Back in Charleston, my friend Jesse Vickers once invited Jake and me to a burlesque show. A local dance studio in Charleston had put the thing together, and Jesse was one of the featured dancers. The whole event was in a dark dance studio with red lighting and beer sales in the corner. The place was packed, and the girls were wearing nothing more than underwear. I understand the lure for the dudes in the room, but even I was mesmerized. I wanted to be one of those girls. Even if I’ll never have abs like Jesse or moves like the hot Asian chick in the front row, I wanted to learn burlesque.
Definition states that burlesque is “a humorous theatrical entertainment involving parody and sometimes grotesque exaggeration. In 20th century America, the form became associated with a variety show in which striptease is the chief attraction.” I didn’t realize it until recently, but I guess the first time I saw a burlesque dance routine was in 1973’s The Sting, with Robert Redford and Paul Newman. (They even feature the famous burlesque song “The Stripper” in the dance scene.) Then, I saw Jesse’s performance. Then, I moved to Phoenix, AZ, and I wondered … hmm, do they have burlesque dance in the Valley of the Sun?
Initial searching led to pole dancing classes. Yeah, I’d heard all about this new fangled workout technique, but it didn’t seem very applicable to my day to day life. It might be a great workout, but it just wasn’t “me.” I continued searching, and lo and behold, there it was: Burlesque University. Kitty Victorian started it in DC, but she’s been hanging around PHX for the past couple months, so she brought it here for a stint.
Kitty Victorian is an “ecdysiast,” otherwise known as a striptease artist. She started her burlesque career in Washington DC, where she made a name for herself as an ecdysiast, character performer, and impersonator. She founded DC’s first burlesque troupe, the DC Gurly Show. Since then, she’s been all over, but I was lucky enough to catch her in Phoenix. She’s a self-proclaimed gypsy, so although I would love to have her stick around the valley, I do understand that she’ll be moving on soon.
I had a private burlesque lesson with Ms. Victorian at Pink Fitness in Peoria, AZ. I’ve been a dancer since my swing days in high school. Since then, I’ve done musicals and a couple years of Egyptian belly dance. Burlesque just seemed like a logical next step. The class was excellent. I learned about the history, music, and costuming of burlesque, and I even learned an entire routine! WOW!
Now, I realize there are those out there who would argue that burlesque objectifies women—that it makes us into glorified strippers. I say you’re wrong. In my experience (and from what I heard from Jesse Vickers in Charleston), burlesque dance style is a huge confidence booster! We’re so dang conservative and cautious in this country; it’s so nice to step out and shout, “I am WOMAN! I am SEXY! Hear me ROARRRRRRRR!” And that is how burlesque makes me feel.
My dance class with Kitty Victorian reminded me that I am a WOMAN, first and foremost. I’m a writer, I’m an editor, I’m a girlfriend, daughter, friend … but I’m also a woman. In this busy, busy world, sometimes it’s nice to just do something for ME—something that boosts my confidence and makes me feel beautiful. And that is what Burlesque University and all these new fangled dance classes are about. From Pole Dance Aerobics to Flirtease Pilates, dance studios are reminding women to be confident, be beautiful, and be fearless. What on earth could be wrong with that?
So rock on, Kitty Victorian. Rock on.
(Although Ms. Victorian is leaving the Valley of the Sun, do check out Pink Fitness in west valley for additional WOMEN POWER classes at http://www.PinkFitnessStudio.com.)