Taut cheeks pulsate as Ray Gunn flexes his hamstrings with his rear end turned to the crowd.
The burlesque dancer works slowly, posing for endless seconds as he removes one item of clothing at a time. By the time he's in the buff, he has the crowd dangling on string, said Kelly Stevens, organizer of the Nude Nite art expose.
"I just wanted to reach out and catch everything that he had taken off," Stevens laughed. "He's that good."
Gunn is a member of the Chicago male burlesque troupe who travels the country giving his steamy shows.
This weekend, he'll be performing at the annual Nude Nite showcase from Thursday to Saturday at 3606 E Fourth Ave. in Tampa.
Stevens said the inclusion of burlesque in the art exhibition brings levity to an environment full of serious, thought-provoking pieces of art.
"It's a good compliment to the art. We love to see art on the wall and then we have the 3D arts and sculptures," Stevens explained. "Then we need to laugh and we need some joy. Burlesque is not serious. It's a comedic performance."
For those who think burlesque runs contrary to the high-art concept of Nude Nite, dance experts say it's an art form like any other.
University of South Florida Associate professor of Dance Michel Foley said the art form evolved out of a rebellion against the buttoned-up culture of the Victorian era and has seen a recent resurgence.
"Nowadays, perhaps, it's more of an artistic (beautifully gloved) finger in the face of American neo-Conservitivism," Foley said. "But whatever the reason, it has certainly become a location where several different forms have merged to create an often beautiful hybrid kind of performance."
Watching five-minute clips of Ray Gunn on YouTube tells you all you need to know about what to expect.
His costumes aren't elaborate and his stages seem bare, yet, as he dances viewers see a definite technique — altogether different from the manic thrusting of a simple strip act. "Ray's style is classic vaudeville with sensual acrobatic moves and strength poses," Stevens said. "It's playful, sexy and comedic simultaneously."