Modern vaudeville, contemporary cabaret - these might seem an unusual combination of words at first glance. But The Downtown Delilahs, a burlesque-inspired dance troupe right here in Savannah, ain't your grandmother's burlesque show.
"We take a modern twist on the old-school style of burlesque," says Jade Kersey, founder of the group. "Our show is sexy, but we don't rely on removing clothing like the original style. We rely on dance choreography."
Of course, it wouldn't be burlesque without some striptease.
"Yes, we are tantalizing," Kersey cheekily points out. "And we do offer striptease solos, but they're very classy and tasteful."
The Downtown Delilahs was conceived of and created two years ago by Kersey, a performing arts student at the Savannah College of Art and Design.
"I've been lucky enough to go to a school where I was able to incorporate the study of burlesque and gain knowledge about the cabaret style from great professors and other knowledgeable resources," she says.
Talking to Kersey, it's clear to see she appreciates not only the limelight that running the burlesque show brings, but the history and evolution of the art form.
"Burlesque and vaudeville shows kept Allied troops and Londoners entertained during World War I, and have adapted to allow new audiences to escape their own harsh realities throughout the years," she says.
This month, The Downtown Delilahs is letting Savannah audiences escape with a new live show, "Valentine's Day is for Suckers," opening Feb. 6 at the Carnival Bar Theatre, adjacent to the House of Mata Hari. With music ranging from Aretha Franklin to Lady Gaga, intricate choreography, beautiful costumes, a few comedic elements - and of course, some light-hearted, refined striptease - Kersey assures that it isn't a show just for couples. Singles and groups alike will enjoy the quirky, titillating show at Savannah's only speakeasy.
"The atmosphere is one-of-a-kind, and we want everyone to come out," Kersey says. "After all, we've all been suckers on Valentine's Day at some point in our life!"
The Downtown Delilahs found its perfect partner to host their theatrics.
"When you step inside the House of Mata Hari, you are immediately transported to another place and time, which is exactly what I hope to capture in our show," she says.
And while Mata Hari is a private speakeasy, if you have a ticket for The Downtown Delilahs show, you can enjoy the Mata Hari experience all night long, regardless of membership.
By taking a semester off before graduation, Kersey now has the time to devote to planning and promoting.
"I am finally at a point where I can make these shows happen on a consistent basis, as opposed to only during school breaks," she says.
Audiences have taken note of the troupe's commitment. Shows sell out, and the audience routinely ends up on its feet. The Downtown Delilahs are about to be introduced to more than just a Savannah audience. Producers from The Travel Channel's "The Trip Flip" recently came to film the show and profile three of the dancers. The episode will air next spring.
Of course, gaining fans nationally is an exciting development, but it always comes down to what mom and pop think.
"It's always fun when a dancer has a family member in the audience," Kersey says.
While all the other dancers will make an extra effort to make eye contact or engage with the folks, "the daughter is usually freaking out backstage," wondering how Mom and Dad are handling the (tasteful) frolicking.
Kersey assures, "So far, the parents approve!"