Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

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    Osato shimmies into socio-political commentary

    Internationally renown Burlesque star visits Laney to promote dance as social change

    New York-based burlesque performer, teacher and activist Una Aya Osato shimmied into Alicia Cabarello-Christenson’s Wednesday night Women of Color class. The performance, which took place on March 4 was part of the curriculum on resistance to racialized and sexualized representations of women and was included in the lineup of campus events for Women’s Herstory Month.
    Osato kicked off the festivities for an intimate audience of students, a few visitors from the college and from the wider community.
    Osato, who is of Japanese and Jewish ancestry, told students that she has been preforming her whole life, but started to feel discouraged in high school by the limited roles available for her as an Asian woman.
    She spoke of one of her high school instructors who told her that she was good, but that she would never be able to find gigs because she was Asian. Instead of accepting his perspective she started writing and creating roles for herself.
    Writing her roles allowed her the space to respond to problematic issues. “Burlesque becomes this place where I get comebacks,” she said.
    BurlesqueDespite the relatively small classroom setting, needing to switch her own music in between sets, and having a broken toe, the internationally known artist gave a stirring, hilarious, and thought-provoking show. 
    Her set topics included gentrification, police violence, and the dangers of nationalism. The acts were seam-lessly interwoven with stories from her own life, revealing her struggles with anxiety and self-acceptance and highlighting her continued path to healing. 
    “How do we heal our whole selves? How do we heal the world? It’s a process that happens together,” she said while speaking about the fundamental role that self-restoration practices must play in creating social change.
    Expert at combining movement and performance art with politics, Osato said that “burlesque has always been about political and social commentary. For me it’s about telling stories and how to tell a story with your full body.”
    Although the content of her shows deal with serious matters, they are also full of humor and playfulness and she encourages audiences to play along. “I need to create work that gives me joy. Laughter is really important.”
    After her show she led the class in an interactive workshop that involved mapping personal relationships to justice, group discussions and several movement activities that gave the class a chance to get out of their seats and be active.
    Students left the class feeling inspired and energized. One student noted that she was impressed by “Una’s bravery and how vulnerable she was. She reels you in with burlesque, but then has a message that people need to hear.”
    Another stu dent, Aaron Sarmiento, said the thing that stood out the most to him was her stage presences, “It was dramatic and strengthened awareness while causing laughter. It was just beautiful to see.”
    Osato is part of the all women of color burlesque troupe, Brown Girl Burlesque and has been touring her solo act “ExHOTic Other” for the past year.
    She preformed a show entitled “Preaching To The Choir” with her sister in San Francisco on March 8. To find out more about her and a list of tour dates, visit her website www.unaosato.com or check out her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/una.aya.osato.

    About the Contributor
    In the fall of 2019, The Laney Tower rebranded as The Citizen and launched a new website. These stories were ported over from the old Laney Tower website, but byline metadata was lost in the port. However, many of these stories credit the authors in the text of the story. Some articles may also suffer from formatting issues. Future archival efforts may fix these issues.  
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