If you ever met my 15-year-old me, you’d never imagine she’d perform burlesque 10 years later to an adoring audience.
She was awkward, prohibitively shy and a complete drama queen. And while I’m still enjoying those parts of my teenage self even 10 years later, their intensity has definitely dropped.
I have always been the creative type, always with her hands on a project, something to keep her 24/7 mind off trouble and depression. Poetry, blogs, a bedroom decoration project, a work project, you name it.
Dancing can be a creative process, although not always. My experience with dancing and acting projects is that there’s rarely room to improvise, there are scripts/moves that should be followed down to a T, and the whole concept of the tutor as a discipline-imposer that smacks down any creative attempts isn’t that appealing to me. Very often dancing is about perfection of posture and smoothness of moves, something I always struggled with because of my spine issues.
But burlesque is something else. It’s dancing and acting together, but the possibilities are endless. There’s no tutor to effectively kill your dreams. Your tutor takes the rough idea you have on your mind and gives it the best possible shape. There’s no discipline to be imposed, just feedback to be given in a friendly, clear and non-patronising way.
The possibilities are endless. Do you want to be completely ridiculous? That’s absolutely fine, do comedy burlesque! A lot of women nowadays spend their days in corporate offices, trapped in dress codes and meetings and so much seriousness. Burlesque encourages fun and experimentation. We need to laugh at ourselves sometimes, and burlesque acknowledges that. And there’s nothing more people pleasing than triggering laughter to an audience that is also very likely to spending their weekdays trapped in 9-5 offices.
Do you want to be sexy and cute? That’s absolutely fine too! Love horror and gothic and want to integrate these genres into your act? Go ahead! I’ve had the pleasure of seeing both comedy and horror acts and they were both so incredibly fun. They were different to each other, unique, true to character, or maybe alter egos.
Burlesque is a mini act (max. 5 minutes!) that incorporates who we are, who we want to be, what we like, what we don’t like and want to change, and so much more. And that’s why it’s so enjoyable. It’s a window to someone’s soul, thoughts, hopes, dreams, unique personality.
What about my alter ego? She’s a fierce jazz-age woman, with a knack for deception and simple magic tricks that would convince even the most persistent non-believers of magic to rub their eyes and feel the sparkle. I am normally a shy, introverted person who definitely cannot do magic and does not wear top hats. And yet, on stage, I could be anyone I wanted.
I am also a girl that loves Chicago, the 2002 movie. And my aim was to pay tribute to this movie and the incredible soundtrack – which is why my magic show was jazz-themed, from costume to music.
And the best part is that I was encouraged by my peers and my tutor – and given valuable feedback the took my act further – and after weeks of hard work I created something I am proud of and have thoroughly enjoyed to perform.
The audience is also important. Unlike traditional acting/dancing acts, the audience cheers and is encouraged to participate and cheer from the very first second. Taking layers of clothes on the stage can be mortifying, especially for us who aren’t the skinny type. But burlesque brings out the best in the audience – they encourage and cheer even when we fuck up a move or a trick or when a tassel falls off (damn you glue!).
I’ve never been much of a dancer. But, dancing and dedicating myself to the creation of a beautiful act worked like a charm to ward off all the negative thoughts about me, my body, my life, my friends. I was focused but also relaxed, I loved moving around, enjoying every angle of my body, being adored by the audience. I loved creating, adding, revising, watching videos from 20s-themed shows to get inspired, picking costumes and props.
Dancing gave me such positive and healthy vibes – vibes that not even my lifelong partner, writing, has managed to give.
I intend to pick up burlesque in the future, but for now I am going to enjoy dance classes without the performance goal at the end. And I want to take care of my body and myself and enjoy moving. Always moving.