THE BURLY KIDS of the 912 maintain their sweet spot in the hearts of locals; with their playful and humorous take on old-school burlesque, it's easy to see why.
“When we started the troupe, we wanted to make sure that when people came to our shows, we have something for everyone,” co-founder Wendy Penatello Denney (Rebel Belle on stage) shares. “People come out who like traditional burlesque, so we have that aspect. But most places we perform are punk rock bars—most of those people don’t want to see two hours of girls doing traditional burlesque.”
That’s the beauty of the Teases: from dance styles to characters, every member has their own unique approach to the art.
“In casting people as Sweet Tease performers, we’ve made sure everyone has different personalities, as well as keeping different shapes, sizes, colors, all that good stuff,” says Denney.
And the times have changed since the early days of vaudeville; entertainment in the Internet age comes with a whole new set of challenges.
“The bottom line is, when burlesque originated, if you showed your shoulder or ankle, it was a big deal,” Denney explains. “To have a long evening gown—that was something! Now, with social media and HBO, you can see whatever you wanna see. We have to think about it differently, and have the shock factor, even though people can see what they want on the Internet.”
As the troupe has grown, the Sweet Tease has had the opportunity to take the show on the road, teaming up and forming friendships with burlesque performers in other cities.
“We kind of like where we are doing five shows a year at home; we have been taking our tours a little longer,” says Denney. “We used to go out for two days. Now, they’re weeklong tours.”
In the future, they plan to hit new cities like Raleigh, Charlotte, Greensboro, and parts of Florida they have yet to visit.
Denney says the team will soon be setting up a fundraiser to get a tour van; currently, a Tease tour requires three cars, which gets expensive.
It’ll allow them to take the show to the next level: festivals and competitions.
“Every festival is different,” Denney elaborates. “Typically, you have to submit a video of whatever performance you’re interested in doing, and they have to accept it.”
Locally, you can catch the Teases in their upcoming summer show on July 25. It’s a departure from their normal themed shows—typically, Denney and co-founder Jessica Knapp are responsible for dreaming up concepts and casting.
“This time, we just had people submit acts they’ve always wanted to do and cast it based on that,” says Denney.
However they change it up, the troupe knows that their hometown has their back, 100%.
“Everything has grown a lot faster than I ever expected it to,” Denney says. “I feel really grateful that people in this town and other towns have taken to us so quickly and have given so much support. People who came to the first show have proceeded to come to all our shows: that’s a good sign! It means you’re doing something right.” —Anna Chandler
Runner-up: Odd Lot