Educate: Class - My Grandma was an Exotic Dancer?!

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 Class Overview:

  • Title: My Grandma Was an Exotic Dancer?!
  • Presenter: Leslie Cunningham
  • Class Description: A look at early Black Burlesque through a glimpse into the lives of the Bates Sisters, three brown-skin showgirls who helped innovate exotic dance from the American carnival stage. Created for The Harlem in Havana Project: Burlesque Education Series.
  • Delivery Format: Virtual class includes a pre-recorded storytelling video; discussion questions; review/questions.
  • Audience: global audience interested in American entertainment history, Black life, Women’s Studies, and Dance history.
  • Prerequisites: None.
  • Virtual class access needs: Internet for streaming and viewing a 28:00 video via computer or mobile phone; a class journal for answering discussion questions if you are watching this presentation alone.
Class Objectives:
  1. Meet the Bates sisters who helped innovate exotic dance.
  2. Learn about their influences, like the Cotton Club and legendary exotic dancers.
  3. Consider a brief history of exotic dance.
  4. Discover how the Bates sisters left their mark from the American carnival stage.
Class Presenter:

Leslie Cunningham is an artist, writer, documentary filmmaker, and owner of TRIBES Entertainment, a boutique digital media company based in Durham, North Carolina known for creating daring and entertaining narratives through a variety of digital platforms. A raconteur with a journalistic background, Leslie is a graduate of the documentary arts program at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University in Durham, NC. Her collection of engaging documentary films have screened on public television, online and at film festivals in the U.S. and internationally. Read more.
The Harlem in Havana Project:Burlesque Education Series features three hour-long classes covering American burlesque history from the traveling carnival stage. Presented by Leslie Cunningham, a documentary filmmaker and creator of the Harlem in Havana Project, these fun, passionate and energetic classes are filled with new and existing burlesque material, personal experiences, book reviews, film clips and much more. Learn more at (educate).

TRIBES Entertainment is a boutique digital media production company based in Durham, NC known for telling stories from the frontline of urban music, arts and culture. Learn more at