What does it mean when the best dance partner you ever had was a chair?
Not like I have a vast array of experiences to base that opinion off of, but either way, I do like how the chair basically does whatever I make it do.
It’s week three of class, and I can finally say with confidence that I am letting the guard down. I won’t get into it too much: I’m not such a fan of airing out my navel gazing, but there is a considerable difference in the way my body operates. The way I move, and the way I look at myself all seem to feel a bit more natural now. My first week of class, it was almost painful to look at myself in the giant mirror that didn’t allow much avoidance. Now I’m watching my movements like a hawk, figuring out what exactly I need to do to make it look good. And instead of looking at the amazing professional dancers in front of me and thinking, “Why can’t I do that?” the thought process has now become, “How can I do that?”
“Do not let the chair overcome you.” Jo says. “The chair has no business showing you up. That chair should be thankful it is even in your sexy graces.” I get a wild burst of energy from such a talk. Yeah chair! Who do you think you are! You better be thankful I’m even considering putting my sweet lacy clad ass on you now! Of course, this might seem silly in retrospect, but in the midst of trying to elevate your hips into the air, with one hand and extending your stocking clad leg, all while trying to seem happy, there is a certain sense of authority that overcomes one and baby, anything goes.
Hell, why stick with the chair when the entire bar top can become the surface where you grace your amazing moves, like this gem from Calamity Chang.
Of course, like anything in life, dancing with a chair may not always go according to plan. But that’s okay because I figure this is just as much about winging it as it is being well-planned and well-groomed. I push a metal chair under my legs and slap the top of it, commanding extra attention from the audience. Bad chair! Bad! Consider this something I do not get to do often enough in my day-to-day life.
I think my favorite part of the routine is the simple gestures that make us as a crowd of dancers look good, and I mean really good. Do not underestimate the power of simply leaning halfway down on a chair and tilting your hips back and forth; your brain says, “Not in a hell’s chance,” but your eyes say, “Holy hell, that is by far the best thing I have done all day.” What is it that the chair possesses that seems to make the simplest of gestures turn into acts of slight titillation, which in turn can only be described as pure, unadulterated and mesmerizing perversion?
At the end of the class, the mood turns a bit quieter and we all gather around for a talk, going over the basics of performing, the burlesque scene in the city, and other odds and ends. I don’t know what exactly leads to it, but I find myself self asking, “How do you get over that fear?” Let’s be honest. It’s one thing to dance in front of some gals you have come to feel a camaraderie with, it’s another to do it, well, you know. In front of everyone.
“It’s something I still struggle with,” Jo says, and at once I’m surprised and yet not surprised at all. It’s a bit presumptuous to look at the women who have made a life out of being amazing performers and think they wouldn’t still struggle with what seems to be an unconditional human feeling. She recounts the several times she has had a costume malfunction or music go awry, as well as the times she’s performed and felt like “meh.” “Meanwhile, the crowd loved it and never knew the better. You owe it to yourself and to the crowd to be amazing. They are on your side, they want you to be amazing.” She says all this with a tone that I think can only come from the experience of performance after performance. Why is it so scary? What is it about performing that seems so incredibly brutal, a combination of coliseum style cage match, egged on by the nagging internal voice, the one that resembles Margaret White’s, “They’re all gonna laugh at you!”
Okay, I’m taking this way out of proportion, but performing is still an intimidating thing. A few months ago, a friend and I were talking about his life as a comedian and I couldn’t help but wonder, how the hell he did it? “I don’t know,” he said blankly. “I guess I just keep getting back on stage.” Simple enough.
Maybe that’s what this is all about (put on your boots, kids; it’s about to get deep). Maybe it’s not about worrying so much as to what happens after, but concentrating on what is happening now. The “now” is the amazing part. It’s the one that I’m working towards, the one that captivates me each time I go to a show and become mesmerized by these women who bear it all, throwing the crowd into a wild mess of cheers and hoorahs. It’s pasties and glitter and straight-up, no-bullshit confidence. It’s being amazing.
I can deal with failure afterwards, if that’s what’s to come. But until then, when I’m finally up on that stage, I plan being the best goddamn thing since sliced bread. Don’t even doubt it.
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