My Life in Burlesque: The Biggest B*tch of All

Insecurity, I hate you and I hate your ass face.

Here are a list of things running through my head at recent rehearsals:

  • I wish I were thinner.
  • I’m not picking this up fast enough and I’m sure people notice.
  • Why is everyone staring at me? They’re judging me, I know.
  • I wish I were thinner.
  • If I even look confused, that’s showing weakness, and I’d rather eat glass then show weakness.
  • Come to think of it, I am a walking weakness.
  • I wish I were thinner.

Before you say, “You think too much,” let me assure you that I’m fully aware I think too much. My brain can be really mean sometimes.

On paper, I’m doing okay in the world of burlesque. I dance with two different groups, and both are growing by leaps and bounds. I recently had another successful audition, and my holiday solo was well-received. Despite the fact that I am not thin and never will be (damn you, genes)…well, no one in the audience has complained.

People seem to like me okay. In fact, everyone’s been warm and welcoming. Feedback is helpful and constructive. No question has gone unanswered, no difficult step unexplained. No one has shamed my body or my looks or my dancing, ever.

Unfortunately, my brain can do bad all by itself.

Believe me, I’m not fishing for compliments here. I just genuinely wonder, some days, how a mess like me got in two of the best groups in the city. I will never be a star in the world of burlesque. I know that and I’ve accepted it. I don’t have that quality, I just work my butt off and hope for the best.

I feel odd talking too openly about this to other dancers. Like I said, weakness. I’m too new to the community and I fear I’m already seen as a sniveling wreck. Not exactly the girl you want to book for shows or, you know, interact with at all.

In some ways, I know I shouldn’t be writing this post at all, but I want to be open with someone — anyone — about my journey in this world. Believe me, I still love it. I wouldn’t be putting in so much time if I didn’t. There is literally nothing like being on stage and I want to do it until they decide I can’t anymore.

That said, when I decided to write this column, I resolved to be honest about the joy of performing and the stuff that is hard for me. The cliché is true: I’m my own worst enemy. And I know it’ll get better, but until then I’ll be putting on my bravest face and rehearsing away.

I unabashedly love the 2000 ode to dance insecurity, Center Stage. In one of the final scenes, where Midwestern ballerina Jody Sawyer has finally made good, she confesses to the ballet master and mistress she has feared all year:

But I’m not you, and I’m not perfect. I’m just me. And I’m starting to think I like that even better.

Maybe I’ll get there someday, and I’ll never feel this way again.

I hope so.

By Emma Glitterbomb

Emma Glitterbomb is a burlesque dancer in Chicago. Writer by day and vixen by night, she's a proud company member of Gorilla Tango Burlesque and a founding member of Madame Hatter's Moonlight Marauders. Emma has danced with Beast Women, the Better Boobie Bureau, Festival of Flesh, the Kiss Kiss Cabaret, the comedy show Menage a Hah! and the blues band Miss Jackie and the Sass. Say bonjour at eglitterbomb(at)gmail(dot)com.

3 replies on “My Life in Burlesque: The Biggest B*tch of All”

When I woke up this morning I was like “Please let Glitterbomb have some wisdom to share” and boom, here was this article – exactly what I needed – a reminder that we all feel like this sometimes. If we’re looking at you, it’s because we look up to you. And because you look way too good in that corset. xo

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