Best burlesque acts in LA: The city's top ten live shows

From slinky cabaret shows to variety act extravaganzas, we've rounded up LA's best regular burlesque acts at which to sample the art of the tease.

Photograph: Courtesy Harlow Gold
Harlow Gold

Since the neo-burlesque craze kicked off in the 1990s, the LA burlesque scene has grown into a crowded field of shows, with styles ranging from classic glamour and pop culture parody dancing to vaudeville comedy revival and rock cabaret. Here are ten top spots to get a titillating taste of each flavor; we'll leave it up to you how risqué you'd like things to get.

RECOMMENDED: LA's best burlesque performers

Bobbie Burlesque Presents

Legendary boylesque performer Bobbie Burlesque pulls together a supremely classy affair every month at M Bar, whose red velvet curtains and flocked wallpaper provide the perfect backdrop for a time warp evocative of burlesque's heyday in the early 20th century. The performers are LA's crème de la crème (refined professionals and national title holders), and the costumes (think jeweled corsets and delicate fringed underthings) are elaborate and luscious. Expect all the tropes of neo-burlesque, from feather fans to ironic pasties to the best boylesque in town. Don't miss the annual installment of Tim Burton-themed burlesque ($25) each November.

Risqué rating: 4/5
Ages: 21+

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M Bar

Harlow Gold

At this modern rock-meets-gritty 1930s cabaret show, the whole bar's a stage. The acrobatic dancers dangle from metal fixtures, climb onto tables and swing from aerial ropes. No audience member is safe from their performance path, as they slap, tousle hair and pull patrons' faces into their crotches during their impassioned bump-'n'-grind dances. You won't mind getting roughed up, though, as these superb and ridiculously flexible tours de force mesmerize with what they can achieve while wearing nothing more than tattered stockings and vintage lingerie. The sexy airline stewardess-gone-bad number is especially, perversely brilliant. Fasten your seatbelt!

Risqué rating: 3/5
Ages: 21+

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First & Hope

La Descarga

The Latin-themed burlesque at this Cuban-style speakeasy is more of a tease than a strip, but no less enthralling than its more prurient counterparts. The curvaceous ladies are hotter than July in Havana, especially headliner Miss Dakota, whose legs are so deliciously long that when she does a kick on the elevated walkway above the bar, they touch the ceiling. The funky saxophonist leading the salsa band serves as a musical "conversation partner" for the dancers—they riff off one another, with each blast of the horn expressed as a thrust of the hips. It's muy, muy caliente.

Risqué rating: 2/5
Ages: 21+

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La Descarga Free

Lucha VaVOOM

The masked wrestlers aren't the only ones showing some skin at this extravaganza of Mexican lucha libre wrestling-meets-striptease showcase. The "Buxoticas" add some serious sexo to the violencia on display. Some of these vixens are seasoned performers with serious dance skills (like Carolina Cerisola and Lux La Croix), while others are glorified pinups primarily on stage for their voluptuous, tatted bodies (and still others are drag queens). Expect cartoonish costumes, an edgy rock-'n'-roll/rock-en-español aesthetic, crowd-pleasing hijinks from hula hooping to pole dancing, and ladies who bare it all save for pasties and the proverbial fig leaf. There are usually four main events per year, on Valentine's Day, on Cinco de Mayo, a mid-summer date and on or near Halloween.

Risqué rating: 5/5
Ages: 21+

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Mayan

Monday Night Tease

Now in its tenth year, Monday Night Tease is LA's longest-running weekly burlesque show, helmed by the "godmother" of LA burlesque, the buxom, potty-mouthed Lili VonSchtupp. It's kind of like the Ellis Island of striptease—performing here is a rite of passage for newcomers to the neo-burlesque scene, so it's a great spot to scope out fresh talent. But the headliners are top-notch local and international soloists and troupes, meaning you'll be dazzled by more than the rhinestones and glitter. Themed shows pay tribute to icons like Madonna, Prince and Quentin Tarantino. Birthday girls/boys get paddled by the cast.

Risqué rating: 5/5
Ages: 21+

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The 3 Clubs

Peepshow Menagerie

Pop culture lovers, at attention: Peepshow Menagerie specializes in sexy send-ups of cultural lightning rods from Disneyland to Marvel Comics to Weird Al Yankovic—it's a place to nerd out and get turned on all at the same time. Each themed show is a full-on theatrical production with comedic hosts in character providing the connective tissue between acts. The sassy performers—a mix of up-and-comers and local legends—manage to make themes as esoteric as David Lynch films, Doctor Who and the Ring Cycle opera engaging and accessible to all comers (getting nearly naked certainly helps).

Risqué rating: 5/5
Ages: 18+

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Fais Do-Do

The Dollface Dames

This sugary troupe of girl-next-door types strut their stuff in front of the bar at Britannia Pub, in full view of the open-air window facing Santa Monica Boulevard. Curious pedestrians crane their necks to catch a piece of the PG-rated action: A variety of theatrical song-and-dance acts executed in skimpy costumes with a wink and a smile. On any given night, the considerable talents on display might include lassoing, hula hooping or strategic balloon popping. Layers come off but bras stay on, and what they lack in risqué factor they make up for with moxie.

Risqué rating: 2/5
Ages: 21+

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Location T.B.A. Free

Sultry Sweet Burlesque & Variety Show

Tapas and topless are the first orders of business at this spirited dinner theater show at El Cid. Burlesque dancers and comic cabaret singers are backed by a bumpin' live band that plays original music, giving Sultry Sweet the feel of a unified musical (each show explores a different theme). Striptease comes courtesy of a rotating roster of local dancers as well as the talented in-house troupe Babydoll Betties. The feats of fire dancing, aerial hoop and athletic pole dancing will knock your socks off (while they knock a whole lot more than socks off the performers).

Risqué rating:  4/5
Ages: 21+

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El Cid

The Lalas

These bombshells owe more to the Pussycat Dolls than, say, Gypsy Rose Lee. They're more pop/rock than retro and more girl power than femme fatale. But they're fun, and even as their show explores familiar fantasies (Wild West cowgirls and wet t-shirt antics), there are artistic surprises, from a striptease in reverse to literal sparks flying from their nether regions (some onstage "welding" takes place). The girls crawl all over the club interacting with patrons—watch your plate and your drink, as they may help themselves. You'll leave humming AC/DC and wishing you owned a glitter gun.

Risqué rating: 5/5
Ages: 21+

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The Federal Bar

Victory Variety Hour

This grab bag of burlesque amusement is a true variety show in the vaudevillian tradition. Bawdy emcee? Check. Plucky producer? Check (Penny Star, Jr., the "Pe-Tite Barnum of Burlesque"). Bodacious babes and boys? Check and check. Acts run the gamut from classic to comic to experimental with just the right amount of wrong. Count on performances by rotating members of the regular troupe (which includes a couple of boylesque-ers), plus an out-of-town guest and a cabaret singing act. If it's your birthday, prepare to learn the art of tassel twirling in the spotlight. (Bonus: Pasties are for sale.)

Risqué rating: 5/5
Ages: 21+

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Skinny's Lounge

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