B. Burlesque’s spring showcase spotlights community, costume and curves


Mika Ellison/The Daily Northwestern

Members of B. Burlesque practice for their spring showcase, “Sexy Deadly Sins.”

Mika Ellison, Assistant Audio Editor

In its spring 2022 showcase “Sexy Deadly Sins,” B. Burlesque featured solos which promoted body positivity, celebrated Black and queer people of color and of course, showcased the wonders of burlesque dance on Friday and Saturday.

Nala Bishop (Alanna), a 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 her way of subverting that perception.

“Burlesque really teaches us that our bodies are beautiful, that they are seen, and that we understand them or we are trying to understand them,” she said. “I think it’s just really beautiful seeing it all come together in the end.”

Burlesque dance was brought to the United States in the 1860s, when it was considered coarse and bawdy, but experienced a resurgence in the 1990s. B. Burlesque’s acts included a fan dance, a classic burlesque act, and a dance inspired by Princess Diana, set to “Primadonna” by Marina and the Diamonds.

Most burlesque performers also have stage names and personas. Some B. Burlesque dancers’ monikers include Kitty de Ville, Sinnamon and Enemy of the State.

Communication sophomore Laila Simone (Kitty de Ville) is the Communications Chair of B. Burlesque. She sees the adopted personas in B. Burlesque as a way to be more authentic with herself and the audience.

“Here, it doesn’t really feel like a persona,” Simone said. “It’s more just channeling yourself and finding the beauty in your own personality, and then finding a name that you feel like 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 do not see themselves represented in performance spaces or in the classroom.

While burlesque is about entertainment, B. Burlesque touched on subjects including racism and fatphobia. Weinberg senior Karina Karbo-Wright’s (Enemy of the State) solo addressed fatphobia. Their performance featured recordings of their sibling and Black students on campus discussing body shaming and their journeys to self-acceptance.

“It’s really, really emotional, and I’m just so happy I’m able to do something like that for them,” Karbo-Wright said of the people featured in their solo. “I’m definitely going to cry. It’s just really exciting and really empowering.”

For many of the students performing, this showcase is a chance for them to reframe the perception of burlesque dance — it can be a fun, affirming event for both the dancers and the audience.

“It’s just such a liberating, feel-good experience,” Karbo-Wright said. “I’m really happy to be back in that space again, and it’s exciting to be putting on the show.”

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