coming and going. But Gale, Hughes, Mariel Purdon and “boylesque” dancer David Charlton have been around from the beginning. They have gotten to know their supportive and vocal audience members who consist of mostly women and couples.

The next show, Sept. 8, celebrates the two-year anniversary of the troupe with nods to favorite acts. Cue the glitter and, yes, even the stripping gorilla.

Black Diamond Burlesque
Step into a time machine for a vintage evening of hilarious performances by men and women who have conquered the art of the striptease.
When: 9:15 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8
Where: McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre, 3333 N. Tamiami Trail
Cost: $20 to $30
For more information: 925-3869 or visit 

Producer Laura Daniel Gale, aka Lady LaLa
From: Washington, D.C.; moved here in 1993
Day job(s): Marketing director at Half Shell Oyster House and full-time mom
Dance experience: Captain of the dance team in high school
Her first time: “I don’t perform, I produce!”
I can’t perform without my: set list
What would/did your mother say “It makes perfect sense, Laura!”

Founding Dame Virginia Hughes, aka Miss Petite Coquette
From: Kentucky; moved to Sarasota about six years ago to study photography at Ringling College
Day job(s): Freelance photographer, bedazzles accessories for a local fashion designer
Dance experience: No previous dance experience
Her first time: With a troupe in Tampa. “I was just addicted to it from the very first time — it was such a rush.”
I can’t perform without my: glitter
What would/did your mother say? In a Southern accent, “Well that sounds fun, whatever makes you happy.” (She came to the show in February.)

Boylesque performer David Charlton, aka Top Hat Dave
From: Idaho; moved to Sarasota in 2007
Day job(s): Tattoo artist
Dance experience: I have a martial-arts background. It gives me awareness of my body and great hand-and-foot coordination.
His first time: Being a stage kitten, picking up all the ladies’ lingerie, gloves, etc. First time on stage, “(I was a) deer in headlights.”
I can’t perform without my: under armor in any color but clear
What would/did your mother say? “I’m so proud of you!” (His mom has been to a few shows.)

Original Dame Mariel Purdon, aka Mademoiselle Rowdy Pants
From: Eustis (central Florida); moved to Sarasota six years ago
Day job(s): Magician’s assistant; part of an international-style dance company; does auto-cad drafting for an interior design company; and she’s also a singing telegram.
Dance experience: Since she was 5: modern dance in Martha Graham technique, ballet, snippets of ballroom and was a dance major in Orlando for a little more than a year.
Her first time: “My first real experience with it was stepping out on that tiny little stage at Selva, where we had our first show, and I also worked there at the time as a hostess, so that was a really awkward first time to perform burlesque … it was quite a revealing first experience.”
I can’t perform without my: weave tape
What would/did your mother say? “Oh, but you’re singing, right? It’s kind of like acting, right?”


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