You just came back from a date in the park with a guy you’ve been spending time with all summer. You really like him so tonight, you decided to surprise him by showing him a little bit of what’s to come- but not too much. You do a little dance for him by hiking up your leg to show off your garter belt under your flowy dress, you pull off your stockings with your teeth and you flirt your a** off without saying a word- only a smile. Ladies, this is flirting 101, this is burlesque!
I spent the evening with Chicava HoneyChild, also known as “ Burlesque’s Blackademic” to learn the Art of the Flirt! Chicava has been captivating audiences as a burlesque “danseur” for over 20 years- serves as a valuable historian, teacher, producer and torchbearer of the black burlesque community. In fact, I like to call her my Burlesque Mother- two years ago I became a newly minted Burlesque performer through Chicava’s legendary Brown Girls Burlesque Broad Squad Institute program. Designed for women of color, The Broad Squad Institute is a 6-week burlesque intensive for newbies. This deeply transformative program takes you step-by-step through creating your first Burlesque routine in a space of self-expression and sisterhood. Workshops cover the history of burlesque, striptease, costuming, voguing, floor work, makeup, the art of flirting and so much MORE!! The Broad Squad is an affirmative space for body acceptance, self-love, and celebration of our inherent sensuality. And through her work, Chicava has birthed over 100 black burlesque dancers of all shapes, sizes, ages, and social status.
Burlesque is old fashioned striptease through the art of storytelling, I would classify it as the aunty of stripping. The difference between burlesque and stripping is that stripping is transactional ( you dance to get money) and burlesque is about the interaction with the audience ( you dance for the art). It’s about showmanship, teasing and putting on a theatrical performance. Let me break this down for you – in burlesque, you don’t just see my butt. Instead, I slowly peeled my clothes off, then I let you admire my butt! In burlesque, you control the narrative by taking the time to reveal yourself. The trick is to always leave your audience wanting more.
Each burlesque performance is unique to the individual story that that performer is trying to tell albeit- politics, women’s rights, sunflowers, seduction or being the big bad wolf who likes to twerk. Now in 2019, the Neo-black burlesque scene is even more radical- you will find performers weaving in comedy, BDSM, spirituality, Afro-Carribean culture, gender-bending and esoteric commentary about the state of the world into their routines. In my first burlesque performance, I told the story of Queen Nefertiti and the reign of other powerful brown women that don’t make it to the mainstream.
Women of color are in a beautiful time of RECLAMATION. We are reclaiming our bodies, our heritage, our hair, our checks, and our sensuality! Just like the foremothers of Burlesque- Josephine Baker, Eartha Kitt, Loddie the Body, Joyce Bryant and Maya Angelou ( AKA Miss Calypso) the black burlesque movement is ushering in the 2nd wave of the sexual revolution by celebrating our unique beauty and sensuality. Through the fun and sexy play space of burlesque, black performers are dismantling the respectability politics, misogynoir and antiquated fallacies of our bodies.
Through Burlesque Chicava wants Black women to learn to take up space! Let yourself feel good. You don’t have to wait until you are in a relationship or have a flat stomach to feel sexy. You get to feel good right now!
“Fully Operational Mothership: Burlesque & Live Music Tribute to Parliament-Funkadelic.” The show debuts on Friday, August 23rd Doors at 6:30pm | Show at 7:30pm at The House of Yes in Brooklyn, NY. I’ll be serving as your psychedelic kitten for the evening.
For more information go to www.browngirlsburlesque.com.
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