Last updated on November 17th, 2013 at 09:14 pm
It’s incredible to watch women stand in their power, showcase their beauty, and to exude confidence. I had the privilege and the joy of watching the process of empowering women through burlesque three times this past weekend.
Writing and dancing have been two of my big passions since childhood. I’ve been fortunate to dance professionally in lindy hop, belly dancing and burlesque. I’ve found burlesque to be a supremely empowering dance form for the women who do it.
Watching Women Learn Burlesque
Thursday night I participated in Kristin Sweet Morelli’s virtual Red Tent Revival, which featured dance lessons online. She had two dancers from Boulder Burlesque do a little chair-dancing routine in the red tent, and then demonstrate some moves.
Kristin was dressed in a corset, hot pants and feather boa as well. I put on my boa and got out a chair to test out the moves.
The Boulder women talk about what they call “conscious burlesque.” They focus on the power of the female body, how the body is a temple. They urge women not to apologize for their bodies or their sexuality.
The front page of their Website features this beautiful quote by Sonya Renee Taylor: “Praise the body, for the body is not an apology. The body is Deity, the body is God … the only righteous love that will never need repent.” –
They describe their mission this way: “We actively inspire and support the reclamation of one’s own personal relationship to themselves and thereby the world through owning completely the heart of one’s own sexuality.”
Creating Your Burlesque Identity
Friday night, I watched a movie called A Wink and a Smile: The Art of Burlesque. It starred Miss Indigo Blue, who founded and runs the Seattle Academy of Burlesque.
It was incredible to watch 10 women take their first burlesque lessons. These women, over the course of six weeks, selected burlesque names and identities, chose songs, choreographed routines and created costumes.
The movie walked us through their fears and trepidation, their nervousness and ultimate courage. Only one of the women left the group before their rehearsal and group performance.
She was worried about her family’s reaction, and worried that there might be family friends in the audience. She said she still felt empowered by the process of taking the class.
Everyone else talked and walked through their personal fears, and ultimately got out there and sashayed, strutted, and teased. And they were beautiful, and bold, and empowered and sexy.
It’s amazing to watch a woman transform, to see her own her own beauty and sensuality. The women in the recital ranged from in their 20s to in their 50s and every one of them said this helped her to celebrate and love her own body more.
Dancing on Stage!
Then Saturday night it was my turn to perform. I was part of a review with a burlesque troupe called the Collar City Kittens.
We performed with a live rockabilly band. How much fun is that!
I chose to dance to Elvis’ song “Burning Love.” It’s just over three minutes of hip shaking action.
I worked on the choreography over the past few weeks, rehearsing often until the movements and timing felt natural.
I put together a costume with layers. I have a little black and red strapless dress with a pattern that looks like flames on the front. I layered another little red ruffled strapless dress over that one, so unveiling the flame dress would be a surprise.
I wore fishnets and over-the-knee black boots. Then I added on a few other fun layers: long red gloves, a black faux fur coat, a black and red feather boa.
Of course, I wore heavy eyeliner, fake eyelashes, red lipstick and plenty of glitter. Part of the fun of the burlesque world is dressing up in campy, over-the-top costumes.
Putting the Production Together
The band was featuring a guest singer as well, with the stage name Ritz Jazz. He was over the top as well, with a 1970s bell-bottomed dark orange suit and a penciled on black mustache. Ritz would sing a song, followed by four or five songs by the band, then one of the burlesque starlets would perform one or two numbers.
I was performing in the second set. Four of the dancers were up before me.
I got to enjoy their seductive, fun, sometimes intentionally humorous performances. Everyone had such a different personality and style.
The one common denominator was women who are comfortable in their bodies, and comfortable strutting their stuff in front of an audience. And what is more sexy than blazing confidence?
I was excited to go on stage. I love dancing, and burlesque may be my current favorite of the styles I’ve danced, which include lindy hop and belly dancing as well.
I did my three-plus minutes of dancing, shaking, strutting, and of course removing some layers of clothing. My number got a great reception from the audience.
It’s always nice to hear positive feedback from people. Of course, that’s not why I do the dancing.
I do it because it brings me joy, because it feels good, because it’s liberating. It makes me feel happy and sexy and on top of the world, and who doesn’t want that feeling?
I’m such a fan of burlesque for this reason. I feel like it gives women the natural high of feeling beautiful and sexy, and the joy of playing with the music, costumes and choreography.
It satisfies all my childhood desires of wanting to be a professional dancer, and of loving dressing up in outrageous costumes. I loved that when I was a little girl, and I love it now.
I’ve always advocating for people to unleash our inner rock stars, and burlesque really lets you do that in a powerful way.
Give It A Shot!
I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to feel more secure about themselves, and who wants to powerfully channel their sexuality in a positive, innocuous way.
Most major cities have burlesque schools offering classes and workshops. You can also find burlesque instructional videos on Youtube.
Put on some fishnets and heels, toss on a teddy, corset or nightie, and try some moves in your kitchen! Dancing sexy in the comfort of your own home is a safe way to try it out, so those who don’t want to get on stage can still experience burlesque.
Let me know how it feels to celebrate your sensuality! I want all the women of the world to feel gorgeous, sexy and liberated.
Lisa P. Graham is an inspirational writer, life coach, TED motivational speaker, and globe-trotter whose passion is to help others to find happiness and meaning in their daily lives. A political activist at heart, Lisa would like to empower more women to run for political office as a way to create positive change in the world. You can find her on her website or watch her TEDx speech on YouTube.
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