In its spring 2022 showcase “Sexy Deadly Sins,” B. Burlesque featured solos that promoted body positivity, celebrated black people and gay people of color and, of course, showcased the wonders of burlesque dancing on Friday and Saturday.
Nala Bishop (Alanna), an SESP junior and president of B. Burlesque, said the bodies of women of color can often be seen in a negative light, or as “too much.” Burlesque is his way of subverting this perception.
“Burlesque really teaches us that our bodies are beautiful, that they see each other, and that we understand them or try to understand them,” she said. “I think it’s really beautiful to see it all come together at the end.”
Burlesque dancing was introduced to the United States in the 1860s, when it was considered crude and bawdy, but enjoyed a resurgence in the 1990s. B. Burlesque acts included a fan dance, a classic slapstick number and a Princess Diana-inspired dance, to “Primadonna” by Marina and the Diamonds.
Most burlesque performers also have stage names and personas. Some nicknames for B. Burlesque dancers include Kitty de Ville, Sinnamon, and Enemy of the State.
Communications student Laila Simone (Kitty de Ville) is the B. Burlesque Chair of Communications. She sees the characters adopted in B. Burlesque as a way to be more authentic with herself and with the audience.
“Here, it doesn’t really feel like a character,” Simone said. “It’s more about channeling yourself and finding the beauty of your own personality, and then finding a name that you think embodies that.”
Beyond being a teaching space for students, Simone said, B. Burlesque often acts as a safe space for students of color who often don’t see themselves represented in performance spaces or in the classroom.
While burlesque is about entertainment, B. Burlesque has addressed topics such as racism and fatphobia. Weinberg’s senior Karina Karbo-Wright (Enemy of the State) solo addressed fatphobia. Their performance included recordings of their brother and black students on campus discussing body shaming and their journey to self-acceptance.
“It’s really, really moving, and I’m so happy to be able to do something like this for them,” Karbo-Wright said of the people featured in their solo. “I will definitely cry. It’s really exciting and really empowering.
For many performing students, this showcase is a chance for them to reframe the perception of burlesque dancing – it can be a fun and affirming event for dancers and audiences alike.
“It’s just such a freeing and enjoyable experience,” Karbo-Wright said. “I’m really happy to be back in this space, and it’s exciting to do the show.”
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