Author, scholar, performer shares the fun, transformative power of burlesque in Las Cruces


Lynn Sally is an author, scholar and burlesque performer who has made her home in Las Cruces since 2019.

A California native, Sally lived in New York City for two decades and continues to teacher there seasonally. She was traveling across the United States in an RV in 2018, writing her second book, “Neo-Burlesque: Striptease as Transformation,” when she made a stop in Albuquerque, hosting a burlesque show at the Kimo Theatre. In Truth or Consequences, she hosted several shows at the civic center and the Mr. Fiesta drag show fundraiser.

Sally settled in Las Cruces where she is renovating an old adobe home in the downtown area. Despite some online attacks – “drag queens dancing half naked in front of our children” is a paraphrase of one comment – her New Mexico shows have been “surprisingly well receive,” Sally said.

With a Ph.D. in performance studies and a masters in gender studies and feminist theory, she taught an online class, “Performing Gender: Camp, Drag & Burlesque,” last semester at NMSU (and she would like to teach it again), and continues teaching The History of American Burlesque at NYU.

“I was impressed with the students at NMSU,” Sally said. “They were really engaged and had a love for drag. It was the most exciting class I’ve ever taught -- exciting for me, for the (17) students and for NMSU to have this course offered,” she said.

“Imagine something and become it; I think that’s what is so compelling about drag,” Sally said. Drag “offers a gender-fluid version of self. It’s what kids are exploring today.”

Her classes allow students “to express themselves,” she said.

“Gender is a social construct,” she said.

Many people don’t understand what identifying as transgender or queer really means, she said.

For example, an NYU student of hers chose to identify as queer because, for her, to identify as a woman was to identify with powerlessness and an inability to break the patriarchal system.

Sally’s first burlesque class at NYU was filled with “young, beautiful people,” she said. They decided to not only study burlesque but do their own show.

Each student in New York and Las Cruces creates the concept for the performance, designs the choreography, creates the character, makes the costume and chooses the music.

 “That’s what’s exciting about burlesque and drag; the individual literally creates everything.
 Sally said. That’s exciting for young people.”

It can also create “an experience for the audience that allows them to have fun, get outside their mundane lives and get away from the TV and see something they’ve never seen before.”

Sally has hosted shows around New Mexico, including Dr. Lucky’s Blue Revue in Albuquerque and PEEKSHOW, which toured the state with nine events and workshops in eight days earlier this year. She and PEEKSHW artist Peekaboo Pointe were featured at the NMSU Art Museum, and in August, Thomas Branigan Memorial Library hosted her book talk.

“People here are really hungry for it,” she said.