Burlesque Underground’s “Sensual” A Success

Some of the most highly anticipated performances in the theatrical community at Millikin University are those of the student-run Burlesque Underground. On Saturday, May 6, Burlesque packed Pipe Dreams Studio Theatre for both of their performances at 8:00 and 10:00 p.m.  

This semester’s show, titled “Sensual,” invited audiences to immerse themselves in songs and dances themed around the five senses. The concept of the show aimed to give spectators a stimulating experience.

“This show was about having a fun sensory experience behind Burlesque that was really tangible to our audience,” said Natalie Grote, a sophomore musical theatre major and Burlesque choreographer.

Grote, who has been involved in Burlesque since her freshman year, loves performing in the group because of the unmatchable energy the crowd brings.

“I love seeing the audience’s faces, it is such a giddy moment to see how excited and how shocked and how amazing they feel watching us feel amazing,” Grote said.

Morgan Beutler, a sophomore acting major, can attest to this excitement. During the number “In The Air Tonight” at the 8:00 p.m. show, Beutler was in a group of audience members that was pulled on stage.

“I actually knew I was going to get lap danced on because my roommate was the choreographer, and I was still floored and shocked by every element of that piece,” Beutler said. “My jaw was on the floor the entire time.”

Beutler keeps coming back to Burlesque shows each semester for the incredible dancing and the fun atmosphere.

“The energy of the shows is so electric, just to be in the room and watch all these incredible people do their sexy little dances,” she said.

Beyond the simple fun of the dancing, Burlesque incorporated political and social justice themes into their performance. In light of recent anti-trans legislation and rhetoric spreading around the country, the student organization wanted to take a stand against bigotry and reaffirm their support of the trans community. Burlesque’s gender-nonconforming dancers joined together in a number celebrating transgender identities, “EAT ME,” choreographed by Skylyr Choe and Maya Norwood. 

“I remember in years past I was still struggling with my identity, and burlesque helped me to discover my gender identity by helping me figure out the boxes I didn’t fit in,” said Norwood, a junior musical theatre major. “It was nice to create a safe space like that in this show specifically for our gender-queer cast members.”

This number received some of the loudest applause of the night as the audience cheered and stomped their feet in support of the dance and its message, which many people seemed to connect with. 

Burlesque has been a safe space on campus for members of all gender identities. Elijah Gibson, a junior musical theater major, explained what his time in Burlesque has meant to him.

“As one of the few men in Burlesque, this group means a lot to me because it’s one of the only places where I actually feel sexy,” Gibson said, “Being in Burlesque feels like I’m allowed to just be and exist and not worry.”

This carefree enjoyment is one many of the Burlesque’s cast members share. Grote’s favorite thing about performing in Burlesque is the incredible joy she feels while dancing for a crowd. 

“It’s an experience that I cannot recreate. There’s adrenaline, and there’s power,” Grote said, “But above all, it is the happiest I have ever been in my life. It makes me feel so empowered.”

In watching Burlesque perform, the joy is palpable. The energy exchange between the audience and dancers creates a unique and exciting viewing experience.

“I hope people really enjoyed it, because we really enjoyed putting on a show for everybody,” Gibson said.

Keep an eye on the calendar for Burlesque Underground’s upcoming performances — you won’t want to miss them.