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Black Owned Burlesque Show Travels Country and Breaks Barriers

Negative feedback could have caused Ainsley Burrows to give up. The poet and founder of The Sweet Spot Burlesque was touring around the U.S. and Europe in 2003 and working on his third poetry album. It was at that time that Burrows decided the album should be about only love and sensuality. But when the album was released, the response wasn’t good.

“So I doubled down and produced an event that was all about love and erotica. Our first show was in 2006 and that event eventually became The Sweet Spot,” he shared.


The groundbreaking troupe is challenging norms and redefining the landscape of entertainment. The Sweet Spot Burlesque stands out not just for its mesmerizing performances but for breaking barriers as an all-Black cast.


‘Don’t dream it, be it’: Majority-Black casts provide community in the arts world for Black, queer performers
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... And it’s something one can find at another majority-Black show: “The Sweet Spot Burlesque.”

The show started as an annual erotica show incorporating poetry, modern dance, live painting and a band in New York in 2006, originally billed as “Freak Nasty.” It then rebranded as burlesque in 2011, along with its name change, and is now headed by married couple Ainsley Burrows and Laurielle Noël. Burrows is the founder, in addition to hosting and performing poetry at the shows; Noël is the CEO and does spoken word performances of erotic fiction. The show, themed around popular erotica and the art of strip tease, incorporates burlesque dance, comedy and shibari, Japanese rope bondage, among other elements.

“Sweet Spot” kicked off its six-city tour in Baltimore Oct. 8 and will end in New York City Dec. 3. Burrows and Noël said their Black, Caribbean and New York roots — though the couple moved to Baltimore last year — directly influence the show through music choices, the use of call and response and a 10-minute intermission dance party.

“We try to center Black people, the Black body, because there’s not a lot of spaces where you can go to a burlesque show and see a whole Black cast,” Burrows said, though he noted they always take on “the best of the best,” which sometimes includes non-Black performers. Dustin Wax, executive director of the Burlesque Hall of Fame in Las Vegas, said burlesque is still whiter than the rest of the country while the “leading lights” of the community are disproportionately nonwhite.

Denasha Bullock, 35, is a burlesque dancer under the stage name Eva Mystique. She said while performing in burlesque, she is always telling a story and is in control of what sexy is.

But that doesn’t come without push back.

“You would think that there would be more freedom to express sexuality in burlesque. But Black bodies, when we dance in certain ways, it’s not received well. It’s not even seen as real burlesque,” Bullock, who is Afro-Indigenous, said. “A Black body in white spaces is seen as raunchy, is seen as not classy.” ...

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This Burlesque Group Is Baring It All for Sexual Health

The Sweet Spot burlesque show aims to educate and empower through their sexy shows.


When you think about sex education, what comes to mind? A stuffy classroom with an embarrassed teacher standing by a whiteboard? Your classmates giggling to diffuse the awkward tension?

For the vast majority of Gen Xers and Millennials, sex education and fun don’t really go together. But there’s an alternate world, hiding in plain sight in several major U.S. cities, where sex education is fun, funny and exquisitely sexy – the world of The Sweet Spot Burlesque. Founded by Ainsley Burrows – a revolutionary poet, author, musician and painter – The Sweet Spot is a direct response to a culture that doesn’t want to talk about sex, sex work, or the role that sexuality and sensuality play in our daily lives. Burrows believed that by creating a haven for people to explore their sexuality and sensuality and nurturing a subculture that celebrates sex, The Sweet Spot could be part of changing the mainstream perspective on sex. More than a decade later, Burrows and his partner (in both life and business), Laurielle Noel, the Chief Operating Officer of The Sweet Spot, continue to manifest the sex-positive and sex-affirming culture they want to see in the world...


SEPT 15, 2023
Authority Magazine/Medium
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Live Arts: Ainsley Burrows & Laurielle Noel of The Sweet Spot Burlesque On The 5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career in Broadway, Theater or Live Performance Art
by Savio Clemente

"Develop a system for perfecting your performances. In order to make your performances look easy, you have to do your homework. You have to put in the rehearsal time so that when you hit the stage you don’t even have to think about your performance, it’s all in your blood. The best compliment we receive is when a person from the audience, who has never performed before an audience and has written one poem in their life, asks if they can perform at the next Sweet Spot show. It’s hilarious, but it is also complementary because it means that we succeeded in making the performance look so effortless that literally anyone thinks they can do it. I would couple this with always holding the intention to GIVE in your performance; be there for the audience, not for yourself."

Asa part of our series about creating a successful career in theatre, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Ainsley Burrows and Laurielle Noel...


The Sweet Spot Embraces a Unique Approach to Performance Art

The Sweet Spot is a nationally touring burlesque company that aims to create safe and immersive spaces that engage multiple senses, allowing attendees to embrace their sexual desires, liberate passions, and engage in an empowering journey of self-expression.

The all-Black touring burlesque company is particularly successful in initiating conversations around sex positivity, empowerment, and inclusivity by challenging societal norms and pushing the boundaries of modern burlesque entertainment. Furthermore, The Sweet Spot's ability to combine sensuality with artistry, poetry, live music, and captivating performances, as well as its reliance on satire and popular hits, redefines the art of tease.


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Inside 'The Sweet Spot': Burlesque Troupe Celebrates Black Erotica
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Sex sells, even to black people on the poetry circuit — a notion poet Ainsley Burrows knew in his heart to be true and ended up going against the grain by making a bold visionary move.


In 2006, the Kingston, Jamaica native founded the one-of-a-kind burlesque troupe, The Sweet Spot, which focuses solely on celebrating black sexuality through its popular Afrocentric events — playing to sold out crowds at various venues across the country.


“[It] started out as kind of a dare,” Burrows told NBC News. “I was on a train in England with a friend and we were talking about how closed the poetry community was about sexuality. One would think that artists are the most sexually liberal group of people, but they are not. It is a difficult thing to conceptualize but they are not.” 


NOV 26, 2015
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by #TeamEBONY

“The show is this way, babe,” I said to my newly bedded lover, who agreed to come along with me to The Sweet Spot. It was a Sunday evening. And after enjoying a pre-birthday brunch stocked with bottomless mimosas and renditions of gospel songs belted out by buxom drag queens, I decided to check out the show that my friend Nikeema was in town to execute. “You’re going to love it,” she said. “It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen.” Tipsy and excited, I took my lover by the hand and walked across the street into the art center that was hosting San Diego’s showing of this traveling showcase.

The venue was packed with 180 people patiently waiting for the show to begin as they listened to the energetic sounds of DJ Phenom, setting an atmosphere that was nothing short of a Friday night party set. The bar was in full swing with patrons grabbing their top-shelf beverages of choice, filling their blood with liquid courage to take in the unexpected. Most of the people in the audience were couples sitting cozy in white folding chairs searching for sexual excitement, while others who appeared to be single were there for the first time out of curiosity...


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