Gem City Burlesque highlights Dayton talent: ‘It feels really good to empower other females’

Next show is Thursday, May 2 at The Brightside Music & Event Venue in Dayton.

Credit: Natalie Jones

Credit: Natalie Jones

Gem City Burlesque is creating a unique experience by highlighting talented performers from the Dayton area, while taking a step back in time to the days of speakeasys with live music and burlesque dancers.

Meet the founders

Lily Datura and Aurora Maur, the founders and producers of Gem City Burlesque, have always had a love for performance art.

Credit: Natalie Jones

Credit: Natalie Jones

Datura, originally from Riverside, did not grow up dancing. She recalled going to a Yellow Springs festival after graduating from high school and seeing a group of belly dancers perform. She started taking belly dancing classes and five years later ended up at her first burlesque show in Columbus. She recalled how much she enjoyed the diversity in performers.

“It was so powerful to see,” Datura said. “It’s a very open art form as far as it’s made for anybody, any body especially. You don’t have to look like Dita Von Teese to do burlesque by any means.”

Maur, originally from Trotwood, grew up dancing jazz and tap. She said she had stopped dancing for a longtime, but after taking a belly dancing class with a friend at Sinclair, she had a renewed interest in performing. Maur started dancing again and remembered her love for it.

The two had mutual friends and met at a burlesque party. From there they became good friends and decided to perform together.

Gem City Burlesque was born

“It was just very difficult to find opportunities within Dayton. Usually we would have to travel — go to Cincinnati, Columbus or even out of state to perform,” Datura said. “We know there is an growing interest in venues wanting to have burlesque shows and we just decided to start an LLC and see where it goes.”

Credit: Submitted Photo

Credit: Submitted Photo

Gem City Burlesque was created in 2021 after the two were inspired by other troops doing safe, outdoor performances with masks during the coronavirus pandemic.

The burlesque scene in Dayton is very small, but growing, the founders said. It’s hard to compare Dayton to cities like Chicago or New York City where performers are doing multiple shows a night or weekend.

“There are a lot of performance artists in Dayton that are always looking for opportunities,” Datura said. “Part of the reason why we started Gem City Burlesque was because we wanted to create those opportunities for them, not to mention bringing other performers to Dayton to show how cool this city is.”

What is burlesque?

Burlesque can be described as a performance art with sexuality and comedy. It’s something you would often see in Las Vegas with show girls dressed in rhinestone corsets and feather head pieces.

Maur said people often “think of the burlesque movie with Cher and Christina Aguilera or they think of pornography and it’s not either really. It is aspects of sexuality. It is aspects of the glamour. It’s like its own thing.”

Gem City Burlesque often puts an emphasis on classic burlesque featuring a lot of rhinestones, glamour, glitter and feather fans, but they also dabble in neo-burlesque where performers could dress up as a cosplay character or animal.

For the most part, the founders described the way they dress as vintage, vaudeville and femme fatale.

“It’s not just us showing up and performing, there’s also just an art to it in who we hire to help create the ambiance, which is the most important for a burlesque show,” Datura said. “You can take a place like Toxic Brew Company (where they had their first show) and as long as you put up a red curtain, get some good lighting... it just transforms the space into an intimate, burlesque show.”

What does a typical show look like?

A typical show invites guests to the venue an hour before it starts to get drinks, sit down and relax prior to the first performance. One show is made up of multiple performances within two acts and has an intermission in between. One performance could be between three and seven minutes highlighting anything from singing to aerial acts. There are typically five performances within an act.

“We do have regulars that we will circulate through, but we’re also always open to bringing in new people to Dayton or bringing people out of Dayton,” Datura said.

Credit: Submitted Photo

Credit: Submitted Photo

They’ve had performers from cities like Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis and Lexington come to Dayton for shows.

Outside of the performers and Datura and Maur producing the show, they work with a person that does their lighting, sound and flyers, as well as a MC to host the show and a stage kitten to help prepare the stage for the next performer.

A live band experience

Gem City Burlesque is open to doing anything from small venues to big production shows, but one unique thing they bring to Dayton is a live band experience.

Maur starting performing with a live band about five years ago and loved the feeling of performing to live music and the connectivity between her and the band.

The group’s next show is the Booty Swing Spring Fling with the band, The High Standards, on Thursday, May 2 at The Brightside Music & Event Venue in Dayton. Doors open at 7 p.m. with the show starting at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $30 to $285 and the show is for those 21 and up.

Credit: Submitted Photo

Credit: Submitted Photo

The power of burlesque

Maur’s favorite part of burlesque is dancing for females and inspiring them. She said after shows there are many women that talk to them about how burlesque has encouraged them to get out of their shells.

“It feels really good to empower other females,” Maur said.

“With burlesque it feels very freeing to just let yourself out there,” Datura said. “You do it artistically and you’re doing it through self expression. People love it and there’s just that beautiful connection between you and the audience.”

Those interested in doing burlesque are encouraged to go support local productions as an audience member and talk to the performers after the shows. The founders of Gem City Burlesque do offer private lessons and can help point those interested in the right direction.

“A lot of people don’t know they like burlesque until they see burlesque,” Datura said.

Credit: Submitted Photo

Credit: Submitted Photo

What’s next for Gem City Burlesque?

The founders of Gem City Burlesque have dedicate a lot of time to burlesque in helping it grow throughout the Dayton area. They both have full-time jobs, in addition to Gem City Burlesque.

“The one thing that has kept us going is the fact that we have been growing and people have an interest in Dayton,” Datura said.

Last year, their goals were to have a live band burlesque show, host their first big production and perform at a New Year’s event — which they accomplished. This year they plan to continue expanding by working with different venues and cities around the Dayton area.

More details

For more information or to purchase tickets to their upcoming show, visit or the troop’s Facebook or Instagram pages.

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