Comprising around 300 undergraduate students, Tufts Burlesque Troupe is one of the largest student dance groups you’ll find on campus. Committed to creating a body-neutral environment fit for exploring oneself and celebrating diversity, this no-audition group has been a second home to many students over the years. Welcoming to students of all years and levels of dance, the Troupe embraces sexiness and comfort in one’s own body.
Current undergraduate seniors and Burlesque executive board members Nyssa Singhal, Alexa Brown, Nick DaRosa and Julia Murray reflected on their experience with Burlesque.
Burlesque has grown greatly over the past few years, representing and welcoming students from all walks of life.
“I feel like it’s given me my place at Tufts and [also] my community,” DaRosa said.
And, with such high demand to see the Troupe’s shows, members of the group’s executive board and dance choreographers are actively making efforts to keep this inherently vulnerable space safe for all.
“One of the biggest changes that we’ve had for this semester is we have an OEO … adviser,” Murray said. “They’ve been great with helping us navigate through difficult situations.”
With only one hour of rehearsals for the troupe per week and a large end-of-the-semester showcase, the choreographers in Burlesque need caution and precision to create choreography that is fun, inventive and easy to handle for all levels of dancers. Additionally, the choreography needs to make the dancers feel confident in their bodies — both in the rehearsal room and on the stage.
“I really enjoy coming up with the dance [and] every single aspect of the performance,” Murray said.
With dances that don’t take themselves too seriously and lean into the more silly and playful side of Burlesque, the choreographers are able to create something fun and distinct for the entire organization. And most importantly, Burlesque choreographers make an intentional effort to meet all of their dancers where they are.
“We do a lot of work with [choreographers] beforehand about specific language to use,” Murray said.
This semester’s 17-dance show — Generation XXX — took viewers on a journey through time, from the Big Bang all the way to the future where technology rules over society. Dances ranged in theme from the actual birth of the universe to artificial intelligence to a three-partner dance and butt dinosaurs.
In a message to the Daily following the show, Brown shared her excitement over the evening’s performance.
“The show went amazingly and we’re so thankful and proud of each and every dancer, choreographer, and board member,” Brown wrote. “We could not be more excited for the future of burlesque!”
Beyond fun and sexy dance numbers, Burlesque also simply acts as a vessel to bring light and new experiences to any Tufts student. Burlesque has helped many find their place at Tufts, in addition to exploring their bodies and feeling confident in their own skin. One recent change that has come out of the troupe has been the effort to include both body-positive and body-neutral language.
“The shift has been more recognizing and embracing differences in how people view [their] body,” Singhal said.
Brown, Singhal, Murray and DaRosa also reflected on their goals for the future of Burlesque. Singhal discussed expansion as a goal of the graduating members of the executive board, but ensuring that that expansion happens safely.
“I think that’s our main goal: looking for ways to bring Burlesque to the wider community while still respecting the troupe members and respecting the original goals of the troupe,” Singhal said.
Part of that effort to respect the Burlesque dancers entailed a recent decision to move back to a closed dress rehearsal.
“We experimented with having the dress [rehearsal] be open last semester because there was such a demand for the shows, but we realized that just made dancers feel unsafe,” Singhal said in the days leading up to the performance. “Now we’re shifting to a closed dress, but it’s going to be way more intimate.”
Ultimately, the Troupe strives to be a space where everyone feels empowered to embrace their own being and identity completely.
“It’s not a sexual awakening, it’s like a sexiness awakening,” Brown explained. “It kind of changed my life.”
For others, Burlesque has been a creative output that has become an integral part of individual identity throughout their years at Tufts.
“It has also really shown me that I’m a creative person, and that I enjoy dancing,” Murray stated.
With a laugh, DaRosa boldly summed up the organization in a single sentence: “There’s never anything to lose … except your clothing.”