What: Burlesque. You know. Dita von Teese? Immodesty Blaize? Burlesque, for God’s sake, where have you been? Gorgeous feather fans, sparkling nipple tassels, red lipstick, heaving bosoms, etc. The glamorous and cheeky art of burlesque is one whose popularity has increased exponentially over the last decade. And no surprise: looks fun, right? Right.
The Rundown: It’s advisable to wear something you can move in – tights and a T-shirt will do. Oh, and high heels, of course. Don’t forget the high heels. This being a drop-in class, there are no nipple tassels. (Boo.) There is also – you’ll be relieved/disappointed [delete as appropriate] to hear – no stripping off. BUT… there are gloves! Silky, black elbow-length gloves. We likey.
Our instructor was the luscious and lovely Zoe – or Lady Cheek, if you catch her on stage – who started off by giving us a brief history of burlesque, followed by a quick warm-up. (This Londonista’s feet were already beginning to feel the burn. Shouldn’t have taken ‘high heels’ so literally. Everyone else’s were two inches, tops. AMATEURS. No, no, must quell the competitive streak.)
First, we learnt how to walk. Not too demanding, you might think. Now lift those feet up a bit. That’s it. And swing those hips a bit more, give it some bounce. See, takes a bit of co-ordination, doesn’t it? Now place your hands on the small of your back and thrust that chest out, head held high. And the eyes. The smouldering, mischievous eyes are of the utmost importance. Now THAT’S your burlesque style.
After learning to walk, we were set a few exercises to help unleash our inner cheekiness and create a sense of character. This mostly involved tongue-in-cheek, attention-grabbing party tricks, lounging over pianos and revved-up versions of Elle Woods’ Bend and Snap. Quite a lot of silly-sexy glove action followed, plus classic burlesque moves like ‘the kitten’ and ‘the tiger’, bumping, grinding, and various kinds of shimmy. Ass shimmying is pretty goddamn fun. Regular shimmying is slightly less satisfying if you’re, like moi, lesser-endowed in the boobage department. But it’s all in the attitude; you can make believe you’re curvier than you actually are by the way you move. Then put it all together, et voila! You’ve got a whole saucy number right there, you little vixen, you.
Is it the right fit for you: Okay, so hardcore cardio workout this is not. But it’s probably pretty toning and that ass shimmying sure does work the ol’ gluteus maximus. But if your self-confidence could do with a workout as well as your glutes, burlesque is definitely for you. Very silly and heaps of fun, the most important thing is not to take yourself seriously – let go and have fun with it. It doesn’t matter if you forget the steps. As our charming instructor pointed out: the great thing about burlesque is that, if you muck it up, you can just smile and shimmy.
Where and when: The Cheek Of It! Burlesque run a range of classes, courses and one-to-one sessions. We went along to their drop-in class at Pineapple Dance Studios, which is on Wednesdays at 8pm. Should you fancy something a little more intensive, however, their eight-week beginners course starts on 5 September in West London and 6 September in East London, and culminates in (for those who dare) the opportunity to perform as part of a troupe at Madame Jojo’s. For more information and to book, click here.
Photo: The Cheek Of It! Burlesque student revue, Zoe Charles