Scaring and Staring: Burlesque Club Performs “Trick or Tease”

Photo by Danielle Pastore.

In the world of burlesque performance, one can never have too much glitter on their nipples.

Alpha Psi Ecdysia (A.P.E.), or the Burlesque Club, is a neo-burlesque group dedicated to promoting body positivity and being comfortable in one’s own skin. Their show for this semester was Halloween themed titled “Trick or Tease” in Parker Theater on Thursday, Oct. 20 and Friday, Oct. 21.  

Lucinda Sans founded the club in 2008. According to their Facebook page, they are the only known undergraduate burlesque troupe in the Hudson Valley.

“We like to say we were the first state-funded strippers,” troupe leader Finley Hartley said.

Hartley, a fourth-year math major, has been part of A.P.E. since their freshman year. They described their personas “Polished Pearl” as Pearl from “The Scarlet Letter” all grown up, serious and sexy, and “Seymoar Buttocks III” as a college nerd. 

“I’m transgender and the female persona was my first persona and I was like, ‘I’m just going to put in all of the female that I have into that persona’ and then I got rid of it,” Hartley said. “Now I just have a masculine persona that’s still a nerd.” 

When members first join the group they are referred to as a kitten – walking and dancing through the audience in lingerie. They can also be used in other members’ performances and create their own persona. Members start out as kittens to help build up confidence to perform almost nude in front of an audience.  

“We help the new members come up with their persona by telling them to pick a flower and a cheese,” Hartley said. “They pick it up for the first show and usually change it afterwards.”

After the first semester as a kitten, members can play a small part of someone else’s act or perform their own. A.P.E. calls this a “deboobie,” a play on the word début. 

A.P.E. rehearses, practices and hosts workshops in the dance studio. The senior leaders hold workshops, such as how to make pasties and take off gloves and stockings.

Erin Perullo, a third-year geography major, joined A.P.E. because of her sister, Christine, and because she loves to dance. Perullo learned that the club was very accepting and didn’t have her do anything that made her uncomfortable. 

For her “deboobie,” she chose to do something that makes her and others uncomfortable. Her act, titled “Institution,” stemmed from her struggle with scoliosis and used improvisation, screaming and creepy music.  

“My piece stemmed from my frustration of my scoliosis to everything that has caused me to go crazy: school, family, social life and so many other responsibilities that put pressure on me,” Perullo said. “All of these things have increased my anxiety and have caused waves of sadness to overcome me that I battle to rise above to keep breathing.”

Perullo chose to wear skin-colored clothes to avoid distraction during her performance. Her sister gave her the idea to incorporate her back brace as an extra weird factor. One of her sisters, who underwent spinal surgery, was used as a prop and sat off to the side with her back exposed to show the scar.

“I played with the audience by making eye contact, getting close to them and breathing heavily to make them feel my frustrations,” Perullo said. “I felt like a caged animal confined by the border of the stage, like my thoughts are contained in my brain.”

Perullo’s act was an example of how the Burlesque Club likes to give their members the freedom to express themselves in different ways. 

“Since it was Halloween themed and I like contorting my body in interesting manners, I saw this as a fantastic way to release my inner self,” Perullo said. “My piece developed into something much more meaningful to me.”