Dance Dance Revolution
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Burlesque underwent a renaissance in the 1990s, when nostalgic performance artists revived the glamorous striptease of earlier years. Dawn Crandell ’98, aka Miss AuroraBoobRealis, fell in love with burlesque in 2005. She’s an interdisciplinary artist, and she found the form’s cocktail of theatre, dance, music, storytelling, humor, and politics both familiar and exciting. Burlesque shows were fun. The performers were smart, sexy, and subversive. What else could a girl want? Only one thing: “You could count the women of color on two hands,” she discovered. The burlesque community in New York was almost entirely white.
Crandell is a multiracial Black woman. In her art and poetry and teaching (she works as a teaching artist), she’s always looking to combine creativity with social activism—she’s cultivated both ever since her SLC days managing the Students of Color theatre shows and publishing in Dark Phrases. She saw the monochromatic burlesque stage as a chance to make a political statement: She wanted to build an all-women-of-color burlesque troupe and use the form to battle racism and sexism.
The idea for Brown Girls Burlesque remained just that—an idea—until the spring of 2007, when Crandell mentioned it to her friend and former SLC housemate Maya Haynes Warren ’99. Warren worked as a consultant for small businesses and nonprofits and was the kind of person who reorganizes every place she works. To Crandell’s surprise, Warren said, “Let’s do it!” and started formulating a plan to make Brown Girls Burlesque a reality.