Monday, December 13, 2010

#23: Learn the basics of burlesque—CHECK!

Today Jo "Boobs" Weldon took my tassel-twirling virginity—and my life will never be the same again!

I entered the dance studio 10 minutes late and looking like a drowned rat after trekking through the pouring rain. But nothing shakes off the gloom and sprinkles on the glam like 6 full hours of burlesque with the fiery Jo Weldon. The Burlesque Movement Intensive workshop started with a brief background on how Jo got into the world of burlesque and the fascinating women she met along the way. It was amazing to hear her tell the stories firsthand after having read the book she penned, The Burlesque Handbook.

After the introduction, we got up on our feet and began learning the basics. Jo started us off with isolations and classic moves—the flick of a wrist, the thrust of a hip, the shimmy of a shoulder. Then came some sultry stage strutting, showgirl walking, and a lesson on the power of a deliberate pause.

Then came a section that elicited plenty of oohs and aahs: stripping out of street clothes. Jo asked us to pick a random thing that we wore that day, taught us some very saucy moves with them, and let each student do a mini performance stripping off her article of clothing. I thought I'd be shy about it but Jo is so funny and the other students so supportive that my hesitation just evaporated (plus, all I really had to "strip" off were a pair of gloves!). Jo had us in stitches when she said, matter-of-factly, "Don't play 'Stump the Stripper.' If something's difficult to take off, don't use it." She taught me a very interesting way of removing my leather driving gloves. I'm gonna have to restrain myself from doing it every time I walk into, say, a Starbucks from now on. My new favorite article of clothing, bar none, has become the humble hoodie after Miss Weldon blew us away with all the sexy things that can be done with it. After learning these moves, it might take me half an hour to remove all my winter layers when I get in the front door ...

The next part of the class was just as fun: the Chair Dance. Not to be confused with a lap dance, this was a demonstration on how to perform using the chair as a prop onstage. I've been fascinated with chair dances since my cheerleading and jazz dancing days, when I would spend hours studying Janet Jackson's music videos and gasp at the cool things she could do with a chair. Today we learned a softer, more seductive way of dancing on and around a chair, and it loads of fun.

Then came a part I'd been looking forward to: the glove peel. One of the things that captured my fascination the first time I watched a burlesque show was how scintillating the simple removal of an opera glove could be. So we all got to don classic satin gloves and learn how to take them off in ways I'd never thought of before. After that, we moved on to feather boas—how to drape them, caress them, pull them off, and fling them away. I think it's amazing that in this day and age, the simple reveal of an elbow or a collarbone can still cause a spark!

Afterwards, it was time to learn a full routine incorporating the moves we had learned. We got a hysterical mini burlesque history lesson when Jo taught us some bump and grinds that she learned from famous old school burlesque performers—with the dirtiest move coming from a particularly feisty 80-year-old! And then the class spiraled to its climax. We learned the bra straptease and minutes after, Jo brought out those fascinating things called pasties. I'm not talking about empanadas here. If you don't know what they are, think back on Janet Jackson's Superbowl costume "malfunction"—that star that conveniently covered her nip is what's called a pastie. In burlesque, many performers use them and do amazing things with the variety with tassels attached. There was a brief moment of hesitation all around once we each had a pair in our hands ... and then one girl said, "Well, I guess we're making new friends today." At that we all just laughed, shed our inhibitions (and then some), and slapped on those tasseled little things. I won't go into too much detail but suffice it to say that the moment when we all found ourselves twirling our tassels and gave out a collective shriek of glee will forever be etched as a beautiful memory in my mind.

I had the grandest time today and I am so glad to have finally taken a burlesque class. I can't really say if I'll ever go up on stage and perform, but I do know that today's class was a big step in owning my femininity and sensuality. Once you learn some burlesque, I think it stays with you, adding a swing to your step and leaving some grand music playing in your head. I had so much fun crossing this off my list—but I have a funny feeling that there is an ellipsis at the end of it. This may not be the last foray I'll have into the world of burlesque. I still have to learn how to fan dance after all ...

Thank you so much to Ms. Jo "Boobs" Weldon for an amazing workshop! You're a goddess!
A special shout out goes to Tamara of What Comes Before 32, a fellow bucket lister whom I've gotten to know through the blogosphere and Twitter. We ended up in the same class by sheer coincidence today. So great to finally meet you and good luck with the rest of your list! 


  1. Hey Celine, been following your adventures. Here I am, gathering the guts to belly dance and there you are, already conquering burlesque! Haha. Congrats and more wonderful things to come for you! =)


  2. Thank you Dang! For some reason, conquering burlesque actually now has me way more curious about trying belly dancing. You can do it! I hope I can try it out soon too!


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