Feather boas, pasties and thigh-high boots. The joy of burlesque

Recently as part of the couples workshop and body image groups, we had a few of the local burlesque performers talk about the power of tassels to re-claim your personal power. Everyone was blown away about the sexiness and fun of burlesque. I call it feminist stripping. Elegant, for any body size, and full of kick-ass costumes, So why is channeling your inner Cher so powerful?
Some women think its the clothes and glitter. It’s everything from what to wear and how to perform for your partner and how to best shake your tail feathers. It’s a chance to be on stage in heels and feel powerful and sexy. You get a sassy stage name, friends that get it and a way to feel comfortable in your skin. All the women I speak to about burlesque say “burlesque makes them feel powerful”.
In the book The Burlesque Handbook, author Jo Weldon tries to explain how burlesque dancers differ from strippers: “As a strip-joint stripper, I usually looked for one individual to perform to, and that individual paid me. As a burlesque performer, I play to the entire house, and the house (show producer or venue owner) pays me.” She then recalls the pain when “As a…stripper, my appearance was constantly evaluated and commented upon openly…it was a rollercoaster for my ego.” As dehumanizing as it is for conventional strippers to be scrutinized like they are, at least they have the strength to get up close with men. Burlesque dancers, on the other hand, have a wall of separation between them and the audience, and have rigged the show to where the audience can only give positive reinforcement. In this environment, all the “power grabs” and attempts and being “daring” end up being, as Roger Waters put it, “the bravery of being out of range.”
Burlesque can be many things. It is most commonly associated with Dita von Teese and vintage-inspired striptease. But in fact the word ‘burlesque’ actually means to make a mockery or satirise.
“Women usually take burlesque classes for one of three reasons: they want to feel cheeky and have fun, they want to improve their body confidence and how they feel about themselves, or they want to become a professional burlesque performer. When asked about their experience of learning and performing burlesque the majority of our students will use the word ’empowering’ in their answer. Regardless of why you come to learn burlesque you are welcomed into an environment that gives you permission to understand, explore, celebrate and have fun with your sensuality. You indulge in your feminine energy and create a performance that reflects your personality and beauty, instead of being constantly valued in terms of weight, size and age. No wonder this is an empowering experience considering the society norm – images of women photo-shopped to inhuman proportions and perfection preached by way of a size 0 body and cellulite- free thighs.”
I like going to burlesque shows with my sweetie. But it’s men, not him driving the outing. He prefers women naked. The audience is at least 50% women and it’s a very fun, open and appreciative crown. It can also be quite hot. Zaphods usually has a show at least once a month and there will be a burlesque show coming in every major city. Ottawa, population 1.1 million has seven burlesque troops and is expanding.
A warning burlesque is addictive. Whether watching it or dancing yourself, I’ve see it as so very positive. Take a deep breath, grab some pasties and think about rolling down your stocking. It’s food for your sexuality.