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With sparks, striptease, performances vary in Burlypicks competition

By Photos and Story By Guy Wathen
Sunday, April 27, 2014, 11:21 p.m.

Mika Romantic's bright red lipstick and tight red dress stood in sharp contrast to the blue and purple stage lights at the Rex Theater in the South Side.

In sparkling silver high heels she strutted, stripped, teased and twirled across the dimly lit stage, shedding most of her costume in a sultry performance aimed at impressing judges and wowing the audience.

“It is very liberating to perform,” said Romantic, 24, of Limerick in Montgomery County. “It is the only time I feel clear-headed.”

Performers gathered at the Rex recently to perform in Burlypicks, the first burlesque competition held in Pittsburgh. Thirteen entered the regional competition with the hope of moving on to a final round in Hollywood in September against competitors from around the world.

For some, burlesque is a narrowly defined art form. Romantic calls it “a theatrical striptease.”

Burlypicks, said Pittsburgh's co-producer Crystal Swarovski, “tries not to define burlesque, but rather allow the performers to define it with their wide range of performances.”

Discordia, a Cleveland-based group of performers, utilized fire and power tools to produce a dazzling display during its act. Lawrenceville's Smokin' McQueen, the only male competitor, performed “boylesque.” Macabre Noir of Beechview bravely danced, jumped and rolled on broken glass.

Producer Kat De Lac (Mallory McDonough of Gibsonia) said stage names help burlesque performers form personas.

“Our scene is mysterious because we create that mystery,” she said. “... We try to separate the real world with our magical world.”

Guy Wathen is a Trib Total Media photographer. Reach him at



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