NYC nightlife gets a jolt with jugglers, belly dancers, sword swallowers


We don’t recommend the swordfish tonight. How about sword swallowing? 

New York City nightclubs are raising their game this spring as they look to revive the post-pandemic scene with over-the-top entertainment that includes sword swallowers, belly dancers, magicians and “next-level pole dancing.” 

Wonderland, a nightclub and “adult” venue that opens this Wednesday in the Flatiron District, is beckoning guests with a human blockhead to go with their charcuterie plates and Wagyu cheeseburger sliders. Jewel Thief, a speakeasy in Manhattan’s NoMad District, is offering up belly dancers to electric violinists. And Keys & Heels, an Upper East Side speakeasy, has tapped a trio of magicians to work the tables. 

Olivur Yu, a show producer who is providing the talent for opening night at Wonderland, has booked fire eaters, jugglers of axes and swords and avant-garde variety shows with drag and pole-dancing artists who use truck chains instead of silks. 

“There are some shocking moments. The acts are very tough,” Yu said. “People are risking their lives and their physical well being to create their art. This is full-body dedication.” 

One of the sword swallowers is 36-year-old La Reine the Thrill, 36, of Brooklyn, who (it hurts to even write this) also will be inserting unusually long objects into nasal cavity. 

Sam Urdang juggling axes at Wonderland.
Courtesy of Hideki Aono
“There are some shocking moments,” show producer Olivur Yu says. “The acts are very tough.”
Courtesy of Hideki Aono

“I didn’t intend to do this work. It found me,” La Reine said. “It’s not for the faint of heart. I never give up on my dream to just keep creating.” 

Jewel Thief, which opened last November at 30 West 30th St. down a staircase under the Italian eatery Spritz, features live performers, DJs and shared plates — from Neapolitan-style thin-crust pizzas and homemade pastas to wood-fired skirt steaks. There’s also a $10,000 option to rent out the back of the vault, which includes a private bar and “curated entertainment.” 

Keys & Heels, which opened last month at 1488 Second Ave., now offers “Magic Unlocked” twice a month. The space is a shoe repair and locksmith store that has been transformed into a hidden lounge. As patrons dine on light bites and cocktails, a trio of magicians move from table to table. 

Sam Urdang, Olivur Yu and Sword Swallower La Reine The Thrill outside Wonderland.
Courtesy of Hideki Aono
Wonderland opens Wednesday in the Flatiron District.
Courtesy of Hideki Aono

And at Wonderland – a 10,000-square-foot space at 20 W. 20th St. that seats 150 people over two floors – the entertainment also will include celebrity hosts, live DJs and entertainers. The acts will become increasingly “adult” as the night goes on, says Wonderland’s creative director Richie Romero, also of Nebula nightclub and other eateries. 

“We’re expecting an audience of adult men and women of all ages looking for a voyeuristic night out,” Romero said.

Bottle service ranges in price from $500 for Tito’s Vodka to a $9,000 splurge on a Jeroboam of Dom Perignon Brut.

“After living through a time filled with restrictions and lockdowns across the globe, there’s now a massive demand by both locals and tourists alike to explore our city and all that it has to offer both during the day and after dark,” Romero said. “People want to see something they can’t find on TV or TikTok.”