It has been 10 years since SUNY New Paltz was introduced to the glitter-filled world of burlesque.
Lucida Sans created the burlesque troupe Alpha Psi Ecdysia (A.P.E.) back in 2008 and it remains Hudson Valley’s only undergraduate burlesque troupe, according to their Facebook page.
This past weekend, the troupe held their decennial celebration at Parker Theatre entitled “Nymphs and Nudes,” with performances by alumni and current members that touched upon nature, astrology, the supernatural, or simply the sensual.
The comedic duo, “Prinsex Punk,” an alum, and “Busty Keaton” were the hosts for the two nights of performances. The two introduced the acts of the night and explained certain A.P.E. terminology. Kittens, for example, are newcomers who can also be used in other members’ performances to gain the confidence to perform solo in the future, which would be called a “deboobie,” a play on the word début.
The audience filled the room with loud cheers and applause as performers took the stage to execute the routines they have practiced for months.
Through workshops, bonding and overall creativity and practice, students were able to shed clothes and feel empowered rather than objectified. The removal of garters, stockings and other lingerie were shown as acts of empowerment and freedom, with many strutting or spreading their arms freely after they shed some layers.
First-year trio, originally called the “Powerpuff Girls,” Miranda Sofia, Megan and Jessica gained that sense of liberation through joining A.P. E.
“My self confidence and body image is at an all time high since I have joined the club because everyone is so open and supportive,” Megan said.
Going off of Megan’s sentiments, Miranda Sofia expressed that they felt intimidation before entering the club.
They believed that the club would be predominately white and feature only conventionally slim figures. “It was amazing to see that we have everyone,” they said. “This a place where I can be a sexual being in a safe space and that’s really important. Certain people are in touch with their sexuality but we live in a society where that’s wrong and represses that. It’s spiritually healthy to have a space to explore the full spectrum of your personality.”
Fourth-year students and co-Presidents Shannon McHugh and Cici Chichester have certainly seen members evolve throughout their time in the club.
“We’ve seen an exponential growth of talent and ability,” Chichester said. “People return and are consistent in terms of attendance,” she said. McHugh chimed in to add that the club has doubled in size from when she joined her freshman year. There are now about 40 students who are involved.
“My favorite thing is watching new performers grow, watching someone who’s very self-conscious, someone who doesn’t really know how to use their body, learn how to move and gain confidence through learning how to dance,” Chichester. said.
A.P.E. meets twice a week for group bonding and workshops on basic burlesque body movements that could improve the quality of the performance through technique. Many members do not have a theatre or dance background, therefore sessions on body movements combined with open dialogues make the members feel more included and confident.
In conjunction with performance and production value, the amount of people who come to see them perform has also increased. Last year’s show at Parker Theatre was sold out, an unforeseen feat by the once small club.
Although the club has evolved and grown, the mission of body positivity and expression has remained throughout the years.
“The overarching goal is the appreciation of the body and who people are. It’s a method in which to become more comfortable with yourself and others,” said McHugh.“People in this club, myself included, have dealt with body issues and this club helped us work through a lot of that.”