Nikki Marvin’s beginnings as a dancer are not unlike that of Dita Von Teese: a relatively small-town girl grows up watching Turner Classic Movies with her parents and develops an early love of vintage life, moves to Orange County, begins dancing here, and creates an onstage burlesque persona. Heather Sweet would go on to become Von Teese; Marvin would become Moxie Gold. Both would dance their way around the world.
Marvin wouldn’t go on to marry any celebrities, though; she tied the knot with her dance instructor, Shesha Marvin, instead. But together, the couple run one of the premier dance studios and venues in Orange County: Atomic Ballroom in Irvine, purchasing it after the original owners retired in 2008.
But let’s step-ball-change back for a second. When Marvin began dancing seriously in 2003, a week after moving to Orange County from Victorville, it was the culmination of a dream. “For some reason I was always attracted to vintage everything,” Marvin says. “I saw [the 1937 Marx Brothers classic] A Day At the Races, and that’s when I put together there’s a dance to the music I loved. I love big band; I remember stealing my mom’s Glenn Miller CDs, and then my grandpa found out I liked swing music and gave me his whole collection.”
From there, she started studying swing with Shesha, whom she began dating a month later. They married three years after that and now have two children together: 8-year-old daughter Anjali and 4-year-old son Arjuna. They usually travel separately, so one parent is home with the kids at any given time. Dancing has taken the Marvins all around the world, from Korea to Paris to Argentina to Vegas.
When Marvin isn’t swinging or Lindy Hopping her way around the globe, she’s performing burlesque locally. “Moxie is much more confident than Nikki. [She’s] outgoing. Moxie’s willing to take her clothes off—I think [that’s] the big difference,” Marvin says with a laugh.
She began an all-girl burlesque troupe called the Atomic Cherry Bombs in 2009. “After several years of doing Cherry Bombs and doing burlesque shows, [performing solo routines] seemed like a natural progression,” she recalls. Marvin co-produced a Valentine’s Day burlesque night and debuted her solo act to “La Petite Fleur” at her own show. After that de-flowering, she continued in the burlesque world by teaming up with Yadi Hurtado, who’s known for her vibrant, themed burlesque nights at the Yost Theater in Santa Ana, where Marvin and the Atomic Cherry Bombs regularly perform.
The Cherry Bomb girls and other people of the dance world have since become some of Marvin’s closest friends. “I have very few friends who aren’t dancers,” Marvin says. “[Dancing] gives you a social scene so you’re meeting people all the time. It helps to mix people of all different backgrounds and ages. I feel like dance is a really, really open and accepting world. Especially with the current state in this world, it’s a place we can all come together and agree—we can all be happy there and get along.”