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The art of vamping


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POSTED: Sunday, September 20, 2009

Draping a feather boa around my body and creating sexy and cute innuendoes with a silk scarf were some of my tasks. Shimmies and glove peels were next on the list. That was after sexy strolls through the Mercury Bar loosened everyone up for the Burly-Q Basics workshop hosted by Cherry Blossom Cabaret last weekend.

“;I hope that women gain confidence and become more comfortable with their bodies regardless of size, shape or color. All women are beautiful, and burlesque is the art form we are using to showcase that,”; said Lola Love, one of the class instructors. “;Another important thing to me is having fun. When you enjoy what you are doing, it's contagious, and everyone enjoys it as well.”;

Elsie Medallon definitely had the contagious, fun vibe. She was interested in auditioning for the Cherry Blossom Cabaret and decided to attend the class. “;I learned a lot about the history, which was good,”; she said. “;I really liked that we could be free with suggestions ... it wasn't cut and dried. We could include our own personality into the things we were doing.”;

While some might view burlesque as trashy or risque, class participants had other viewpoints.

“;For me, burlesque made me comfortable with all of my imperfections. Whether you are performing on stage or in front of your significant other, the sexiest thing you can have on is confidence,”; said Miss Catwings, who helped to lead the class.

The class was designed to increase one's grace and balance, improve hip and shoulder movements and teach an assortment of sexy gestures from glove peels and sexy walks to stage presence.

Although now geared toward men, burlesque was also enjoyed by women back in the day, explained Miss Catwings. “;Every old movie I've seen from the '50s and '60s that has a burlesque scene in it always has women alongside the men enjoying the show,”; she said. “;I think burlesque died out when topless bars and then full-nude strip clubs entered the scene. It became strictly men's entertainment, pushed even more with gentlemen's clubs.”;

Class instructors provided a mini history lesson prior to the hands-on experience. Literally translated, burlesque means 'in an upside down way,' Catwings began.

“;It started as a means to make fun at the upper class society—a form of social parody that didn't include strip tease,”; she explained. “;Burlesque provided a rich source of music and comedy that kept Americans laughing and entertained from the late 1800s to the 1960s. Minimal costuming and sexually suggestive dialog were always included along with quick-witted humor. In order to compete with vaudeville, strip tease was added,”; she said.

A revival of burlesque has evolved over the past two decades utilizing a variety of forms. “;The neo-burlesque scene has broken lots of boundaries—gender bending, age, body shape—you name it. It's not always about being sexy. Strip tease is a part of burlesque, but that's not all it is. Oftentimes, women enjoy it more than men,”; she added.

But to enjoy performing, Love told participants it's all about accentuating the positive. “;The class really encouraged woman to be comfortable with their bodies. I'm not entirely comfortable with my legs but am going to try to use them more,”; said Katherine Jones, a local choreographer. Jones felt the class could provide ideas for future productions. “;I did 'Rocky Horror Show' and we had some pole dancing. Next, I'll be working on 'Hair.'”;

Past Burly-Q workshops included women ranging in age from 20 to 50. “;The people who take the class have different reasons for coming, whether it's just to have fun, they want to learn to spice up the bedroom or they're a dancer and just want to learn something new,”; said Love.

Whatever the reason for coming, participants who embraced the fun learned to drop their inhibitions. And with a class that closes with a session of fashioning pasties from cardboard and sequins, there is no room for inhibitions.

To find out about future classes and workshops, get on the Cherry Blossom Cabaret's e-mail list by sending a message to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).