8 years ago I got my first teaching job Tantra Fitness, I was 2 years into my burlesque career and so nervous to start translating what I did naturally / self-taught into a curriculum for others to start learning from. I never had any burlesque training, in those days, like the days before me, it was extremely DIY, Youtube didn’t even exist yet. (I know, 10 years is not that long ago, but in the digital age, it is!). All I had was experience and stage chops, rehearsals and peer reviews, what I had seen others do on stage and what I had read in books or what people had told me. Ultimately, I / we made it up. These days you can take burlesque classes from instructors who have never done burlesque but might know concepts of it. They might have seen a show or know because they have sexy dance moves that it can be called “Burlesque”, but ultimately it’s borrowed from those that do it authentically, artistically and as a career. The ones that live the art of the tease and the strip. Parallel to our Exotic Dance sisters, it is a new medium to teach and therefore there is not many standards or pre-set curriculums. I’ve often had woman say they have taken a burlesque class, but it’s not “what I do on stage”, meaning it is a sexy dance class, perhaps referencing our industry or perhaps not. I think the more sass the merrier, but know your roots!
For the most part, taking a burlesque class is not met with animosity from outside people like Pole Dance and Stripping is. For some reason, a ticketed show and a tiny g-string allows most people to fly under the radar when it comes to being a fancy naked lady, or a person who is taking lessons from said fancy naked lady. Not like the stigma of working in a strip club and teaching women how to get down on a pole. For some reason people can still come in and take a pole lesson and distance themselves from Strippers and think its ok. But they can come in and take a burlesque lesson and feel empowered, embody the “movement” and have that be ok. Nope. Why the need for the whorephobia? Why do we still have a whorearchy? Us practitioners, myself both as a burlesque performer and exotic dancer, want all woman to feel liberated in their body and it’s expression. Our sexuality and our narrative belongs to us, as individuals and we are entitled to feel as much or as little as we see fit. A woman’s sexuality and it’s expression belongs to her and her alone.
But please, do not for one moment borrow from those that have laid the ground work for you to have access to it, and trample down on them. This is about unity, solidarity and growth. Not an elitist – take it when it’s convenient and privileged to you, but throw that sex worker under the bus when it’s not – kind of deal. I LOVE the message in this article highlights for acknowledging the fact that we have the POWER to end this bullshit stigma against sex workers in such an easy way, to use out voices and unity instead of distancing yourself form the very thing that is liberating you. No, you might not be a stripper/burlesque person/naked lady but LOTS of us are, and lots of us love it, and lots of us love sharing our skills with you. Stop being afraid people are going to think you’re a dirty stripper and use your new found liberation skills to educate them on the fact that although you don’t work at a club or perform on a stage (and maybe are even shy about nudity) that you can still support those that do and you’re learning some pretty bad ass skills because of it!
I would not be in the place I am were in not for the incredibly supportive environment of Tantra Fitness. Personally and professionally, they have given me an amazing environment to grow and even given me the courage to open my own studio with business partner Cherry OnTop – The Vancouver Burlesque Centre. Their blend of Pole Fitness and Exotic Dance mentality, students next to strippers – is inspiring. The world of sexy dancing could learn a few things.
This article is amazing, read it, share it.
Annnnd, since we are on the topic of sex work empowerment, take the time to read this beauty –