This past weekend, hordes of under-the-influence college students flooded into Lutkin Hall for the once-a-year occasion of watching their peers dance and take their clothes off. Burlesque, one of Northwestern’s most beloved traditions, has a reputation for being wild – but its reputation doesn’t tell the full story of the hard work and positive messages behind it.
Presented by Lipstick Theatre, Burlesque has always had a message of body positivity. McCormick junior Matthew Wertheim performed in the show for the first time this year.
“I definitely had struggled in the past with body positivity and sort of especially in a campus where things can tend to get a little hyper-masculine just with the emphasis on athletics and all the sort of gyms on campus and stuff like that,” Wertheim said. “I thought this was a great way to cement my feelings about my body.”
Wertheim said that one of the rehearsals began with a presentation on body positivity, and the message was present throughout the process of preparing for the show.
Communication and Bienen junior Kathryn Riopel has been performing in Burlesque since she was a freshman. She says that the experience has been very influential in her confidence.
“They’re like, ‘Everyone’s beautiful, obviously. Don’t be afraid of anything just do it.’ So I really pushed my boundaries and I grew,” Riopel said.
The supportive community of performers only adds to the body positive environment. “Everybody’s attitude the whole time has been like, ‘You’re sexy, I‘m sexy, let’s do this. We’re gonna have fun with it and were just gonna make something great,’” Wertheim said.
Though the audience always has fun cheering on their friends, Burlesque has another layer of meaning for performers who have the chance to experiment and gain confidence in a supportive environment.
“This past Sunday… was the first time a lot of people in Burlesque got the chance to see my group’s number and it was just really rewarding to see our hard work paying off and people reacting the way we wanted to; laughing at the right time, screeching at the perfect time,” Wertheim said.