The following content contains mild zombie nudity.
The Dead: they walk, they return, they dawn. And now, they shimmy.
Last weekend the good folks at New York’s D20 Burlesque presented “The Shimmying Dead,” a nerdlesque tribute to the wonderfully bleak, downright horrifying zombie saga that is The Walking Dead. “It is a show about the stripping of our moral standards and our humanity in the face of society’s collapse during a zombie outbreak,” D20 producer Anja Keister said. “Why not include actual stripping as well?”And what a tribute it was. It drew on elements of the comics and the show alike, and was as sexy as the apocalypse is long.
Aurora Black as a ballerina zombie
Aurora Black, the “Prima Ballerina of Burlesque,” took the stage first, kicking off the apocalypse with a zombie act aptly set to Rob Zombie’s “Living Dead Girl.” She bounded around the stage moving through ballet positions I won’t even pretend to know, but twirling with her arms curved in the air, she could have been skittering around a music box—a creepy, creepy music box. The juxtaposition of zombie and ballerina was dazzling, with Black gracefully standing on her toes as her arms hung clumsily, she managed to stimulate both the high-art and schlocky B-movie appreciation sections of my brain all at once.
“That’s how you start a muthafuckin’ show!” growled Anja Keister, who hosted the festivities as a certain former sheriff turned Ricktator, except with far, far shorter pants. She’d return later with a baby and a Grizzly Adams beard, receiving phantom calls from wife Lori. After a brief interlude of yelling for son Carl to get back in the house, she introduced “one the most badass motherfuckers in zombie history.”
Diane Amore as Michonne
A cloaked and hooded Diane Amore emerged from the darkness at the back of the room to cheers and howls from the crowd. From swinging her sword to swinging her braids, she embodied the attitude and solemness that characterized hard-ass drifter Michonne’s early days. “Anytime Michonne is on alert, her hands go straight to her sword, so that was something I wanted to express throughout my act—she’s always on alert, always aware of her surroundings,” she said after the show, beaming. “Plus, I like the whole sword action.” The other Walking Dead lady represented on stage that night was Maggie by Hot Tawdry, who was in town all the way from Chicago. She took the stage to a boiled-down rendition of “Bad Moon Rising” by Mourning Ritual, and laid bare Maggie’s continued distress and innate sex appeal. It was passionate and captivating, punctuated periodically by the crowd’s hollering as she shed her clothes piece by blood-smeared piece. It was intense.
Tiger Bay as Eugene
But it wasn’t all drama, it was also hilarious. A fiercely mulleted Tiger Bay commanded the room as the smart-but-still-not-a-scientist Eugene. Mirroring the character’s cowardly-yet-cocky tendencies, she alternated from slump-shouldered awkwardness to rock and roll bravado and back again to the tune of Mariah Carey’s “Hero.” Tearing open her shirt to reveal a bra emblazoned with the letters DC, it all culminated with a pair of star spangled pasties and an all ‘merican g-string. Then there was Minnie d’Moocha’s take on Carl. She was all frowns, waving around photos of the show’s dead characters and getting attacked at one point by a blow-up doll zombie. Set to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” it was epically angsty, ending—naturally—with a pissed off Carl eating a bunch of pudding.
Liberty Rose as The Governor
Liberty Rose took the stage, scowling as villainous despot The Governor in a Cannibal Corpse t-shirt and an eye patch. Set to Tom Waits’ “Whistlin’ Past the Graveyard,” her act leaned much more toward the comics—specifically the Governor Special—which details a bit of the one-eyed madman’s origin. “He fills the fish tanks with decapitated heads and makes himself look at them everyday until he’s no longer scared. So I’m going to have a decapitated head and start off being scared of it and by the end I’ll be cool with it,” she told me before the show. “By cool with it, I mean I’m probably going to get a little inappropriate with a severed head.” Let’s just say things got, um, weird.
The Governor tangles with Daryl, played by Apathy Angel
Weird would eventually give way to badass when Apathy Angel stepped into the spotlight as everyone’s favorite emo-haired archer, Daryl Dixon. In her winged biker vest, she gutted a stuffed squirrel before Liberty Rose returned to attack—The Governor lunged, Daryl pulled a knife. They hit the ground, undressing and undulating until the line between sex and violence was a steamy mess. The crowd went bananas. “Thanks to that act I had to explain the birds and bees to Carl,” Anja said, after the defeated Governor crawled off stage.
Ultimately, “The Shimmying Dead” delivered a lot more humor, a little less melodrama and magnitudes more sexiness than we’re used to from any incarnation of TWD’s world of violence and rotting flesh. It really makes you wonder what D20 Burlesque has in store for its next nerdlesque bash, “The Night is Dark and Full of Pasties,” tackling the supremely messed up world of Game of Thrones.