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Natasha Riot Oral History Interview

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Natasha Riot Oral History Interview


Natasha Riot introduces herself as a Burlesque producer and performer, with training in a wide variety of dance styles. She makes her own costumes and headdresses.

Natasha defines Burlesque as a form of expression and storytelling. She notes that Burlesque shows used to be three-part shows with comedians, dancing girls, and a lot of entertainment acts. She feels that the current form of Burlesque, either Neo-Burlesque or Classic, is empowering for people who perform it. She thinks the style of Burlesque that she is best known for is Nerd-lesque and character-driven acts. She incorporates all of her dance background and her fire-handling skills, and some belly dance into her performance art. She observed that Classic Burlesque is a style that has a formula to it with a certain costume and certain moves. Neo-Burlesque, on the other hand, takes that traditional formula and goes off in different tangents with it. She describes the evolution in her many stage names as being aligned with the different kinds of performance she does, such as belly dancing, Burlesque, fusion dance, and dancing in a club.

Natasha describes the Burlesque scene in Portland as an open, loving space that is inclusive. She goes on to list the myriad of venues in Portland that host Burlesque shows. The show she produces, Burlynomicon, is produced at the Lovecraft bar. She cites several performance competitions in Portland for Burlesque and exotic dancers: Metalesque, Miss Exotic Oregon, Pole Erotica Competition, and the Oregon Burlesque Festival, among others. At the Oregon Burlesque Festival, Natasha won the Keeping It Weird award in 2016 and then the next year was crowned Queen of the Roses.

Natasha details all of the work involved in producing shows, marketing on social media, creating costumes, bartending, rehearsing and creating new acts. Her inspiration for a new Burlesque act can come from a piece of music or a costume or from a theme she is given by a show’s producer.

On the topic of cultural appropriation, Natasha’s first consideration is to ask herself, ”is it my story to tell?” As a comparison, she describes the history of belly dance in America; how belly dance came to this country, how Americans learned it, and how that form of dance shifted and grew. Natasha differentiates between traditional forms of dance and contemporary fusion dance, where she creates something new from various sources. By way of illustrating the considerations of cultural appropriation, she describes her process in creating an act around the character of Katana from Mortal Kombat. She further illustrates the considerations of cultural appropriation with a description of an act that she created involving the characters Master Shake and Carl from Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

Regarding diversity in Burlesque, Natasha feels that there is a very rich queer culture in Portland. When she is producing a show, she ensures diversity by having many aspects of representation such as the different styles of Drag, Queer, Burlesque performance, and racial diversity. She strives for a well-rounded show.

Natasha explores her observations of, and experiences with, society’s perception of her exotic dancing and Burlesque performance. She describes the responses of her conservative family to her dancing. She further explores the nuances between stripping in the club and stripping in Burlesque in the guise of a character. Natasha believes that creating and performing are empowering, and she describes how Burlesque can be a force for social change. She would like the general public to understand that Burlesque is a real art form.


Natasha Riot


Oregon Burlesque Performers Oral History Collection (OH 49)


Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Oregon State University Libraries


January 4, 2020


Laurie Kurutz


Born Digital Video




Oral History



Oral History Item Type Metadata


Laurie Kurutz


Natasha Riot


Portland, Oregon

Original Format

Born Digital Video



OHMS Object

Interview Format


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