[Slightly NSFW pictures after the jump]
I didn’t sign up for burlesque for comparison to others, even though it would be Pollyanna–ish to assume I wouldn’t do it. But after about the fourth time I got my feather boa stuck on my fingers or I couldn’t unhook my bra on the third beat, I started to feel a little, let’s say, flustered.
Though there is something about spending a Sunday afternoon with twelve women in some pasties and nipple tassels. It’s even more refreshing when your instructor tells you to start jogging around to get your body moving in said tassels, creating a caucophony of bouncing breasts, sequins covering the least amount possible, while fringe is flying all over the place. Maybe it’s the secret, conditioned American puritan in me that still considers this somewhat radical– but why? Not that I know anyone here on a well enough basis, but there is a very comforting feeling of hanging out with a group of women talking about what type of double sided tape will sting your nipples the least when you take off pasties.
Maybe that’s what it is – this idea that nudity is still a very charged thing. I can’t tell you how many times I have brought up the fact that I decided to get involved in burlesque without someone mentioning how I was playing right into the patriarchy’s hands (feminism is funny like that – we are okay with choices until someone makes the wrong ones). I live in the in-your-face advertising capital of the world, but I don’t equate the half-naked models shilling vodka or cars as being nude, more just hyper-sexualized props meant to titillate or convince someone that if they just bought this thing, they would be or land someone just as sexy as this Photoshopped-to-hell person. Sure, my partner sees me nude most of the time, but there’s an intimacy there and let’s be honest, I still suck in my stomach or arch my back, trying to carry on the “Hey, check me out” mystique that one tries to maintain in a long term partnership. Other than that, nudity isn’t something I experience around or with people day to day. Its unfortunate.
Of course, these are all the things running through my head as I’m arching my back, trying to make a feather boa slip sensually off my shoulders. We are supposed to watch ourselves in the giant mirror, but I can’t help by try and emulate the woman in front of me, causing a lost in translation moment. I can feel myself becoming frustrated, completely forgetting that the woman in front of me looks like she has been dancing professionally since in the womb. Is this why I came to burlesque school? I thought I came to get my sparkle on, not to beat myself up for not having the flexibility and skill level of a professional (though a girl can dream).
“It’s about what you’re good at,” Jo says. Thank god for Jo. Not only is she one of the most stunning people you’re likely to come across, but she’s an amazing artist and a fantastic teacher. She’s been in the the game for many years, cutting her time between performing, teaching, and archiving for the Burlesque Hall of Fame. To be simple, she’s got it.
She also says that burlesque isn’t about dancing, which allows me to breathe easy. It’s about creating an illusion– a tenseness. Burlesque isn’t always about what is there. Sure the glitter and fringe are a large part, but it’s also about what is being revealed little by little, what’s implied, and what’s never seen. So to get from here to there, I’ve crafted my own pair of pasties with tassels a touch too heavy, but I think they might get me the practice I need.
We all put on our stockings one foot at a time. Or maybe we don’t. Either way, it’s about the journey, not the destination. Something clichÃ© like that. For now, I’m swinging my tassels as much as I can, perfecting the spin necessary to draw the fickle crowd into my grasp. I stand in front of my mirror, shaking and bouncing, making those sparkly ass suckers turn like clockwork, perfecting what I’m good at.