I’m shaking with adrenaline. There is sweat slowing winding its way down the curve of my spine. My leather corset hugs me so fiercely that I have to breathe as if sipping through a straw. I don’t think I’ve ever worn this much make-up or been baptised in so much hairspray. My body is slick with glitter. I’m about to strip down to my underwear in front of a theatre of strangers. Never have I been so far outside my comfort zone and yet so ecstatically happy.
I participated in my first ever burlesque show this last weekend and I can say without a doubt that it was one of the most empowering things I have ever done. I’ve spent many hours of my life so far reading about body positivity and feminine sexuality. I’ve watched Ted Talks, attended conferences and participated in discussion groups. And while this has all contributed hugely to my knowledge base and expanded my worldviews, none of it has impacted me as much as starting burlesque has.
I think something deeply profound happens when you embody values that you have been talking and thinking about for a long time. It is very easy to discuss body positivity and self-confidence on an intellectual level, but it’s another thing entirely to live those values. And when you finally do start living them, radical change happens.
I remember how in my first few classes I was mortified that I actually had to dance for an hour (in not much clothing) while watching my whole body in the mirror. My inner critic kept on shouting, “OH MY GOODNESS LOOK AT YOUR CELLULITE!” “YOUR BOOBS ARE TOO SMALL” “EVERYONE CAN SEE YOUR STRETCH MARKS” “DID YOU KNOW THAT’S WHAT YOUR NOSE LOOKS LIKE FROM THAT ANGLE?” I wanted to run out of the studio and never return. But slowly, things started to change. As the weeks progressed, I was able to lift my head and look myself in the eye. I was able to take in the way my body looked and moved, and instead of wanting to hide I was able to start a process of acceptance which is leading to self-love. I began to focus on how good it felt to be able to dance with sensuality and sass. I also realised that I was deeply proud of myself for taking on a very uncomfortable challenge and seeing it through.
I am still a beginner dancer and I’m not sure I have the co-ordination to ever look anywhere near professional. But this journey is about so much more than that. It’s about owning my sexuality, making choices just for myself, and becoming part of a community that profoundly cherishes femininity, creativity and self-expression. I am so grateful to my fellow dancers for showing me what true bravery looks like and for being such inspirations and to Lady Magnolia of the Rouge Revue for creating such a safe and affirming space.
I plan to be doing this for a long time so catch me on a stage near you soon!
Yours in sass, glitter, and champagne,
Peaches and Cream (a.k.a Miss Sweet Cheeks)