(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 10/2/14)
I’ve been neglecting any type of formal exercise for awhile now. Truth be told, it’s been a couple of years. I used to run regularly and go to the gym, but since we moved to a house in the suburbs, the only exercise I’ve gotten is in my garden, muscling the ground into submission and yanking weeds out by their throats (who knew gardening was so violent?). I keep thinking I’ll take yoga again, or practice at home, but I don’t. It just seems like too much trouble. I’d rather spend that time (insert anything other than exercise here).
As a result, I’m now 20 pounds heavier than I’d like to be, and not feeling so super great about myself.
So when my friend, Whitney, suggested we take a Vintage Burlesque class on Tuesday, I was a little resistant to the idea. Okay, I was a lot resistant. I haven’t been in touch with this sagging sack of flesh in quite some time, so the idea of trying to put on some sexy moves in front of other women was off-putting. However – the class is taught by our mutual friend, Kristina, whom we both adore. It’s a new endeavor for her and for the studio where she’s teaching, Studio Soma East in San Gabriel, so when Whitney suggested we should go simply to support our friend, there was no way I could say no.
I am so glad I went, you guys!
Once upon a time, I was really in tune with what was going on inside my body. Hell, I spent three years and untold amounts of money getting an advanced degree in Acting. I spent mornings practicing the Open Choreography of the Williamson Technique and afternoons understanding the subtleties of my alignment and how it affects my voice, via the teachings of Kristin Linklater. I was acutely tuned into my sensuality, and was training my body to become an expert tool of expression. Upon moving to New York City, I was a founding member of a physical theater company, Theatre Lila, and spent many post-work evenings exploring Anne Bogart’s Viewpoints and practicing contact improvisation with my fellow artists in a gorgeous studio at Dance Theatre Workshop that had an unrivaled view of the Empire State Building from its wall of windows. I marveled at how my fingers would vibrate when I spoke, knowing that tingling sensation was the result of years of work opening myself up and allowing my voice to freely resonate in every chamber inside me.
My fingers haven’t tingled like that in quite some time.
As the class began, we learned a few of the basic moves of Vintage Burlesque like the hip bump and the shimmy. In case anyone was fearful of what might be in store that evening, we were gently reminded that everyone stays fully clothed in this class. Much of what makes Vintage Burlesque so titillating is the suggestion of sexiness and the coy connection you make with the audience, not the actual revelation of body parts.
We moved into some simple stretches from there. As someone who once spent so much time and energy learning how to communicate with my body, it is embarrassing to admit how long it has been since I even allowed myself any stretching. It felt so good just to do a few simple neck rolls and to stretch out my hamstrings, rolling slowly back up my spine, vertebrae by vertebrae. The memory of all those years of training my body started to whisper to me, and encouraged me to settle into this experience.
What followed was 45 minutes of learning a routine, and how to sell that routine to an audience. And what surprised and delighted me most was how easy it was to connect to my body again. The muscle memory is still there, carrying with it all that I have experienced and all that I have learned. At first, when I watched myself in the mirror, I was critical of what I saw – a woman who has let herself go and gotten a little fatter than she’d like. But it wasn’t long before I was able to set those thoughts aside and just enjoy myself, and luxuriate in the experience. Even though I don’t feel particularly sexy in my everyday life at the moment, it was so easy to connect to my sexuality and sensuality through the burlesque. I could feel myself taking sexy back, one shimmy at a time (thank you, Justin Timberlake).
What I find so appealing about burlesque is that it doesn’t have anything to do with how you look on the outside, and has everything to do with how you feel on the inside. Burlesque is an expression of your personal sensuality, and no matter what your size, shape or age, you can feel sexy yourself and be sexy to others while doing it. It is the best kind of workout, because not only do you move your body (I worked up quite a sweat), but you can’t do it mindlessly – you must be connected to yourself in order to make it work. There’s no going through the motions, here. It forces you to go inside and find what makes you you, what makes you beautiful.
Who wants to take a class with me? I’m ready to tingle again!