“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.
We took our seats and I grinned at Nas with giddy delight as the first performer of the night made his way to the stage.
“How’s everyone doing this evening? If you’re feeling our DJ, let the church say YES!” The crowd responded in unified agreement and Iz-Real the Poet began to spit erotic prose that made me weak in the knees. After his warm up, the crowd was ready for more, and host Sabrina Gilbert pranced onto the stage in a superwoman outfit that caressed her petite curves perfectly.
“We are the Sweet Spot Nation,” she said with seductive enthusiasm. “Are you ready for a show?”
The crowd exploded with a positive response as she introduced Poison Ivory, the traveling show’s resident burlesque dancer. “I wonder what she’s about to do,” Nas said, as he kissed the back of my hand with his full lips. I smirked at his innocence because I knew exactly what was about to happen.
And with a sultry strut, Poison Ivory graced us with her presence on stage to perform a sexy striptease. The audience was mesmerized by the movements of her body synchronized with the rhythm of her soundtrack. Money began to fly though the air as members of the audience tipped her to show their love for her contribution to the show. Then, with a bow, she exited the stage.
The show flowed on with an erotic read by Laurielle Noel, a lesson in cunnilingus from sex educator Nikeema Lee, and another erotic poetry read by Ainsley Burrows. During intermission, the host gave lap dances to Scorpios in the audience, and as the show made its last rounds, I was ready to take Nas home to perform some erotic expressions of my own. As another rousing success for the Sweet Spot Nation came to an end, I was so impressed I had to learn more about this all-Black cast of traveling erotic performers with such great synergy.
“I put out an album in 2003 that was all erotica,” said Burrows, the Kingston-born CEO of The Sweet Spot. “I work as a poet as my day job, and in the poetry scene people looked down on it. I’m more of a political poet, and people were mad at me for not putting political poetry on the album. And I thought, ‘why are people so upset and uncomfortable with sexuality and eroticism?’ I said, ‘you know what? I’m going to make an event just to spite y’all, and it’s going to get popular and y’all are going to hate it.’ ”
I was shocked to learn that a community who embrace words so eagerly would have an issue with erotica. Iz-Real the Poet, a native of Charlotte, chimed in with his Southern perspective about why the poetry scene is so turned off by the idea of erotica from his.
“For me, growing up in the South and coming up in the poetry scene in the South, it’s like a holier-than-thou mentality,” he says. “They feel it’s too raunchy or they are too deep to talk on certain topics. So when you come with it, they kinda push you away from the body of poets and shun you away. That’s why the Sweet Spot artists are so close because we are kinda like the black sheep artists from where we came from.”
African-Americans displaying eroticism without shame isn’t something seen often in mainstream arenas, mainly due to the Black community’s deep roots in the Christian faith. But its unabashed display of erotic expression mixed with education, entertainment and “church” elements is part of the reason why the Sweet Spot Nation has been so successful.
Since its inception in 2006 in New York City, the erotic showcase has gone from being a once-a-year event to a traveling sensation, reaching 35 cities across several states in the U.S., with Washington, D.C. being one of its largest markets (bringing out 1,400 attendees across two recent shows).
“One of our secret ingredients is that we tap into human fellowship, and that can happen in any situation, not just the church,” said Laurielle Noel, CFO of Burrows Inc. and manager of Sweet Spot Nation. “We set up the chairs a certain way, the lights are a certain way to tap into that feeling of fellowship with the people around you, and that’s why we end up making a connection in relating it to the religious community. I find that people are very comfortable with it.”
Sweet Spot Nation has created a unique entertainment experience where people from all walks of life can party together and express themselves sexually without shame.
“We have a huge LGBTQ following because we allow everyone to party together,” says Ainsley Burrows. “We don’t judge anyone. That’s your sexuality. The Sweet Spot is a safe place for people to express that.”
The company plans to expand to 10 more cities in the U.S. before taking the show overseas, where Burrows has built up his network of poets and artists while traveling Europe for a decade. In the meantime, the Sweet Spot Nation plans to add another set of handpicked cast members to expand its brand, in hopes of becoming a household name while looking for sponsors to help with its expansion.
“We are looking for companies to partner with so we can have the financial backing to grow and get into bigger venues, arenas even,” says Laurielle Noel. “We are doing everything without sponsors and coming from our own pockets, and have been for 10 years,” says Burrows. “We have had people that wanted to sponsor, but they didn’t want their names associated with the content. Corporate sponsors are afraid of the content. Burlesque performances, body paint models, erotic storytelling, sexy intimacy tutorials, strong drinks and party-rock tunes are what anyone can expect when walking into a typical Sweet Spot Show. If you want a form of entertainment like no other, this is the spot to be in.”
Glamazon Tyomi is a freelance writer, model and sex educator with a deeply rooted passion for spreading the message of sex positivity and encouraging the masses to embrace their sexuality. Her website, www.glamerotica101.com, reaches internationally as a source for advice and information for the sexually active/curious. Follow her on Twitter at @glamazontyomi.