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D.C. Gets a Taste of Chocolate City Burlesque

Chocolate City Burlesque, Tagg Magazine
Chocolate City Burlesque, Tagg Magazine

Chocolate City Burlesque (Photo: Chris Jennings)

On November 28, Chocolate City Burlesque and Cabaret will be celebrating the black American experience at the GALA: Hispanic Theatre, providing a much-needed outlet for black burlesque performers in the Metro D.C. area.

“Many performers have had weird performance experiences due to race,” explains Chè Monique, Chocolate City Burlesque founder and director. “It’s not about excluding anybody, but about creating a safe space.”

Many performers in the District feel like performing numbers that speak to their culture, experience, and niche is not welcome. For this reason, Monique has invited “all shades of black and beautiful” to audition for the troupe, promoting a sense of unity and empowerment among performers.

As a veteran member of the DC Gurly Show—D.C.’s longest running monthly burlesque troupe—Monique has performed at numerous venues throughout the District. “I never felt my voice wasn’t welcome, but I still felt like an extreme minority. I thought it would just be nice to be part of a performance environment where everybody is on the same page on some level.”

Inspired by other performers who shared similar experiences and armed with an arsenal of part-time burlesque experience, Monique set out on a mission to create a space where “no one would be told their performances were ‘too black’.” Many community performers—of various races, backgrounds, and identities—have approached Monique with a shared interest in her mission and vision.

“I want everybody there. If what we are doing resonates with you, and this speaks to you, we want you there.” Solidarity and celebration are pivotal to the mission and vision of the show.

Responses from the community have been overwhelmingly positive and inviting. When evaluating current American beauty standards and trends, it is indisputable that African-American women have been taught to feel ashamed of the physical traits that make them unique.  In the arts, women of color deserve a place to showcase their beauty, and that is exactly what Chocolate City Burlesque delivers.

With casting for the show now drawing to an end, Monique is excited for the new endeavor.  “I am excited to be in a theatre and be able to give the performers actual dressing rooms and a big stage. If you’ve been doing this for seven to ten years, you deserve a real dressing room, not a half corner of a bar storage closet.”

Chocolate City Burlesque is providing a much needed experience for audience members and performers alike.  A free lecture on the history of black burlesque will take place before the show, educating attendees about the importance of the black burlesque community. Tickets to “Chocolate City Burlesque and Cabaret Presents: Black Friday” are just $25 and can be purchased here.