Old Style Sexy Dancing - My Foray into Burlesque

I was sitting cross-legged on the scuffed up floor of the YMCA in La Jolla, draped in my black feather boa. The dance instructor acknowledged our courage for attending a class like this. She recognized that we might feel nervous or intimidated. I was just curious to see what this 2-hour burlesque class would be like. I don't have dance experience. But I do have nerve.

You may not be familiar with burlesque. While its origins are in the music and parody of vaudeville, it's mostly now considered a "classier" form of striptease. Having recently watched a burlesque show in it's more current form, I was struck by the differences between stripping and burlesque. It felt confident, teasing, playful, and connected. Very subtle movements with a feather fan or boa were very seductive. In general the women were rounder and softer than we would see with strippers. This was an aspect of public "sexual expression" I wanted to learn about first hand!

Thank goodness I'm basically comfortable with trying new things and not feeling embarrassed. Because despite the dance instructor's early acknowledgment that we may feel awkward or intimidated, there was little consideration of that later. The class was in the middle of the afternoon on a Sunday, with a large door open to passerby on the street. And some of the men who were attending the following salsa class were there early and watching. So much for my private exploration of sensual self-expression. As well, the majority of the class had extensive dance experience. Strike two in the comfort realm.

Nonetheless, after what felt like hours of sticking my butt out, flaunting my boa, and seductively shrugging my shoulders, I was actually enjoying the class and felt, dare I say, sexy. And confident. And enjoying in a different way how my body moved. It was tough to ooze sexiness and be fully present in my body when I was concentrating so hard on perfecting the new dance moves. So I had to let go of some of the idea of what it "should" look like and just flow with how my body moved. Although I was starting to feel sore muscles in unusual places, my body felt good and I was a bit giddy.

At the conclusion of 2 hours, ten of us danced in unison, the music carrying us forward, feather boas all over the floor. It felt so great to shimmy and shake with the short dance routine we had just learned that I barely cared that the class was now being videotaped. I'm assuming my "clandestine" foray into burlesque is somewhere in Facebook land :)

Jennifer Gunsaullus, Ph.D.

Sex Therapy & Relationship Counseling in San Diego