The Truth About Burlesque


Uni can be quite daunting. Especially when you decide to study abroad as an introvert. Thinking over my first year, joining burlesque has been quite a big part of it and it is an experience I would not want anyone to miss.

When I posted a picture of my very first show the reactions I received were rather mixed. While on one side, people were absolutely amazed and positive about it, on the other side, people were also rather shocked and a bit weirded out. To all of the people from the second category and to anyone who is possibly thinking about joining burlesque, here are a few things to consider:


It’s a Beautiful Art Form

Have you ever been to a burlesque show? If no, I strongly encourage you to change that (and if that is not an option, YouTube is a good start. Also, watching the movie “burlesque” does not count). After watching a performance, you will 99,99% think to yourself “They are amazing. That body confidence. I wish I could do that!” And the thing is, you could actually be that person onstage making other people think this exact thing. Now, it is not a secret that burlesque involves stripping (surprise, surprise), but it is not the point of burlesque. It is not all about boobs and nudity. Burlesque is a beautiful art. It is teasing by being playful and entertaining. The motto is rather “look but don’t touch”. Scandalous, but in a good way. This, at least, is the outside perspective of burlesque.


Body Confidence

I have encountered quite a few articles in which the author (“the observer on the outside”) is questioning why ripping clothes off your body is considered as empowering women. Firstly, as mentioned earlier, these people are absolutely missing the point about burlesque. Secondly, they are not the ones standing onstage and “ripping their clothes off”. Being onstage and performing just gives you so much joy and confidence about yourself and your body. It takes quite a bit of confidence to actually get on stage and it will most likely not go 100% well the first times but this really does not matter at all.

Prior to my first performance I really could not picture myself doing any peels in front of an audience. In hindsight, there have been two main things that have helped me change my mind. Firstly, no one is perfect and no one’s body is perfect. It really does not matter how you look, what size you are or how big your boobs are. I can 100% guarantee that no one in the audience will body shame or laugh at you. Instead, you will receive a lot of applause, cheering and admiration and feel great about yourself.
Secondly, the burlesque community is extremely supportive and positive. Often, just seeing girls from your own club performing will give you the push of confidence to just try it yourself. Absolutely no one will ever pressure you into doing something you do not want to do. Burlesque is not about presenting a perfect body or being flawless, it is about feeling beautiful and comfortable in your skin. Everyone has unique flaws that should be embraced.

I have never had major issues with my body so I was really surprised how much more comfortable I have gotten in my own skin just due to burlesque. (As a small disclaimer, our uni society is a non-nudity club, which means you will never be completely naked)


The Shows

The best part about burlesque? Fancy costumes! Beautiful corsets! Flapper dresses! Feather boas! Canes! Gems! Long gloves! Lots and lots of glitter! Before you know it, you have spent hours on pinterest looking for inspiration. But you know what they say, time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.
The hardest part about burlesque? The face. While trying to remember all the steps and peels can occasionally be a little challenging already, the toughest part is to have a sassy show face. Even when you think you have a good face on you might actually look very angry instead which is definitely not sexy. You will notice how much easier it is  to just smile although this is not the ideal when putting on a cheeky show. Definitely a point to work on.


It Will Add a Nice Twist to all of Your Future Conversations

“Oh, so you speak 6 languages and study abroad! And, what is that? You do burlesque? Is that..what I think it is? Is that the thing with the pole?” I have lost count of the amount of times I have had this conversation. But I must honestly say that I still enjoy “shocking” people with that. Conversations like that are just a reminder that really no one else is making you do this. It is your very own choice and you are doing this for no one but yourself. No harm is made and you love it because it just is so much fun and makes you feel happy. (And no, burlesque is not pole dancing).


It Will Make Your Favourite Movies Even Better

Movie marathon, anyone? From Moulin Rouge and Burlesque to Chicago and Cabaret, all of those great movies suddenly become ten times better when you do burlesque. Not to mention how much you will appreciate all of their soundtracks! (He ran into my knife. He ran into my knife ten times!)

Conclusion Time

It honestly is so sad that something so beautiful like burlesque is often regarded as “inappropriate” by society. Yes, it does feature nudity but no, that is not the point of it.
There is hardly anything that is so exciting, empowering and body positive as burlesque.
If you are considering starting with burlesque, honestly, do it! No experience is needed in dance or performing, you do not have to be flexible and there really is no single reason to be scared. Even if you think you are not confident enough (yet!) to perform in a show, it is totally fine and no one will pressure you into doing anything you do not want or not feel comfortable with. The classes are so much fun and you leave the studio feeling sassy and great about yourself.

So, what are three things that I personally learned by joining the Trent Tigerlillies?
  • Glitter is extremely hard to get out of your hair. Especially before a 9 am lecture.
  • Doing the splits onstage in heels and fishnet stockings and managing to get a friction burn will leave an interesting mark on your knee to remember your first ever burlesque show forever.
  • Lastly, I sure know now how to give them tassles a good twirl.
Pictures no. 1, 4, 6 were originally taken by Martyn Boston.
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