Over the weekend, nearly 70 student singers, dancers, musicians, and choreographers worked together to turn WestCo Café into a dark and noisy burlesque club. Though there were five separate performances and tickets cost $4.00, the show quickly sold out, and all proceeds went to Planned Parenthood.
“Inspired by vaudeville and contemporary performance art, WesBurlesque organizes an annual show that combines music, dance, and theatrical elements,” wrote Eliza Gordon ’11 and Sophie Sadinsky ’11, this year’s directors, in a Wesleying event description. “Through our show, we wish to encourage both performers and audience to carefully consider their reservations and fears with regards to sexuality.”
I didn’t notice too much “performance art” at the 10 p.m. Saturday show, but I did watch girls in underwear dancing to an MIA song, followed by girls (and occasional guys) in underwear dancing to songs performed by the in-house, scantily clad funk band (highlights included a sensual cover of “Whatever You Like” by TI). A “prude” MC, Caroline Fox ’12, kept the acts rolling (there were 15 in total) and amused the audience by expressing surprise upon being confronted with lewd situations and objects (such as a large purple dildo).
As one would expect, the event, which is overtly sexual, tends to generate a mild hum of controversy. Although I’m dubious about the idea of anyone other than the performers being “empowered” by the performances, I won’t pretend to sort through the complex layers of sex and gender politics that some people would say are at work here.
I never found myself offended at any point during the show. That said, I have an unusually high threshold. The controversy this year seemed mild; Gordon and Sadinsky hosted a forum to discuss the implications of the event, but only students directly involved with the show attended the forum, according to Gordon.
“It’s an incredible way to express our sexuality,” Gordon said, who began performing in WesBurlesque as a freshman. “It’s freeing and empowering to be able to get up in front of an audience of people who you know and who you don’t know, and to dance in heels with [almost] no clothing on. The amount of self-confidence and courage it takes to do that is humongous, and I feel like people don’t really understand that. It’s helped me gain a lot of confidence in the way I express myself.”
The audience seemed to enjoy the show, and the atmosphere remained lighthearted and safe.
“I loved it,” said Jacob Eichengreen ’13. “I’d be in it, except I can’t dance. Maybe I’ll be the sexy MC next year.”
Sam Long ’12, who ran lighting and sound for the event, also enjoyed the show.
“I feel like the dancers feel really empowered by what they do,” he said. “They’ve a great sense of community, which overcomes the stigma.”
In my opinion, the music was the best part of the show.