Whether you're an avid burlesque fan or just curious about those provocative performers slowly stripping off sequins and fishnets, Cleveland's burly scene will transform any standard night out into a sexy adventure. So throw your worries out the window and get ready to give it up for Cleveland's bawdiest burlies as they belly up beneath the bright lights and toss boas aloft.
Ohio Burlesque Festival
Celebrate the classic strip tease—along with a few raucous twists—at the International Ohio Burlesque Festival, held annually in August at the Beachland Ballroom and Tavern in Cleveland's old-school North Collinwood neighborhood.
Launched in 2011, the rowdy festival's kings and queens glam it up while representing all genders, ethnicities, and a dazzling array of body types. You'll revel in the nonstop classic and neo burlesque numbers, as well as drag, aerial acrobatics, and vaudeville-style acts during this much-anticipated three-day event.
Cleveland's Burly Queen
The fiery Bella Sin is the powerhouse behind the long-running show and founder of its production arm, Cleveland Burlesque. Dubbed "Cleveland's Burlesque Queen" by former Mayor Frank Jackson, Sin's glam star has shone brightly over the 216 since the Mexican immigrant arrived here in 2003. The consummate performer and producer never stops finding up-and-coming performers such as Cleveland's own Lola Loveletter and Akron's spicy Ruby Rabbit. Can’t forget national crowd-pleasers Nox Falls of Seattle and San Francisco's RedBone.
The Beachland Ballroom and Tavern
The action plays out at the fun and funky Beachland Ballroom and Tavern, one of the area's premier indie entertainment venues. It's also the home stage for the Cleveland Burlesque troupe with dates peppering the calendar throughout the year with themed shows like Star Wars Burlesque, Sweetheart Showcase, and The Nightmare Before. Such shenanigans might have raised eyebrows among the building's original occupants. The structure was built in 1950 as … wait for it … the Croatian Liberty Home.
Want to catch a bite before the show? Pop into Citizen's Pie for a signature Neapolitan-style pizza, or slip into the Millard Fillmore Presidential Library, where you won't find any dead presidents, but you can enjoy a mug of frosty suds from their exhaustive beer menu alongside a sausage and sauerkraut sandwich. The SSW Boardwalk is Cleveland through-and-through, featuring daily menu/drink specials and standard bar fare, including the "Olde Neighborhood Burger."
Or you can sit tight right there at the Beachland and order up a sammie and fries from their scratch kitchen and wash it down with one of their special burly-inspired cocktails, from the tequila-based "Josephine Baker" to the "Gina Bon Bon" mocktail.
If the show so inspires you, you can get your own shimmy on at the Cleveland Burlesque Academy, where baby burlies go to learn how to do the hoochie-coochie, finesse the glove-peel, or add just the right amount of glitter to those sky-high eyebrows. This is no afternoon of feathers and fluff, but a full 18 weeks of training including instruction on burlesque history, self-promotion, costuming, choreography, makeup, and more.
The main instructor? None other than Cleveland's top burly, Bella Sin.