I came to burlesque via a friends birthday celebration; a taster class with the awesome Bettsie Bon Bon. Celebrations in previous years had included White water rafting and salsa but they just couldn’t compare. I felt I had found my style of dance.
There was none of the physical strain of pole dancing, or the limitations of belly dancing. Burlesque seemed to offer a way to be yourself but a wittier, stylish yet somehow more comfortable version of myself.
The next challenge was to find a class but fate must have been on my side because classes were starting in Chelmsford just a few weeks later. And so it began.
I took the weekly class and developed the habit of practicing routines we were learning in my kitchen before going to work. This bout of glamorous exercise was a great start to the day although as the months passed I suddenly seemed to have a rather dazzling array of class routines to select my daily practice from.
Excitingly I was able to take part in other classes, workshops and dance outs. I learnt to twirl tassels and that breasts really do come in all shapes and sizes and that they are all beautiful. Taking off gloves and stockings, and later a bra and corset, while smiling and staying calm and in control became a thing. And what a wonderful lesson for life this was; laugh instead of panicking when your laces got stuck!
I began to actually enjoy spending time with other women feeling relaxed rather than judged. It was fun and liberating to meet before class to get ready. We’d discuss the dance we were learning, what the story being told was, tricky moves that we needed help with, and then our own fantasy routines if budget, ability and performance space were no issue. We choose burlesque names and talked about our alter egos. And the changed the names as who were and wanted to be changed as well.
Out of this grew a friendship with a small group and we decided to offer our own version of burlesque at the Fling. Our tent offered performance, corsets and costumes to try on (surprisingly popular with the chaps), and the chance to crochet your own tassels (dubbed ‘not your granny’s nipple tassels’.
Somewhere among all this a miracle occurred. I decided that I didn’t hate my bum. That in fact I rather liked it. That rather than being too big it was just gloriously round. So I stopped trying to hide it under loose skirts or by tying a cardigan round my waist and instead purchased a glorious green pencil skirt with polka dots.
Following on from this I also wanted to start performing solo. I’d done a number of group performances but wanted to have a routine that was all about me from the music to the story to the moves to the costume. I began choreographing simple routines and teaching them to others at the Hogswatch festival in Somerset. It was brilliant to share the joy of burlesque with other ladies including the occasional brave chap. The highlight must have been a woman who had performed before but had lost here confidence. Joining in with a simple routine in the evening variety show gave her what she needed to pick up her dancing shoes again.
And these experiences led to me finally choreographing some of those routines I’d imaged years earlier. It has been fantastic to be able to find a way to bring a piece of music to life and entertain for a few minutes wearing a costume I’ve devised myself confident that I am sharing the best version of me. I’ve discovered I like to surprise and shock the audience a little – and that pulling faces is fun!
Sadly I am on a year long break while I recover from a foot injury but 2019 will see Emeralde Envy – and her bum – back in action!