“Welcome to burlesque” is what the crowd sings as the Saints & Sinners Burlesque club anticipates the night’s festivities.
The club performed Friday night in Rigby Hall. The proceeds of the event went to the Fredericton food drive.
The group is made up of male and female dancers who flood the stage to not strip, but to express confidence and empowerment.
“People don’t understand what we do. It’s not about stripping, there’s no nudity, it’s not janky,” says Amanda Steeves, director of the club.
“It’s a really empowering thing and people are always surprised by that.”
Members of the club expressed how it has been a big confidence booster and how it has taught them to love themselves. Fourth-year student Ashley Fanjoy says her family sees a difference in her confidence.
“They’re often jealous of me in that case, and I’m just like ‘it’s because of burlesque, it’s because I do this thing,’” she says.
“I didn’t believe that I could hardly even go to a bar and bob my head, let alone think that I could dance like this,” says Andrew Clark, Saints and Sinners member.
The outfits the members wear for each number vary from lingerie, to suits, to cowboy hats, and superhero pyjamas. Fanjoy says that this is something she would never have seen herself doing before.
“I’m not exactly the skinniest person, but I had my insecurities for the longest time and then I went to see one show and I was just kinda like, ‘I could do that.’”
While being a place of confidence, it’s also mentioned how the club is really like a family.
“All of our lives are intertwined at this point, and that’s kind of the thing that I love the most about it, it’s the camaraderie and the family-like environment that you get from it,” says Clark.
Being away from her home in Nova Scotia, third year student Thalia Ackroyd never has to worry about someone being there for her.
“These guys are it, these are my family. If I have to turn to someone in a crisis I go to them, when I moved into my first apartment they helped me move, and it’s a stress reliever,” she says.
Ackroyd likes burlesque because it’s good exercise and ties in with her experience in dance, which she had to give up because of her injuries.
“I have widespread chronic pain disorder and before I joined burlesque I was barely exercising … But because I love to dance and I love this group, I’m pushing my body more.”
Steeves says people get more confident in their body when they do burlesque, and she sees it have an impact on their everyday life. They become “less guarded” and more verbal and social. She believes this is a place where people can feel they belong.
“In a world where people always want us to be something else, it’s rare to find a place where you can just be you and be completely accepted all the time.”