Love and lingerie: Lipstick Burlesque empowers performers through dance


Illustration by Lily Ogburn

Lipstick Burlesque’s 90 minute performances featured pieces by performers such as “Foxy Trot” and “Connie Lingus.”

Mika Ellison, Audio Editor

Amid flashing red lights reflecting off the walls of the Louis Room this weekend, audiences were greeted with lacy lingerie, burlesque and pole dancing performances from dancers like “Miss Demeanor” and “Heave Hoe.” 

Throughout Lipstick Theatre’s annual show, performers threw condoms into the audience and took off garments ranging from plastic gloves to shirts and bras, all to the tune of a lively audience. Performances during the 90-minute production included dance routines called “Pirate Booty,” and “Brawlesque,” as well as many others, all in burlesque style.  

Burlesque was popularized in England in the 1840s and arrived in the U.S. shortly after. The art form has since evolved from parodic entertainment — often involving a striptease — to a style of performance known as neo-burlesque, which outlines burlesque as a form of empowerment. 

For Weinberg sophomore Amaya Mikolic-Berrios, Lipstick Burlesque’s performance was the first time she’d danced before an audience. 

Although putting on a burlesque show can be intimidating, Mikolic-Berrios said the process of choreographing and performing her pieces gave her a feeling of artistic freedom.

“It’s sexualized, because it’s a burlesque show, but at the same time, we are expressing our own creativity,” they said. “(It’s) our own take on how we want others to perceive us in a way that is not like they’re objectifying us, but rather we’re putting on the show because we want to.”

Lipstick Burlesque co-Producer and Communication sophomore Sam Webster said, rather than focusing on the final product, she wanted performers to feel comfortable in their bodies and find joy through building confidence onstage. 

Lipstick utilizes burlesque as a dance practice to empower people of all genders, body types and sexual identities, Webster said. 

“When a lot of people think about burlesque, they think of the typical kind of show girl style, so the 1930s through ‘50s glitz, glamour, all-out feathers and sequins and elaborate costuming and typically very, very thin, able-bodied white performers,” Webster said. 

Webster said to ensure performers felt safe and comfortable at all times, some students at the performances acted as security and monitored audience members to prevent instances of prohibited photos or videos. 

Mikolic-Berrios said performing her routines was exhilarating. Having the freedom to improvise or enhance certain aspects of their performance was a highlight, she said. 

“There’s a little twist at the very end, and hearing the audience react to it — I was literally leaving the stage grinning so hard,” Mikolic-Berrios said.

Some performances, including one of Webster’s entitled “Why Don’t You Do Right?,” were inspired by classic 1950s burlesque. Some others, however, leaned into burlesque’s historically comedic roots by using music like “The Pink Panther Theme” and the opening theme to “Bill Nye the Science Guy.” 

Weinberg sophomore Isaiah Deleon, who attended one of the shows, said he loves the Lipstick Burlesque’s goal to encourage confidence through performance. 

“I look forward to Lipstick Burlesque every single year,” Deleon said. “It’s just such a fun event, and I love seeing body positivity.” 

According to Webster, Lipstick Burlesque often draws participants from all across Northwestern’s student body, with some performers being STEM majors as well as theater. 

Webster said the lack of an audition process coupled with a welcoming atmosphere allowed her to form close bonds with the cast, making the experience all the more enriching. 

“I love performing because I like getting to connect with people,” Webster said. “It’s also just ridiculously liberating to be able to take your clothes off onstage. It seems terrifying, but once you do it, at least for me, it makes me feel like if I can do this, I can accomplish anything.”

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @MikaEllison23

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