“Art is whatever you can get away with.”

To the directors of Rapid City-based Black Veil Burlesque (BVB), burlesque is more than meets the eye—it’s an art form, and a means of expression.

“Burlesque is actually whatever you want it to be,” said Erin McCormick, who is the co-director of BVB. “It’s a form of striptease entertainment that involves comedy, cultural topics, politics, but it’s also an action. It dates back to the early ages of theater and satire.” 

“It just feels really powerful and good to have all that hard work come together and do something that you’re proud of. And you get to show it to all these people who are cheering for you or maybe crying with you or whatever your emotion that you’re putting out on stage is.” – Frankie Poussé

McCormick, who goes by Phoenix L’Amour onstage, has been performing burlesque for more than 11 years. Before moving to Rapid City in 2016, she owned a burlesque school in Iowa and traveled far and wide performing her act. When she came to South Dakota, she longed for that same burlesque community she had grown to love.

McCormick connected with Frankie Poussé (who preferred to go by her stage name for this article), the director and founder of BVB. Soon enough, they were directing together and had assembled a troupe of nine other performers, teaching classes like Burlesque 101 and running all operations of the business together. 

“I started doing burlesque in my early 20s because I had gone through a really bad breakup, and was really looking for a way to tap back into myself,” said McCormick. “I stuck with it all these years. I joined up with Frankie and helped build the troupe that we have today. It’s been a really cool process over the years.”



Frankie said she started the troupe five years ago because she’s always been interested in burlesque. 

“I loved all the costumes, and I loved the big production,” she said. “I love that it looks like you can do whatever you want. It celebrates anything you want it to celebrate. Everything is really personal. It’s like a self-expression – whatever you feel in your heart.” 

The common notion about burlesque is that it’s all about stripping or sexual entertainment, but McCormick says while that is its historical root, there’s more to burlesque than that.

“In the past, it was more of an industry for women to sell sexual entertainment, and it’s transformed into this community that allows for anybody from any walk of life to join in and have some sort of artistic expression,” she said. 

Several different design elements go into each show that they produce. First, Poussé and McCormick brainstorm themes with their troupe. 

“That helps focus the feeling of the show,” said Poussé. 

“My favorite thing about doing burlesque is that I get to be a different person on stage and tap into parts of my personality.” – Erin McCormick 

Here are some available classes at Studio Disco:

+ AWKWARD TEASE: “Fun, sassy, sexy striptease workshop that focuses on highlighting the parts of you that make you uniquely sexy and lovable.”

+ BREWLESQUE: “A one-hour, weekly burlesque party. Learn new combinations every week incorporating the foundations of classic burlesque dance along with an ice-cold Hay Camp brew.” 

+ BURLESQUE 101: 6-WEEK SERIES: “Studio disco’s signature series, this six-week semester will have you confidently shimmying, bumping, and grinding in no time. This session incorporates classic burlesque movements with modern principles to give you all the tools you need. You’ll learn an entire choreographed piece from start to finish, with boa tricks, glove peels, and optional clothing removals.” 

+ BURLESQUE FITNESS: Burlesque Fitness is here to make you feel sexy while also making you sweat. This class incorporates classic burlesque movements with common moves found in a Zumba-style workout.” 

+ HEELS DANCE YOGA: “The ultimate confidence creator, heels dance will have you feeling fire. They will explore the very basics from walking in heels to digging deeper and displaying emotion through movement.” 

Many of their shows have a cabaret vibe with tables and seats, creating a very intimate setting for guests. 

The group prides themselves on constructing their own costumes, building sets, and working with sound technicians and lighting designers to get the mood just right. 

“It’s a full theater production, and we coordinate all of the things,” said McCormick, noting that this is a hobby aside from their day jobs. “It’s a lot of work.”

One of their most recent shows was “wild west” themed, complete with buckles, boots, spurs, and all the gunslinging glory of the 1800s. This month, they’ll have a Bad Wolf Cabaret at Hay Camp Brewing Company. 

“It’s a very intimate, fun experience, and it’s something you can’t experience anywhere else,” said McCormick. 

The group is open to all genders, not just women. Poussé and McCormick say anyone can join the troupe by reaching out to them via email. 


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