"Mary, Mary, quite contrary" begins the English nursery rhyme - but little Mary probably never fixed a flat tire in heels.

It resonates deeply with Mary Johnson, who adopts the verse to her stage name as a burlesque dancer.

"I never set out to be different, it just always happened. And it's finally working for me," she said.

As the founder and principal dancer of The Dirty Dolls lesbian burlesque revue, which got its start in September with show at Club One, Johnson hopes continued demand from the GLBT community will support the show far into the future as the popularity for these shows increases in the Southeast.

DO sat down with Noël Anderson (Endless Summer) and Johnson to talk about their upcoming show with Ivy Les Vixen at Club One, their last of the year, and what it means to be a neo-burlesque dancer today.

How has the response been since your first few shows?

Contrary: It's been really good, actually. A lot of people had their doubts.

About what?

Contrary: Just about a lesbian event.

Summer: Just there being enough numbers at the club. Most gay clubs are for the guys in the end, even though we sort of mix.

It's particularly bad in Savannah. Here there's not a huge scene, and it's mostly for guys.

Contrary: That's what usually happens. Places throw one lesbian event and then they're like, "Oh, it didn't do as well as we thought it would, so we're not going to do that again."

Summer: Every event needs traction, needs time.

So that's what sets The Dirty Dolls apart, it's GLBT as opposed to ...

Contrary: It is. Our crowd is really diverse. We get a bit of everybody.

Summer: Most burlesque shows are usually in sort-of straight bars that are queerish. Rarely do you have it strictly at a gay club.

Contrary: And that was really important for me, because there isn't any entertainment for lesbians (in Savannah). So we wanted it to be a lesbian cast, have one girl who's bisexual.

You started during pride week, in September, and have only done a show once a month. How come?

Summer: That's a quality control thing. So when you have a month to get your costumes and your acts together, it's gonna be a higher-quality show.

And these shows each month, are they theme-based?

Contrary: I try to stay away from the theme shows because I always hate when people come up with a theme that is just awful, like people do that pimps and hoes thing and I just think it's the stupidest thing. So I try not to restrict people. The show in December, I tried to do something a little, tiny bit Christmasy, but my show's still dark and kind of edgy. So it'll be like a twisted Christmas, but it's not a theme by any means.

How does neo-burlesque differ from more traditional burlesque?

Summer: There's no fan dancing, feather things. It's not Dita Von Teese. And she's wonderful, and both are good for different reasons.

It's definitely current, modern, a little bit of anything goes, which is great.

Contrary: It's really great, because I think all of us have classical dance training, so we have that type of grace and poise, and it has that sensuality of classical, traditional burlesque. But then the music, the costumes, the subject matter is very modern and I think that makes it more relevant, more exciting, more relatable to people.

Summer: Burlesque is a discipline, just like any other art form. If you're gonna do neo, you've got to be smart - keep those historical elements in mind and then find a way to bring them into a current style.

How do you do that?

Summer: Well, you have to remember it's a tease. It's not a strip.

Contrary: I'm always trying to figure out new ways to take stuff off, and new ways to make it almost like a game. I tried something where I was taking everything off without using my hands. It's just, having some sort of artistry.

Summer: And telling a story, without spoken narrative. You're still a storyteller when you're up there. I always try to have a concept of some sort.

How long is each act, or set?

Contrary: It's always three, and that's a nice length of a show.

Summer: Also, once they've seen you take it off, they do know what they're getting, so you can't go on forever.

Do you do this full-time? Is this something you plan on doing forever?

Summer: I don't. She does. I love performing. I've been doing it since I was 4. It's a lot of fun for me and it fills a certain need that I have. But, no, ultimately I have completely different career goals, plans. And my knees wouldn't make it that much longer.

We keep coming back to that, the fact that burlesque is never what it seems.

Contrary: A lot of people think that we're strippers, and you hear that with go-go dancing, and that's the No. 1 way to get a spiked heel in your eye socket.

It drives us nuts. ... Certainly burlesque did start out as strippers. But now it's taken on a new lifeform. It's a celebration of being sexy.