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Odd Jobs: Burlesque performer - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Odd Jobs: Burlesque performer

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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. -

On the stage, Vera Wylde feels free.

"Burlesque, above all, is just flat out fun. It's exhilarating. It is sexy, but I don't feel that it's exploitative," said Vera, drag burlesque performer.

The performer is part of a growing number of artists paying tribute to the dancing girls of yesteryear.

"Everybody is rhinestoned and sparkly and looking all vintage and classic," said Russell Bruner, burlesque performer.

It's a new generation nostalgic for an art form almost forgotten. The revival known as neo-burlesque encompasses a wider range of performance styles from adult comedy and hula hoops to the classic striptease.

Reporter Jennifer Costa: How naked do people get?

Russell: Depends on where you're at. There are decency laws that have limitations on what you can and can't do.

"If you are going to try to do burlesque, you do have to have a point to any given act. You're not getting onstage in order to take your clothes off. You're getting onstage and taking your clothes off, in order to communicate something. Maybe about a character, maybe you're telling a story," said Vera.

Vera's acts range from geeky and cheeky to gothically dark. She sees burlesque as an opportunity to escape the social norms of everyday life.

"I don't consider this to be a character. I don't consider this to be a persona that I put on. This is me," said Vera.

When she's not in the spotlight, Vera lives as a man in the Northeast Kingdom with a wife and child.

"We're past the stigma on an intellectual level. We're not past the stigma on a gut reaction level," said Vera.

As a kid she experimented with cross-dressing. She debuted as a drag queen in Boston, but decided burlesque was the best fit. She's been entertaining audiences for eight years.

"I do call myself a drag queen. I don't call myself transgendered because I do not feel wrong in my male body, in my male skin. When I'm at home or at work, as a man, I'm not wishing I was always in this. I love this. This is a lot of work," said Vera.

Costa: Does burlesque pay the bills?

Vera: Oh god no. Absolutely not. Nobody's doing burlesque to put themselves through college. You can't do it. If you're lucky you will cover the money it cost you to put your outfit together and maybe the gas for the trip home.

Vera has established herself as a crowd favorite. So producers will shell out some cash, but she still needs her day job in sales to support her family.

"Burlesque has taken me all over the world," said Russell.

Headliners like Russell have managed to turn burlesque into a moneymaker. Performing is his full-time job.

The 33-year-old from Oregon dubbed Vegas' King of Burlesque left his career as an electrical designer to follow his true passion. Russell's best known for blending Vaudevillian sex appeal with comedy and swing.

"Inspiration for my acts all come from the folks of yesteryear," said Russell.

Vera draws on the classics too. She tries to squeeze in one show a month. Doing burlesque in drag is still pretty rare. Yet, she says she's never gotten pushback from fellow performers or fans.

"If you have the guts to get up on that stage, we will welcome whatever you want to throw out there. Nobody buys a ticket and sits in that chair to judge the people onstage," said Vera.

It's an odd job empowering performers to let their inner wild sides.

Click here to learn more about Vermont's Burlesque Festival.

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