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‘Queerd Science’ celebrates LGBTQIA+ STEM research through burlesque

Desarae Tucker
All of the dancers and staff after the “Queerd Science” show at Club Congress on Friday, Nov. 10. The show celebrated LGBTQIA+ STEM research.

Irma Gerd” stepped on the Club Congress stage wearing a bird-inspired dress and held two feathered fans on Friday night, Nov. 10. 

She began to do a funky bird mating dance. 

A mix of David Attenborough’s voice from BBC’S “Planet Earth” and “Night Fever” by the Bee Gees played through the speakers in the room. As Gerd removed clothing pieces, the audience roared.

Gerd’s has been a burlesque dancer for 8 years. She was excited to do the show because she got a degree in biological sciences.

“This combines my two jams: the arts and science. So, of course I was going to say yes, like this is exactly what I have been waiting for,” Gerd said. 

She said her favorite type of burlesque dances are the weird ones, and she wanted to show that in her bird performance. 

Gerd was among nine other burlesque dancers showcasing the research made by LGBTQIA+ scientists. Some of the other performances were inspired by research on dirt, the sun and even wildfires. 

Gerd’s exciting “Birds of Paradise” dance was inspired by the research that University of Arizona graduate student E Tuschhoff discovered about the sexually selective visual traits in animals. Tuschhoff is studying ecology and evolutionary biology

“I’ve [crossed] a bunch of different animals’ traits that help them get it on,” Tuschhoff said.

They are researching traits like color, dances and territorial displays. 

Tuschhoff sat in the front row while watching Gerd’s performance. They said that the burlesque performances were a fun way for the scientists to communicate their work with the community. 

“I think it was super fun. I think Irma did a really great job at showing a lot of cockiness that a lot of male animals come into,” Tuschhoff said.  “It’s really great hearing the whole crowd reacting to it.”

Pamela Pelletier is the community outreach professional at the Tree Ring Laboratory. She was also the researcher, performer and co-producer for “Queerd Science”. She came up with the idea because International Day of LGBTQIA+ People in STEM is Saturday, Nov. 18, and she wanted to celebrate it in a fun and engaging way. 

“[I’m] looking to make sure we make connections and really engage with disadvantaged groups or groups that are traditionally left out of STEM fields so that we can possibly encourage folks to see that there is a role for them in science as well,” Pelletier said. 

Pelletier wanted LGBTQIA+ people in science, technology, engineering and math to have a chance for their work to be celebrated, and decided to pair them up with visual storytellers: the burlesque dancers. 

“Their whole role is to meet with a scientist to understand their research and their field of study to translate that research in a way that can be visually engaging,” Pelletier said. 

Pelletier was the scientist and the storyteller. Her research is about the benefits that wildfires bring to the environment. Her stage name is Posie D’Lish.

Irma Gerd performing at “Queerd Science” at Club Congress on Friday, Nov. 10. Gerd is passionate about combining STEM with the arts. (Desarae Tucker)

She was on stage with three other dancers. One was dressed in a red outfit as the fire, and the other two were earthy outfits. At the beginning of the piece, she was wearing a hard hat with a brown shirt and pants. The pants had buttons on the sides, so she was able to rip them off. 

Throughout the show, two of the dancers helped her undress, and she ended up in a similar green outfit.

She was the only researcher who was also a performer in the show. 

Pelletier co-produced with host Lola Torch, creator and founder of Hi Tiger lingerie. There was a $5 raffle, and one of the prizes was a $75 gift card to Hi Tiger. There were other prizes that all added up to about $1,400. All the proceeds went to the Pima County Library’s pride department. 

“The Golden Boy of Burlesque” Matt Finish also performed. 

Other queer science burlesque shows have happened in Denver, Philadelphia and Seattle. 

“To be able to bring queer and then science and burlesque, it’s like everything that I think we needed,” Gerd said.

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