I found myself disappointed the other day when I googled, “What does it mean to be queer-friendly?” The search results only yielded articles, think pieces and click bait that attempted to define the word “Queer.” But, googling “what does it mean to be queer-friendly?” got me pretty much nowhere. I was looking for a checklist that gave me all the easy answers to life. But its just not that easy.
I googled that phrase because I had recently received a message with a simple question that threw me down a rabbit’s hole for a few days.
“Can you recommend a pole dance studio in NYC that is queer friendly?”
That’s such a simple ask. An associate said she had a friend who pole danced but was new to the NYC scene and they wanted my recommendation on studios that were queer-friendly. That was new to me. I’m often asked for pole dance studio recommendations but its usually with other prerequisites. I wasn’t sure how to qualify a studio as being “queer-friendly.”
My initial response was, “From what I’ve experienced, every pole studio is queer-friendly. To narrow your choices, you’d need to decide what more you’re looking for as they all are different. I recommend taking an intro class at S Factor, Body&Pole and Incredipole. Based on your experience decide which one suits your preference. I’ve always taken classes at every studio. Right now my favorite is Incredipole in Brooklyn. Honestly, I’m not sure what qualifies as “queer-friendly” for you, so it would be hard to make recommendations without knowing more of what you’re looking for in a queer-friendly studio. I’m bisexual and identify as queer and every studio I’ve taken classes at have felt queer-friendly to me. But what that means for me may be different for you.”
There’s so much ignorance in my response but we will get to that later. What I will give myself credit for is recognizing my own ignorance. As my response to her felt a bit off, I turned to a few friends and google.
“What does it mean to be queer-friendly?”
I asked myself that question so many times, that I began to think the question itself was ignorant and borderline offensive. Imagine googling, “What does it mean to be black-friendly?” or “What does it mean to be woman-friendly?” Does one have to actually ask that question? Rephrasing it shifted my views and definitely the search results. Ultimately what I was after was guidance on how movement and fitness spaces could intentionally be inclusive, specifically for those who identify as queer. So after changing my search terms, I happened upon, “Queer 101: Identity, Inclusion and Resources.“
In the article, the first thing they do is define the term “queer.” I appreciated the numerous ways they broke the word down. I identify as queer but I haven’t been able to articulate why and I always felt I wasn’t “queer enough” for the community, but still I identified as queer. To be honest, I’d always just say I was, “other.” One of their definitions that helped me articulate myself was the following:
Queer (adj.): not fitting cultural norms around sexuality and/or gender identity/expression.Queer can be a label claimed by a person who feels that they personally don’t fit into dominant norms, due to their own gender identity/expression, their sexual practices, their relationship style, etc.
– Unitarian Universalists Association
That specific definition fits my queer-ness. I identify as a woman. I’m also bi-sexual. I’m also poly by blood but am in a monogamous, hetero-normative relationship. I’m also deep in kink and have some quirky to outrageous fetishes. Gas masks, anyone? Latex rubber dolls? No? Add into that that I’m black. I’m a pole dancer and burlesque dancer. My entire life is TABOO. And yet what feels the most taboo is that I’m in a monogamous relationship with a somewhat conservative man, who goes by Savage. So yeah, those things and more have always made me feel queer.
The next thing the article addressed was “10 Ways to Be More Welcoming and Inclusive of Queer People.” I think that’s the closest I was going to get to a google search of “What Does Queer-Friendly Mean?” I encourage you to read the article.
“You’re not going to go to the gym if you don’t feel comfortable, safe, included, or welcome,” said Huerta. “Going to the gym alone for any person can be a challenge, and then when you layer that with not feeling safe in the locker room, or being gendered at the front desk, that’s a lot of barriers.”
While everything in the article didn’t resonate with me, some things stood out like that quote. When you go to your dance or fitness class, aside from your own issues that are yours alone to deal with….do you feel comfortable, safe, included and welcomed? Other things that stood out were:
Queer Gym, the main studio profiled in the article develops workout routines that help trans individuals prepare and recover from gender reassignment surgery. I never thought about this before. I’m always conscious of a pole or burlesque studio teaching in a way that includes the “male” body, as so much is taught to the “female” body. But what about trans individuals or anyone non-binary? This makes me check myself for biases in my dance curriculum. I account for men. But honestly, I’ve only been taking into consideration women and men. Even my partner, after taking an Intro to Pole class, emphasized the need to not teach towards “men” and “women” specifically but to almost teach in an androgynous way. I think the lesson is to teach in a way that accounts for the fact that we all have different bodies.
Every session at Queer Gym begins with members introducing themselves by name and pronoun. I learned from Bernadette Pleasant’s experience at Touch&Play, as well as some speciality training that she took, as well as in completing her Femme! Teacher Training program that I had to take this into account immediately. I begin every burlesque dance class sitting in a circle with my students. In my printed lesson plan for the day, I also have a checklist form with columns like, “Name,” “Pronoun,” “Burlesque Experience” and “Notes.” And then I go around asking each student what their name is and their pronoun. Every single class. Every time. I fill in my worksheet and keep it in my SpeakEasy Burlesque bible. Asking about pronouns is an intentional step towards ensuring I use inclusive language when giving instruction.
It appears that its mandatory for staff to undergo Queer 101 training. I think this should be required. Any type of sensitivity or inclusive training would be very helpful to staff, teachers and even students! I think that there are people who are qualified, who should go around the pole and burlesque and other boutique fitness or dance studios offering workshop trainings. If you’re going to have these kinds of trainings, it should come from people within the community who have created safe spaces that center on that particular topic. You can also contact any organization specific to the sensitivity training you’re doing to inquire about their offerings. Doing this internally, in the way I see companies handle it, is honestly a load of shit and just another way to protect biases.
There are certain people who come to mind too, who have a body of work or resources on sensitivity training
Rashida Khanbey-Miller – She has an article titled, “5 Tips to End Sexual Shaming in Your Sensual Dance Classes and Studios.” Its basically Queer 101 and can easily be turned into a workshop
Bernadette Pleasant – She teaches a workshop titled, “Emotion in Motion” which explores emotional expression, emotional intelligence and emotional healing. Many dance teachers love evoking emotions, especially heavy ones in their movement classes, especially the freestyle ones but they don’t always know how to handle “Emotional After Care” which what they’ve unleashed in their students.
Dalijah Franklin – As she is the Creator of Black Girls Pole, I’m pretty sure she could be tapped to lead a training or seminar on inclusivity as it pertains to race specifically.
Just imagine as a studio owner having a weekend of workshops that your staff and teachers take that will help them to be inclusive on all types of subject matter from race to gender to sexual orientation, body types and more! Or maybe that needs to be a conference or a summit. And students should come too.
So lets go back to my shit storm of a response to her that I regret initially sending. After stating that every studio was queer-friendly, I began qualifying things for myself.
There’s one particular studio that comes to mind that is specifically geared towards mostly heterosexual cis-gendered women. The language they use and how they teach is meant for that kind of women. So while I love them and highly recommend them for other reasons, I can’t say they are queer-friendly. If my pronoun were they or I was trans or asexual, I more than likely would not feel comfortable, safe, included or welcomed.
Now personally, the only representation that I need in a studio are teachers who vibe in the same energy of eroticism as me. I need a place where people hold requim for pleasure, sensuality and a self-proclaimed “floor fucker.” Studios that are focused on technique, training and raise a nose to exotic or erotic movement…they don’t work for me.
If I translate that though, that means is their representation for a queer person in a studio? People think of racial diversity, right. Are there other black students or black teachers like me, a newbie might wonder. Well, I’m sure there are queer students who ask the same thing for many reasons. So I thought back to all the studios and there were some that I could say are “queer-friendly” based on representation alone. There’s so many categories to think about with representation from race to body type to gender and more. There’s one NYC studio where there is representation in the teachers and students. Another studio moreso, has representation in its student-body make up, but not really with its instructors. And the same studio that isn’t queer-friendly with their language…also isn’t queer-friendly with representation.
Queer-Friendly Inclusive Specific Programming
Honestly, I haven’t seen this at any studio. I haven’t seen queer-friendly programming and seldom do I see inclusive programming of all the sensitivities. This could range from having programming like Queer Gym that has a special offering for those who are pre/post op. But it could also focus on other things too. When I asked around about what it meant to be “Queer-friendly,” one response was….
I think I was a bit spoiled by my classes back in Oakland, which were taught by a queer black woman and were designated for queer and trans people of color only. It was a really special space and my introduction to pole. I have heard of another QTPOC pole class here in New York, but it is only offered once a month and is held up in the Bronx, over two hours from where I live.
For this person, queer-friendly means sometimes having classes that are specifically for QTPOC. I get it. This is probably why organizations and communities popped up like…
Black Girls Pole – “Black Girls Pole is an organization striving to diversify the pole community by inspiring, empowering, and educating women of color about pole dancing. BGP is a movement to both celebrate and introduce new faces to the transformative power of pole. BGP aims to provide a platform for women of color to embrace their bodies, challenge their body, mind and spirit and express their own unique individuality.”
Queer Pole NYC – “An inclusive space to connect with other Queer Polers, share our struggles and successes, and discuss how to make the pole world a more inclusive place for people like us. “
Queer Pole London– “Pole dancing lessons for people who identify as LGBTQ+. Queer Pole is founded on the principle that pole should be accessible; as such Queer Pole aims to create a safe space for LGBTQ+ people which is financially viable for everyone. The lessons aim to be explicitly inclusive of QTIPOC, trans & non-binary people, and queer sex workers. In order to be as inclusive as possible the lessons run on a tiered payment system with no-one turned away for lack of funds.” They have a bullet point list of how they are being “queer-friendly.” Check it out actually. The intention to use “ungendered marketing” caught my eye.
100% Queer NYC – “A NYC based all genders queer pole & sensual arts squad. We curate our own events, add flavor to yours, and collaborate with other pole, aerial, and sensual arts communities.”
Queer-Friendly and Inclusive Marketing
There are many studios who tout themselves as being inclusive and saying everyone is welcomed and yet their marketing speaks to cis-gendered women who like pink. The way you market your brand, business or boutique attracts a specific type of clientele to you and repeals the people who are not for you. However, you can’t say all are welcomed and yet your messaging doesn’t reflect that! That could be in the words, the images and more. For instance, is it possible to have a pole dance studio who’s logo is not a woman on a pole? There are so many design options out there. What is we took both those elements out? As a queer person, if I were to look at your last event flyer, your website or your last instagram post, would I feel comfortable, safe, included and welcomed?
Those are some of the main things that came to mind besides what’s shared in the articles I’ve linked to. I’m sure there’s more but as its clear, I’m working through my own ignorance and I’m queer myself.
I asked others what “Queer-Friendly” meant and here’s an explanation that came via Instagram.
“I feel any form of expressive dance is queer friendly. It’s implied in the format of the class. Its creating an expressive, emotional, open, loving, and supportive environment. I feel these expressive dance classes help me grow mentally and physically. These classes, in my opinion, have taught me self love, and a willingness to be more open and positive. I’ve also learned how to become more supportive of one another no matter what the situation. The better you feel about yourself the more positivity you can put out into the universe. I feel it’s all semantics, if your intent is to create an open, expressive, safe, loving, tolerant, supportive, and comfortable environment, and I felt you accomplished that, then mission accomplished.”
This works, only if a studio is ensuring that every aspect of their business is inclusive and safe and expressive and open and such. Some places say that are “open” and “all are welcomed” but the language they use or how they act implies something else. Their biases could be subconscious or just plain ignorance. Or it could be the truth of how a person feels.
Imagine going to a studio and the staff, teachers and/or students are giving off the vibe that they are uncomfortable with your presence. So in general, if you’re an “open and safe” studio, that’s awesome. However, there is usually more work to be done.
My mind is still racing as I still feel that I need to explore this topic some more. I want to create a list of bullet points of what it means to be “queer-friendly” or actually “inclusive” taking into account race and other things as well and then I want to honestly evaluate pole studios, burlesque academies and pole and burlesque shows, productions and events. On the surface, it seems like we are doing awesome. But that’s not true.
This topic also made me think of my three sisters, as all four of us identify as bi-sexual. Our ages vary and its not like we have all been on a four-way call discussing our sexual orientation. (Though now that sounds like a fun sister chat to have.) I learned my 24 year old student was Bi many years ago when she was still in highschool. She called to tell me. But I had an idea it was coming after seeing that she binge watched, “The L Word” on my Netflix account in one night. Something told me I’d get a call from her soon. I learned my soon to be 20 year old sister was Bi via Instagram while she answered questions via her Stories and was asked specifically about her attraction to women. I learned my 14 year old sister was Bi over the past two years via her instagram too. And yet if you knew all of us, what it means to be Bi or Queer or even a woman of color is vastly different.
I wonder what our four separate responses would be if we all took a pole class together. I’m pretty sure results would vary. There’d be one sister saying how open and inclusive it was with yet another not really feeling it. So in some ways, its also subjective.
Thankfully, there are organizations like the ones I listed above that are more educated and they can speak on this matter. While some of this is subjective, some things are universal and a lot of studios could stand to do even more to be a truly inclusive and safe space for everyone…or for select groups.
In either case, these were just my initial thoughts as I tried to dish out a recommendation for a queer-friendly pole studio in NYC. Right now, place your bets on Incredipole. I’m sure this is just part one of a series of exploring Inclusivity, so just stayed tuned for more. I plan on interviewing a few peeps about this, talking with my sisters and creating this evaluation form too.
Also check out these other amazing resources I found while digging around that cover different inclusivity topics:
Gender and Circus Coaching – “A guide to the sometimes complex world of gender, in the context of teaching and mentoring youth in circus arts.” But this can be applied to all forms of art, entertainment, fitness and dance.
The Genderbread Person – “A teaching tool for breaking the big concept of gender down into bite-sized, digestible pieces.” This is my favorite thing ever.
The Black List by Black Girls Pole – “A list of black-owned Pole and Aerial studios in the United States and abroad so you can support small business owners in the black community!”
Black Burlesque Directory – “Created out of a desire to fill more dressing rooms and burlesque productions with black performers, this directory is meant to be used as a tool for both producers and performers. it is my hope that this directory encourages the hiring of black performers across the globe. so that on any given day a black audience member can enjoy a show having seen a reflection of their experience and beauty.”
The Asexual Visibility and Education Network – “AVEN hosts the world’s largest online asexual community as well as a large archive of resources on asexuality. AVEN strives to create open, honest discussion about asexuality among sexual and asexual people alike.”
Bisexual Resource Center – “BRC is committed to providing support to the bisexual community and raising public awareness about bisexuality and bisexual people.” God, I need to educate myself further on my own sexual orientation. I didn’t know this organization existed.
10 Tips for Bi-Inclusivity – “Ten Tips on How to be Bi-inclusive in Your Programs & Services For LGBTQ Elders” – This can be applied to all forms of inclusivity.
Me and White Supremacy Workbook – “Part education, part activation, the Me And White Supremacy Workbook is a first-of-its-kind personal anti-racism tool for people holding white privilege to begin to examine and dismantle their complicity in the oppressive system of white supremacy.”
A Guide to Gender: – The Social Justice Advocate’s Handbook – “When it comes to understanding gender, it’s best to begin with deep breath, then with section one of this book by social justice advocate Sam Killermann, who uses clear language, helpful examples, and a bit of humor to help the medicine go down. It is a couple hundred pages of gender exploration, social justice how-tos, practical resources, and fun graphics & comics.”
Sexualitree -“A comprehensive model to help us see how we experience sexuality in different ways.”
The Safe Zone Project – “The Safe Zone Project is a free online resource for powerful, effective LGBTQ awareness and ally training workshops.”
The first time I attended a Halloween party was back in 2001. I was raised in a religious cult, so ….we definitely didn’t fuck with Halloween. But my freshman year of college, the theater company I was a member of, threw a party and I went as the black Avril Lavigne. There’s a picture floating around somewhere. Really, I just looked like a punk rocker.
That was the last time I attended a Halloween party. I have no clue what I’ve done since 2001 but I definitely have never been to another Halloween party. This year, that changed. I headed out to The Fit Factory in West Babylon and went as a deconstructed Unicorn. My horn was silver and glittery. My tail was purple and feathery. There was glitter and layers and fishnets and turquoise leg warmers and a makeshift sequin necklace and a pink fringe belt that disappeared…maybe when I was flinging my shit around during an impromptu freestyle. (And because I’m a fucking dramatic burlesque dancer…I spent the most time….1.5 hours on my makeup…just to hide my face behind a camera for majority of the party. Because why the fuck not. There were purple glitter lips. Yes all unicorns have glitter lips.
The only lightroom effect in place was making some of the images sepia tone because the lighting was so dramatic…that I needed to tone the images down. Enjoy the images below.
Honeytree Evil Eyeand Flirt Vonneguthad me at “TEDx-style lightning talks and steamy burlesque.” That was part of the descriptor used to explain their hit burlesque show, as they sought submissions from performers. While the show, having completed its 5th iteration is based in Philadelphia, they opened up submission entries to artists across the country. I applied, REALLY hoping I’d get in and literally lost my shit when I got the email notifying me that my application had been approved.
In “Get You A Girl Who Can Do Both” audience members get to “enjoy informative TEDx style lectures on a variety of subjects, followed by steamy burlesque performances… by the same people.” This concept was absolutely up my alley. In addition to being a burlesque performer and instructor, I am a keynote speaker, among many other things. I’m a member of the Speaker’s Bureau for RAINN. I speak at conferences, colleges, legislative summits and even numerous online festivals. I’m also a…
Project Manager in the corporate world
Stage Manager in the theater world
Advocate – specifically for sexual abuse prevention,
….and honestly the list goes on. I do a lot of shit.
So you see why I had to apply. According to Honeytree EvilEye, “The point of this show is to learn cool shit, have fun and illuminate that burlesque babes are more than just beautiful and sexy – but it’s also awesome that they’re beautiful and sexy.” Topics for our show included everything from medical nutritional therapy to techniques of scaring used by haunted houses, racial representation in stock photos to finding sexual agency after trauma and IUDs.
Besides according to the Philadelphia Magazine, October was a great month filled with queer events and spectaculars. One of their top events….was ours!
The Cast, The Producers and The Team
What can make or break an experience for me, as a performer is the production team and cast of a show. While the audience mostly only sees what happens on stage, our experience as performers includes backstage and off-stage. After 13 years of professional stage management and performance experience, there’s a lot I notice in how events and productions are run and how it is to work with professional artist. Every single person on the team and every performer when off stage was top notch, a team player and there to support the entire endeavor. There were no divas, no attitudes and no bullshit. Just an amazing night. Here’s a bit about each.
Hattie Harlowe,“The Mom Jeans of Burlesque” is a burlesque performer, producer, and host from Philadelphia, PA. A fun thing I found while googling around was her duet burlesque number, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” That’s one of my favorite movies, so the concept of this act is so clever for me. Google her. There’s so much online and I love that one of her niches has been on “Moms and Burlesque.” It reminds me of the Maternity Boudoir photography sessions that I do, as I feel its important we show (expectant) mother’s living in their erotic expression too. (That’s how they fucking got pregnant to begin with.) I love that she has made spaces for this in the burlesque world. Follow her online – Youtube| Facebook
Minnie Crisis is a NYC and Philly burlesque performer and makeup artist. Her performance was completely hilarious and fun and subversive. A fun thing I found while googling around was her “Bernie Sander’s Striptease.“ Among the genres of burlesque, one of my favorites is Socio-Political. In essence, that’s one of the original purposes of burlesque anyway. To provide an extreme parody of society. I call this genre of political burlesque, Trumplesque. Follow her online – Instagram | Twitter
Wild Iris is a Philly burlesque performer. I believe I heard from Honeytree that her performance that night was her third solo burlesque performance. She’s fairly new to burlesque and is even currently a part of “Philadelphia Burlesque Battle Royale. Follow her online – Facebook
Honeytree EvilEye, a producer of #DoBoth and performer in the show as well “is not a doll. She’s an action figure.” She’s also prolific. She’s a doctor, sex educator, podcaster, writer, burlesque performer, dancer, fitness instructor, and enthusiast of all things fun. I googled her and eventually had to come out of the rabbit’s hole. I found SEXx and I just wanna be a part of all the things she does. Follow her online – Website | Instagram| Facebook
Flirt Vonnegut was our host for the night. He’s also a Co-Producer of the show and heavily involved in the Philly burlesque team. He’s all the things. He’s funny as a host. He’s compassionate as a producer. And as a person, he’s legit. As he stripped down throughout the course of the show in between the acts, I saw he had garter socks on. HOT! All men should wear them. And he also wore pasties. His reason for it…if women had to do, he felt like he should wear pasties too. I had never seen a man wear pasties before and they actually looking amazing on him. More men should wear them. Follow him online –Instagram | Facebook
Our production team consisted of our DJ, Brettzo and our Kitten, Kyla Ren as well as our Door, Mack Aroon. Special thanks to iPI Solutions for providing security.
An archetype is a symbolic motif used as a form of identification and understanding. For example, what’s your sign? Whether someone says Taurus, Gemini or Scorpio, you already have some ideas in your head about their personality. Each of the 12 astrological zodiac signs have generic and stereotypical explanations of their meaning. There are also deeper and more robust understandings found in them too. At the end of the day, your sign and any archetype can mean everything to you or absolutely nothing at all.
Within the world of SpeakEasy Noir Burlesque, we use archetypes to explore extreme emotions, nuances, and movement. That’s because we define Burlesque as “extreme parody, emotional storytelling and extravagant striptease.” By associating with an archetype, you can find additional motivation and inspiration and you explore the depths of that “character.”
If you’re shy and an introvert, it’s okay. Perhaps for a performance or a class though, you will be “The Showgirl.” You can just “not be you” …the parts of you that are shy for a short period of time and then you can give yourself permission to play a part. The part of “The Showgirl” in all of her glory. If you’re a Vixen and outgoing, it might be interesting to explore, “The Librarian” or” The Housewife” or “The Ingenue” or whatever the case may be. Archetypes give us generic characters to play with, that we can build complexities upon in our movement and performances.
Within SpeakEasy Noir Burlesque, we have curated 12 archetypes that we find specific to the industry and culture of Burlesque. There are hundreds of archetypes but for the purpose of teaching, we selected 12 main ones that have become signature Burlesque Archetypes. We’ve also included additional names for the archetypes. You might, sort of like “The Showgirl” but the synonyms of “The Entertainer” or “The Mean Girl” is really what turns you on. The alternative names also allow for gender neutral, gender fluid and male gender options.
While we give specific archetypal assignments in our weekly SpeakEasy Noir Burlesque classes and privates, you can also choose to take on the persona of anyone for an entire class, just for fun. It deepens your experience of the magic we create in SpeakEasy Noir Burlesque. We’ve also created Pinterest Boards for each of the archetypes filled with modern day people or their fictional characters that fit the role of certain archetypes. Of course, there are overlaps. Of course, we love them all. This is just another tool for play or can be used as part of your wellness and spiritual erotic movement rituals.
Anytime you’re in a SpeakEasy Noir Burlesque class and you need a little inspiration or you want to take on an entirely new persona all together, reference one of our Burlesque Archetypes. Detailed information of each archetype is made available to any SpeakEasy Noir Burlesque students and can be accessed in The SpeakEasy. All you have to do is present your Cabaret Card.
Which Burlesque Archetypes appeals to you most and why?
I’ve been infatuated with finding nude clothing, costumes, shoes, lingerie, hosiery and more for women of color since forever. Luckily, these days there are far more are options, as there has been a rise in brands with nude shades for people of color. For years, there were no options besides dying your own fabrics or paying someone to design and dye custom “nude” costumes. Separately, I’ve been known to find an item in a store and yell out, “But do you have this in black girl nude?”
Nude is a wardrobe staple, just like black. It is intended to match your skin tone and give the illusion of bare skin. I also like how it gives me the freedom to “contour” my body in a sense, as a burlesque performer by being able to be strategic with costumes and lingerie for stripteases. I’m even presently developing a new signature act, tentatively titled, “Decadent Diamond.” Head to the Pinterest board. to see how this costume inspiration is centered on nude illusion fabrics and rhinestones.
First, here’s a list of 12 Brands that offer Nude Shades for People of Color
Nubian Skin – They have hosiery, lingerie and shoes. There Cafe Au Lait lace bra is EVERYTHING for me. Its literally my exact skin color, which never happens. I use their lingerie as a base for adding gems, rhinestones, trims and more to costumes that I want some form of illusion of nude. I also have their fishnet tights and thigh highs but those colors do not match at all. I was a bit disappointed. The lingerie however, if any of their shades match your own…get them. There is usually an online coupon to be found too.
Dark Garden Natural Corsets – At this time I can not afford Dark Garden’s Natural Corsets, though they look absolutely magnificent. And getting one is on my life list! Be that as it may, in the interim, I’ve been working with dying white corsets to create a nude one and the experiments are interesting. But if DIY isn’t your thing, Dark Garden has corsets for women of color!
Savage Fenty Nude Essentials – I haven’t purchased from Rihanna’s Savage Fenty lingerie line yet but I hear great things about it. Its fairly affordable and there is a variety in shades they offer.
Nu Nude – There Swimwear and Dresses give options to a few new shades who didn’t have it before.
Sincerely Nude – They have some really stylish dresses that I’m digging. A lot of brands are focusing on nude for women of color, as it relates to lingerie. But I was everyday wear and gowns and heels to also come in nude.
Nude Barre – They have basics like thongs, fishnets and bralettes in a variety of shades.
Naja – There Anais Bra Nude is my favorite everyday t-shirt bra with a nude shade for me.
Being U– I really like the shades that they cover.
Meiahh – This is another brand that has everyday clothing in nude shades. They have some amazing dresses.
Dbleudazzled– Her swimwear line offers a variety of shades. She even once did a collab with Nubian Skin, listed above. I also use some of her other products for performance. I love her brand. For a hobbyist, she can be pricey. For a professional, she’s worth the investment.
Kahmune – The brand focuses on offering 10 shades in various sshoe types for women of color.
When I was presented with the opportunity to teach Burlesque Striptease Dance Classes, I didn’t think twice about it. I was a bit nervous about creating my burlesque curriculum, syllabus and lesson plans but I figured between my transferable skills and my burlesque experience, I would be just fine. That is until out of curiosity of the options out there for burlesque instructor certification or burlesque teacher trainings, I happened upon “The Teaching Problem” on Burlesque Bible but it was written six years ago. There was also “Who Should Teach Burlesque and How”but that was written four years ago. And both left me discouraged and doubting whether or not I bit off more than I could chew by becoming a Burlesque Instructor.
As mentioned, initially I didn’t think twice. I am a professionally trained and formally taught theater artist with a background in dance, management and more. Over the years I’ve lead hundreds of events, workshops, retreats and all kinds of things in the corporate and artistic world, with many of them focused on dance. Many of those focused on sensual erotic dance that always included an element of striptease, energy play, sensual core flow and emotionality while always being present to the musicality. Over the years, I’ve naturally developed my own style of movement that I’ve taught and considering the true definitions of burlesque, I felt I had the experience and more to teach people “burlesque.” But did I qualify within the burlesque culture? Those two articles made me feel like perhaps I’d be ridiculed. Then I was encouraged by reading “Your Burlesque Teacher May Not Be Teaching You Burlesque”and that was written a year ago.
So, the first thing that I did was translate my current movement body of work which was “Sensual Erotic” with a focus on freestyle “Sensual Core Flow” into more congruency with “Burlesque.” That was the easy part. I still wanted to make sure I honored the history of burlesque and the culture of burlesque, even if my own style of expression was geared towards my preference. With that, I wanted to see what certifications and trainings were out there and that’s how I came across
However, I don’t know anything about any of those programs or its creators or their standing in the industry or their experience. All that to say, there continues to be no industry standard for Burlesque Certification. There is no Burlesque union. And as far as I know, as an art form it’s not recognize in traditional unions that accept artist. There is also no true “School of Burlesque.” There are boutique studios who specialize in teaching burlesque and as a marketing gimmick, their studio used either “School” or “Academy.” But that’s just the studio’s name. There is no Julliard for Burlesque. So that means anyone teaching burlesque has been DIY taught by other burlesque teachers or performers and they have combined that with their own burlesque industry experience and they may be trained in other classical forms of art, theater or dance. With all of that, I told my inner critic to be quiet and I continued developing my curriculum for what I’m tentatively calling, “SpeakEasy Burlesque.”
Burlesque Curriculum – What Are You Teaching
What this means for you, is after researching burlesque as an art form, living in the burlesque community as an artist, considering your life experience and your passion for education and business, you need to develop a curriculum for your brand and genre of burlesque that is holistic to every possible student that fits within your target clientele. There are many reasons people take burlesque striptease dance classes. I’ve written about it before from taking it for fitness, for a hobby or for professional reasons. That means if you will be teaching all three of those types of people, possibly, your curriculum needs to account for all of those. And your curriculum needs to account for burlesque history and traditions. It can’t be so neo-modern, that it disregards its roots. That would be disrespectful. Honoring history and acknowledging credit has always been a respected characteristic of a devout artist. Think about this too. At the end of your burlesque program or single burlesque class, what will the student have learned? What skill will they have developed? What will they now know? What will their experience have been? For anyone teaching Burlesque, if you truly take the time to consider those things and answer those questions, you can’t help but began building a solid foundation for a curriculum that’s modern to you while honoring its past traditions, until we wait or create an industry standard. Doing this makes you thoughtful, considerate, creative, innovative and a true teacher, in my opinion.
Burlesque Philosophy – Why Are You Teaching
What feeds the burlesque curriculum or is developed right alongside it is your burlesque philosophy. This is the articulation of why you teach what you teach. Its the articulation of what you believe, what inspires you and what moves you. This sets boundaries and expectations. It is the ability to clearly communicate who you are as a burlesque artist and why you are. What’s the point of Burlesque? Why does it matter? Why is it an art form that needs to live on? What impact does Burlesque have on individuals or communities or the art world. Answering these types of questions with your truth and with what you know to be true forms your personal burlesque philosophy which creates the mission of your brand and the undercurrent of your burlesque curriculum.
Burlesque Syllabus – How Are Your Teaching
After developing your burlesque philosophy and burlesque curriculum, what follows is your burlesque syllabus. This answers the question of how you will be teaching your curriculum. How do you break down the overview of your philosophy into digestible..teachable chunks?
Burlesque Lesson Plan – When Are You Teaching
Your burlesque lesson plan, answers the question of when are you teaching the syllabus of the curriculum. I teach, in essence, a 12-week burlesque striptease class series. By the end of those 12 weeks, I have a clear understanding of where my students should be, what knowledge they will have gained and what skills they will have developed. In order to get there, I broke apart the curriculum into sub-parts. Maybe, week 1 is the glove peel and week 2 is corsets. Well my lesson plan, breaks down that I will be showing five different ways to do a glove peel during week 1. The syllabus just says we are covering “glove peels” but the lesson plan breaks down every segment of the class and the details of what is being taught, such as the five different ways to do a glove peel.
This might seem a little over the board, but in knowing I had my own brand and style of burlesque I wanted to focus on and teach, while still honoring the traditions and the culture and holding myself to a high standard of considering all of the industry standards, I figured it could only help to create and document my actual burlesque curriculum, syllabus and lesson plans. While the details of those are proprietary, the least I can do is point you in the right direction of how to create your own, since there are none recognized in the industry to study or measure yourself by.
Here are some of the resources that helped me in creating my own burlesque curriculum, syllabus and lesson plans.
I’ll add more resources here. Most of which had to be found outside of the Burlesque industry, unless you’re using resources found on these websitesand sources they reference.
What resources have you used to build your burlesque curriculum, syllabus or lesson plans?
With that being said, let me set the stage…if I had to pick a style or brand of burlesque, I’d call mine, “SpeakEasy Burlesque.” Speakeasy Burlesque is a combination of “Traditional Burlesque”…like truly traditional. Like back when it was an extravaganza/travesty and took the form of musical theatre parody. Check out how I define, “What is Burlesque.” Plus a bit of “Showgirl Burlesque” because I fucking love glamour and glitz and a dramatic Femme Fatale or any powerful, especially subversive archetype. And a smidge of “New Burlesque.” I call this combo “Speakeasy Burlesque.”
SpeakEasy Burlesque Overview
By definition, a Speakeasy is an illicit establishment. By a few definitions, Burlesque is a literary or dramatic work that seeks to ridicule by means of grotesque exaggeration or comic imitation of the dignified. Burlesque is also a theatrical entertainment consisting of short turns comic skits, and sometimes striptease acts. And according to me, Burlesque dance is “extreme parody, emotional storytelling, and extravagant striptease. Its theatrical (dramatic), political, entertaining, naughty, taboo, fun and/or humorous.”
SpeakEasy Burlesque is a mysterious and forbidden order of society for wicked and wayward souls. It is a 90-minute experience in exploring power, pleasure and play through sensual movement and erotic expression.
SpeakEasy Burlesque students will learn the soulful and provocative art of burlesque in a pleasure-filled and sassy environment. Everyone is welcome and no experience is necessary. Together we explore classic and modern genres of burlesque movement and archetypes, working with props, clothing and our own bodies. Playful prompts that reveal sensual movement and erotic expression will aid in your exploration of your own burlesque personas and routines.
Whether you’re taking SpeakEasy Burlesque dance classes for the stage, for fitness, or for private affairs, you will indulge in your own self-expression, confidence, and power. Classes will help you find the extravagant, dramatic and emotional range of your storytelling, striptease, and subtext.
Classes are in a 6-week series cycle and will incorporate “Speakeasy Chorus Routines” and “Solo Striptease Routines.”
Each 6-week series teaches all the basics of burlesque and include lap dance, floor work, chair dance, props and/or striptease.
While each class can be taken independently and in no particular order, it is recommended that you follow the curriculum for the most decadent and deepest dive into the world of burlesque.
Each class includes a warm-up, prompts, guided discussions, burlesque movement, freestyle, and cooldowns to evoke and provoke your authentic and primal erotic nature.
You will be taught the basics of burlesque freestyle, or as we call it, “sensual core flow” and in developing stage routines that incorporate choreography. You will then begin building a language around your own burlesque archetype.
Additionally, you will be provided with journal prompts exploratory homework assignments, burlesque resources, playlists and more. If this kind of exploration speaks to you, sign up for one of my classes, hire me for privates or semi-privates or contact me otherwise. In preparation for class read, “What to Bring to a Burlesque Striptease Class.”
SpeakEasy Burlesque Series 1 – Sensual Erotic
In series 1, “Sensual Erotic,” we will learn the fundamental concepts of burlesque dance, while developing the building blocks of creating your own primal erotic burlesque persona through choreography and core flow.
Series 1, Session 1 – Sensual Core Flow
Series 1, Session 2 – Hit the Spot
Series 1, Session 3 – Sensual Intuition
Series 1, Session 4 – Pitch a Fit
Series 1, Session 5 – Animal Instinct
Series 1, Session 6 – Evoke and Provoke
Breaking down the overview of each session into a digestible paragraph developed my syllabus and breaking down the segments of each class developed my weekly lesson plan.
Is that how you prepare for teaching your burlesque striptease dance classes?
Psst., I know I’m oversharing a bit. That’s intentional. I figure if I show a bit of transparency, others might began talking about this kind of thing too. Because if you google it, its hard to find anything.
Have you ever wondered, why do people take burlesque striptease dance classes? Considering my history with burlesque, that question did cross my mind when I bought a groupon for 3 burlesque classes. Whether you are considering taking a class yourself, are looking for a gift for someone else or just happened to be deep in some rabbit’s hole on google, here are a few reasons why people do take burlesque striptease dance classes.
Performers take Burlesque Striptease Dance Classes
As burlesque is a fine art form of entertainment, there is a demand for burlesque performers of all ages, sizes, races and backgrounds. Also, as there is no formal recognized school of burlesque, such as there are schools of theater, and as there is no industry wide accepted burlesque certification, many burlesque performers and artists take burlesque striptease dance classes from a wide variety of teachers at different studios, schools and more, to continue to train and improve as performers.
Fitness Enthusiasts take Burlesque Striptease Dance Classes
There are some people, like me, who like their fitness to have a bit of sass or adventure. So rather than going to the gym, I’d rather train for 2 Tough Mudders a year, take three different types of dance classes and 1 aerial class a week as my form of fitness. You know…. people who do yoga or pilates or spin or rock climbing, or Salsa Thursday or who are open to whatever the latest fitness craze is or upcoming trend will be…those people will take burlesque as a their form of fitness class because its fun, different and offered at their local studio.
Hobbyists take Burlesque Striptease Dance Classes
There are people who love burlesque as an industry. They like performing…but in student showcases or locally in their town. They don’t want to be a professional. They like their day job as an accountant or lawyer or marketing executive. They just like also having an interesting hobby. It makes their work-life balance all the more great. It adds a big of passion and play to their life. Its their little secret sometimes. It’s their pretend fall back plan or that interesting tidbit they have to share at a networking event. “Yeah, in my spare time I train as a burlesque dancer.” Those people take burlesque striptease dance class because its a fun hobby that keeps them active and engaged.
Lovers take Burlesque Striptease Dance Classes
Lovers take Burlesque Striptease Dance Classes too. They do it to spice up things. They do it as an fun gift for Valentine’s Day or Father’s Day or a Birthday. They do it because their anniversary is coming up and a private dance might be something their partner might like. So if they learn a routine, they can show it off later. Doing this makes them feel good and their partner is going to love it too.
Self-Carers take Burlesque Striptease Dance Classes
Some people take Burlesque Striptease Dance Classes because its part of their mind-body wellness practice. You know, their self-care ritual. For a designated time in a designated safe space, they have the freedom to explore any kind of expression, emotion, movement, or story, even if it manifest in sexual or erotic ways…or even if it doesn’t. Because Burlesque holds space for all of that. Having a sacred time set aside for self expression, allows for greater confidence and personal power. Wanna learn more about this reason? Check out, “Burlesque As a Mind Body Wellness Practice.”
Artists take Burlesque Striptease Dance Classes
Just as an artist would take a clown class, theater class, aerial yoga class, contact improv class and yoga class, it would only be natural to take a few burlesque striptease dance classes. Burlesque explores dance, acting, miming, comedy and striptease within one performance. Having a range of artistic training by exploring burlesque adds so much value to your personal development. Its important to indulge in the extravagant, dramatic and emotional range of your storytelling, striptease and subtext. Burlesque is a fine-art form. It demands nothing less.
Why do you take burlesque striptease dance classes? Or why are you going to take burlesque striptease dance classes? What are you hoping to experience?
There are certain things you won’t learn until you experience them, such as the burlesque tour bag. However, if by sharing a few stories, anecdotes, and tips, it makes your transition into or understanding of burlesque more seamless, then amen!
I’ve been performing as a pole dancer and striptease artist since 2010. Back then I called myself a Sensual Erotic Artist. What I didn’t know then was that there was a name for the blend of dancing and performing that I did and its called “Burlesque.” With that being said, I’ve performed locally in whatever city I’ve lived in for theatrical, public, private and charity events and I’ve toured for over a year with a production company that produced a burlesque variety show where we hit anywhere between 20 to 40 cities EVERY THREE MONTHS and I was one of two resident burlesque dancers aka a Headliner. Therefore, there are some things I’ve learned from being in the tour van, sharing hotel rooms or just trying to get to a gig in west bubble fuck, yonkers when I lived deep in Brooklyn off the L line and I need my burlesque bag. (Which I might as as a poler, is very different than my pole dancer bag.)
Also, be aware there are numerous links throughout this post. Not are affiliate links. Its just the stuff I use.
Here Is My Ultimate Burlesque Tour Bag Travel Checklist!
THE BURLESQUE LUGGAGE & BAG(S)
First, you want to invest in travel bags that work for your travel style, budget and space limitations/requirements. Sometimes I travel by plane, train, bus, tour van or by private driver. (I work with a security firm on all my gigs and my retainer includes a driver!) Considering the mode of travel and what you can handle on your own, first think about the luggage itself and whether its for traveling to local gigs or national & international gigs in other cities. My luggage has usually come from a few places… Amazon, Target, Overstock.com or as a Gift I was given or won. (I seriously won three travel bags within a year during some unrelated boudoir photography giveaways). At some point or another you’ll want the following in your arsenal.
Weekender Bag – I use a Wit&Delight Weekender.Apparently, they are no longer available. I would have gotten the other three pieces to this set, if I had paid attention that it was limited edition. My favorite thing about this is the bottom part which can hold a few pair of shoes and other items, including my thigh high boots for my “A Dominatrix Prepares” signature act. That way its kept separate from other delicate things.
Carry On Bag – I use the Wit&Delight CarryOn Bag for local gigs. When on tour, I need a slightly larger carryon so that my muggle life stuff can fit too. The wheels on the Wit&Delight bag are 360 and that makes a huge difference in travel ease. Whether you purchase a $10 bag or a $10,000 bag, ensure the wheels are 360. My bag for travel out of state comes via a brand called “Ventura” but I can’t find them anywhere online. Its not the motorcycle one that pops up in google search results. But its amazing and fits everything, though it is bulky.
Day Bag – Because my day bag doubles as a purse, as well as backpack essentials, my go-to has been my Kelly Moore camera bagsdue to the style and size. The right ones are designed to fit my laptop or tablet if I travel with them. Or my camera gear, if I travel with that as well. Or my reading books. Or my merch. Plus all of my purse essentials. If I pack it right, one regular quick outfit like a sundress or leggings and tshirt can fit in there too. Besides Kelly Moore, my favorite has been a large black DVF bag gifted to me. After five years of overpacking, a strap finally broke. I love the bag so much, I think I’ll send it in for repairs. Another brand I use isEpiphanie bagstoo.
Packing Cubes – Packing Cubes are a life saver. Trust me. It’s the next step up, after you’ve consistently overstuffed a gallon size ziplock bag. I’m able to keep each costume pieces in their own cubes and all of my muggle life clothing fits in its own packing cube. These help you stay organized and makes packing quicker.
Make Up Storage Bags – I was using all types of random little toiletry bags and ziplock bags until it was just way too much. I waited on a sale at Victoria Secret and invested in a decent set that now holds all of my makeup and other smaller toiletry or kit items.
Once you have your actual luggage and organizers in order, its going to make the rest of your travel life so much easier.
ONSTAGE – Ultimate Burlesque Tour Bag Travel Checklist
I quickly learned that when it came to performing, every act needed its own checklist for its full costume and performance. I keep the checklist online in a cloud, printed in its own packing cube and in my burlesque journal/planner. My checklist even has a tab for notes so that I can list any repairs or changes that need to be made. So, while every burlesque act and corresponding checklist will have its own individual items, in general, your ultimate burlesque tour bag travel checklist, should include the following, if applicable:
Each Costume for each act you’re performing
Extra set of Pasties
Extra set of Stockings, Tights, Thigh/Knee Highs
Costume Alternatives – There are some cities in which I can start almost as nude as I want, but I can’t physically remove any item of clothing. There are some cities where I can only strip down to a bra and not pasties. Depending on laws or self policing community behavior, I have to consider alternatives to each of my acts. So this usually means, an extra black and/or nude bra.
MY PERFORMANCE ESSENTIALS – Ultimate Burlesque Tour Bag Travel Checklist
The first few things on this list are things NOBODY told me about, but I learned quickly it made all the difference.
A Transition Dress – This is the dress you put on at the end of the night. Its after your performance and after any after-show things such as pictures, meet&greet and such. This is your transition dress from the burlesque world and back into the everyday real world. I use an oversized, maxi dress from Amazon. Its floor length so that whatever vehicle I’m getting in to go back to my hotel or home in, has a minimum amount of glitter transfer as possible. This transition dress is a part of my burlesque travel uniform, so instead of throwing on my day clothes from before my performance, I put the dress on. When I put my day clothes back on….eventually all of my regular clothes became covered in glitter. I love glitter but I didn’t want everything I owned covered in it. The transition dress also is oversized because its loose fitting and comfy. You’ve been glued and buckled in and tied in and laced up and made up and when its time to leave the venue…sometimes you need something extremely roomy and comfortable. It can still be stylish though. This is mine.
A Show Outfit – Depending on the event, production or show, there may be Meet&Greets or time during the Pre-show or the actual show when you’ll be in “the house.” “The house” being public areas where audience members may engage you. You’ll want to be dressed appropriately. Usually, it meant a cocktail dress, nightclub dress, or gown found on Amazon for me. Sometimes it wasn’t a dress. It might be a Halloween or character costume, or lingerie. This also works as an outfit for photographs, if you won’t be in your costume.
Flip Flops – You’ll need them backstage as you dress and undress. There are moments in between when your street shoes come off and your stage shoes come on, where there is nothing under your feet. During that time, you’ll wish you had flip flops.
A Robe – I recommend having a thick, velour one for comfort and a lacey pretty one for the glamour. Both of mine came from Charlotte Russe.
Baby Oil Gel – My partner put me on to this! I want to shine on stage and I need my glitter to stick and I’ve now found the perfect product for that that’s the right shine and thickness. My favorite scent is the lavender one. And often times its found in the baby aisle, versus the toiletry aisle.
Nude G-String – You just never know. (I’ll be doing a post later on my favorite nude brands, especially for women of color! I was determined to find my shade since I made it essential for one of my costumes.)
Sweat Pants – There’s a moment that happens when you arrive at the venue whether it be a theater, lounge, fetish event or concert hall. And you have time before your performance. Like time before the house even opens. Especially if its a production company and there are techs or rehearsal times. You’re not gonna want to be in those moments in jeans or a tight fitted skirt or your usualy everyday street clothes. Yoga pants might seem like the way to go, but sweatpants give you room to be comfortable. You could also have dance wear…because essentially this is what you wear during warm-up and stretching and tech, before a performance. So dancewear is an option. Or Leggings and leg warmers. I’ve just learned the simple and most comfortable solution are sweatpants. Sometimes I arrive in this or its in my bag to change into.
Plastic Sheets – This seems random. But you know the plastic sheets that cover your clothes when you pick them up from dry cleaning? I collect those. And I travel with about three of them at any given moment. Sometimes on the road or right before a show, I need to fix a costume, or add some gems to a prop or create something new while on the go. Because it involves glitter and glue and gems and little parts and can get messy, I find it easier to cover my surface with these plastic sheets. They also work for standing on when in dressing rooms and you don’t want to stand directly on the floor.
Wig Tape – I use these for making my pasties stick and its everything. I have yet to use them for my wigs but probably could stand to learn!
Fabric Tape – I also use these for making my pasties stick. This is heavy duty and not its intended use but it works. And sometimes the pain of removal is worth it. (I learned a year into ripping fabric tape off my areola, that coconut oil can help make it less painful.)
BACKSTAGE – Ultimate Burlesque Tour Bag Travel Checklist
Glitter Kit – I keep travel size portions of about ten shades of loose glitterin my tour bag. I bought it at Michaels. But I’m really a glitter whore so I travel with excessive amounts of glitter. Literally excessive amounts.
Makeup Kit – I’ll eventually share every individual item in my makeup kit in an easy list. However, the items will vary per performer. Mine include primer, foundation, powder, concealer, contour stuff, blush, eyeshadows, lipstick, eyeliner, eyebrow stuff, brushes, sponges and more.
Fake Lashes and Lash Glue – Trust me, you need them. I don’t have a preferred brand at the moment
Sewing Kit – I’ll eventually share everything in my kit. It includes needles, thread, safety pins, pins, and fasteners.
Crafting Kit – This kit includes at least three brand of glues, a pair of all-purpose scissors, a hot glue gun, a small bottle of Mod Podge, Velcro circle stickers and a few other things I usually need in conjunction with my Sewing Kit to create or fix each costume and props.
First Aid Kit – A travel size one will due. Add medicine like Tylenol or something, if it doesn’t have it.
Costume Kit – I keep small packs of gems, fringe, fabric or anything I need for each costume in their own little containers. What happens if a bunch of stones pop off or I rip something or need to create a whole new pair of pasties minutes before I go on?
Toiletry Kit – I keep makeup remover wipes, tampons, a menstrual cup, tide stick, febreeze spray, mouthwash, peppermints, hand wipes & sanitizer, performance perfume, deodorant, bobby pins, hair ties, baby wipes, extra contacts, hair spray, wig spray and more.
Marketing Paraphanilia – Depending on the show or the day I keep business cards, postcards, or merchandise in my tour bag.
Burlesque Journal/Planner – Because ideas strike at any time or I need to write notes down or I never know who I’m going to meet on the road and what I need to plan for.
(Hot/Cold) Water bottle
Your Favorite Flavor Tea Bag – Teais good for your health. Its good for wellness. And I use it as part of my mindful self-care rituals when on the road. So ensuring I consistently have the one I prefer matters versus just buying tea at any store on any given day.
Snacks – A granola bag, gum and a piece of fruit, at the least. I usually always have candy, sunflower seeds, caramel, and a small salad.
Hot Sauce – Don’t leave shit up to chance and have the wrong brand.
Leisure Reading Book – Because sometimes you have some time and you don’t want to listen to another trap song on Spotify.
OFFSTAGE – Ultimate Burlesque Tour Bag Travel Checklist
Regular Muggle Clothes – developing a travel uniform made my life so much easier. More on that later.
Swimsuit – A lot of hotels have pools or depending on the city, someone from the show knows someone who has the best hot tub in town.
Earplugs – At any time, you may want to drown people out. Sometimes in the tour van or sometimes backstage when there’s so much noise, I just wanted as much silence as possible. Earplugs helped with that.
Headphones – Sometimes, the best thing to do was to put my headphones in, turn a playlist on and get in my zone.
Eye Mask – Because someone will have a light on that you wish was off, sun included.
EXTRA – Ultimate Burlesque Tour Bag Travel Checklist
If the venue, show, event or situation allows for it and my performance requires it, I also travel with the following:
Tricked Out Chair – Some of my routines use chairs. It became easier for me to have consistency and travel with my own chair. Plus it meant I could trick it out.
Fog Machine – Scenography is important but unless its an established burlesque show with a full production team, there isn’t much of a set. And if you’re touring as a solo performer or within a guerilla-style traveling production company, you can’t really travel with set pieces and large props. One way to dynamically add drama and texture to your performances is via a fog machine.
Stage Lights – Most often I’m performing for a show at theaters or concert venues. However, sometimes I’m commissioned for private events that are taking place at venues not normally suited for performance. On the rare occasion that happens, I have a few stage lights that I bring. Production quality matters!
HONORABLE MENTIONS – Ultimate Burlesque Tour Bag Travel Checklist
I created my list from my own experiences and as I’m unpacking from two recent performances and getting ready to pack for another. Next, I googled around to see what others were saying. If a site/article is listed below its because they had a few things on their list that I forgot about or hadn’t thought of before.
Backup of Music via Burlesque Essentialsby Miss Charlotte Cake – OMG. Yes. Have it in different formats too!
Packing It Up Burlesque via Cake and Hot Tease. This list included the reasons for why items were packed and how they were packed.
Coat. Compact Umbrella. Flats. Sunblock and Medicine Kit. Those are obvious things that I either forgot to list or never even thought to include. That and more can be found in this lovely interview from Traveling Tips with Evie Lovelle by the Hollywood Burlesque Festival.
Sexy Lingerie for photoshoots or …you know. Also, Multiway Plug via Ten Things to Take On a Burlesque World Tour. Gotta think international. Plus, I did know one burlesque dancer who had pre-scheduled a photoshoot in almost every city we were on during the tour. I wish I had had the forethought to do that. Oh well.
Mirror via Burlesque Suitcase Packing Checklistby Tigz Rice. There’s some other goodies on her list too. But geez, a mirror matters. I have a travel size one for out of state gigs. And if it’s within my state and I have a driver via my security firm and the venue isn’t a regular performance venue…I definitely travel with a $5 full-length mirror from Wal-mart. (Again this is the rare gig type. At the very least when hired to perform, it should be at a professional venue that has appropriate dressing rooms. That’s just a basic given. But…..but sometimes you get commissioned for a themed party and they are paying you the right number and the venue is some random lounge but you get to do things your way….so you take the gig and there isn’t a regular dressing room. In those cases, I bring a full-length mirror. Was that TMI?)
Everyone has the story of what led them to burlesque and right now, it’s my turn to share my burlesque history. Depending on what context in which you know me, it more than likely turned into quite a surprise but not a shock when “out of nowhere,” I was touring full-time as a resident burlesque dancer for a pop erotica variety show.
The first thing to know is that I’ve always been a dancer. Though not a classically trained ballerina, I have been in dance classes all of my life. Dance as a form of expression and connection has also been a part of my family and communities growing up. Also, I was raised very religiously and yes, I was on the praise dance team. I used to dance specifically for Jesus. Throughout my childhood and well into my life now, I’ve always been known for my intensity and presence when on stage. Burlesque involves dance and movement and I think it matters to know that movement and dance has always been a part of my life, even if it wasn’t formal.
Another note about my childhood specifically is that I was hung up on epic, dramatic stories with my barbies. I didn’t just “play” barbies. I held extravaganzas and travesties that would last days upon days or involve five other girls during my infamous sleepovers. These dramatic episodes would take place all over whatever apartment or house we lived in. Telling stories as dramatically as possible has always intrigued me. Especially when you could dress the doll up, change her hair and change her name or story…depending on the day.
This “ridiculous” way of playing barbie translated into a natural love of theater, which I formally studied in college and immediately began a professional career in as a stage manager spanning over 13 years. While I mostly focus on stage management, I have experience in acting, writing, box office management, and directing too. I LOVED the theater. I still do to this day. I’m naturally an artist, performer, creative and entertainer and I found the entire world of producing theater filled my gigantic mind and dramatic storytelling desires. I had the opportunity to study theater in Berlin, Paris, and London and the entire experience of my life in theater has been completely fulfilling. I’m grateful for always having outlets to express my imagination in any way possible.
During college, it’s also important to note that somehow I was naturally pegged as a flirt. This seems par for the course for someone who is a burlesque performer and instructor, however, I still considered myself deeply religious. Therefore, I saw it as an insult and called home crying. In less than a year, I welcomed the word. There was something natural about my energy and my ways that lent itself to being the biggest flirt on campus. And by flirt, I mean that I oozed in the juices of my own yum. I knew how amazing it felt to be alive reeling in my passions and I let that spill onto anyone within 100 feet of me. I didn’t want anything from anyone. I had nothing to give anyone. I just enjoyed my own presence so much in such a charismatic way, that others were drawn to it and started asking me to teach them how to live embodied as a Flirt.
This meant that I started teaching friends and actresses how to walk and especially how to walk in heels. I would give these quick private lessons and literally the next day, I always received a message or saw it happen live where someone would compliment them on their walk. I would give casual posing lessons. For the everyday person, it meant I was giving body language tools and techniques and for a dancer or actor, I was giving power posing lessons. (If it helps to know, I was also a competitive cheerleader and on the dance “pom pom” teams during college too.)
After college, all I did was club like my life depended on it. (I didn’t during college because it was forbidden and I was underage.) However, after college, I worked in the hospitality industry and therefore, we were encouraged to be active in the “lifestyle.” Basically be enough of a party girl, that you influence others to party at specific places. It wasn’t a formal thing. I was a training manager in the corporate sense. But we got kickbacks and VIP treatment for partying at establishments and sending people to them. (This is long before being a social media lifestyle influencer was a thing.) So from 11pm until 7am on MOST NIGHTS OF THE WEEK, I partied from one club to another just dancing. On a good night, I never had a single drink. But you couldn’t rip me off the dance floor. Whether I danced by myself, with my best friend, with my colleagues or a new fling, there was something about being big and sexy and subtle on the dance floor. Sometimes I’d pick a victim and give him a lap dance that snatched his soul. Then right when he’d probably want to sweep me off my feet and give me an epic kiss….I’d walk away. I wouldn’t give my name, my number…nothing. I danced them into submission and carnal desire…and then I walked away. (I was such a budding burlesque dancer, can’t you tell?)
This love of dancing at the clubs meant that whenever I visited NY, as I hail from the Windy City, I would go clubbing with my friends. I remember one night dressing in my cutest outfit and we were at some hip club but people were too cool to dance. With my love of dance and my Brazilian Bombshell close friend with me, we were not having it. We started dancing up a storm as if it were our last day on earth. When we finally took a break to catch our breath, a man came over introducing himself as the manager of the club. He said that our exuberance in dance brought the energy of the club up. He requested that we continue dancing, even suggesting we dance on the platforms they had that elevated us above the crowd. He moved us to VIP, took care of us the rest of the night and even when a strap on my shirt broke, his waitresses ushered me into the back and someone sewed me up and had me back out within 5 minutes.
That night I decided, “I want to be a go-go dancer.” What did that mean to me? That there would be lounges and clubs that would pay me to dance however I wanted to dance which was a bit dramatic, sexy, bold, flirtatious and very moody but extremely erotic. (Please note that’s not quite the definition of a go-go dancer. That’s just the definition of what I wanted to do.)
So what did I do? I moved to NY and …. worked on Wall Street. Making a shit ton of money that I’ll never see again in quite the same way. And my creative life and my body were so unfulfilled. My bank account and my intellect and health benefits were awesome. But creatively, sensually and emotionally, I felt stifled.
Since I changed jobs and was no longer working in hospitality, it also didn’t work to go clubbing every night and early morning. What I didn’t realize was that clubbing that often and for that long, had organically worked as my form of fitness. I literally twerked on and off for 5+ hours almost every night of the week. Since I knew I wasn’t going to go to the gym, I started taking dance classes as my form of fitness. If I wasn’t dancing at a club, I might as well dance in a fun fitness class.
Thus began an exploration in every movement offering I could find from Afro-Caribbean dance class to Haitian dance class to any kind of Pole Dance class to Core Barre dance fitness class and more. As soon as I started taking dance classes, especially the pole dance ones, I wanted to perform. I needed to be on stage. I wanted to command everyone’s attention. I wanted to control the energy. But in 2010, there were barely any performance opportunities for a “non-professional” sensual and dramatic dancer, that I knew of in the pole community. And I couldn’t figure out how to be a go-go dancer at clubs. And I didn’t know what to google to figure out how to be a stripper. (I hadn’t even considered if I’d lose my Wall Street job if I became a stripper.) All I knew was I wanted to be sensual, sexy, erotic, dramatic and emotional on stage in front of people. And by people, I meant ALL people. As I took more and more pole dance and sensual movement classes, so many spaces were devoted just to women. While I understood it, I wanted to be on stage and in rooms filled with every gender while I danced. As deep as I went into the pole community, four or five years later around 2015, I hit a wall with my desires. Seeing the divide of “sporty pole” versus “sexy pole.” or “women-only” versus “everyone is welcomed” or “exotic striptease” versus “we don’t do heel and stripping isn’t allowed and make sure your entire ass is covered by fabric.” …All of that was just eating away at me.
Its also important to note that somewhere in 2010 or 2011, I took my first “formal” burlesque class. There was a Groupon for it. I don’t remember what teacher or burlesque school offered it. I know it wasn’t Jo Whedon. It was through somebody else and what I now know is they were doing “Cheesecake Burlesque.” I didn’t know it at the time. I just saw a dance class and bought a ticket. And upon seeing the word “burlesque,” I had no idea what to expect. I always knew there were sexy girls who were, “go-go dancers.” And I knew there were ones who were very glitzy. I had seen Moulin Rouge and I considered her a high-class go-go girl. I didn’t realize that could be called “Burlesque.” Or Chicago, the movie or Cabaret, the movie. I thought all those were different types of jazz, modern, hip-hop and any other genre of dance made a bit sexier for pop culture and fell under “go-go dancers.” So taking a “cheesecake burlesque” class, I thought that was all burlesque was. These “wannabe pinup girls” who couldn’t get over the fact that we weren’t stuck in the 1950’s anymore. And their routines were all the same. “Walk, walk, pose, pose, pose. Remove glove. Remove glove. Bump-N-Grind. Now shimmy. And smile.” So I took that one class and never took another. Fuck that seemingly fake shit and dated shit and a nostalgia for a time when more than likely I’d be hung by the noose.
So back to pole. It’s 2015. I’ve now made a name for myself in pole dance. I’m performing all over the place. And I realize a lot of my performances barely involve the pole. I was what was then considered a “Floor Fucker.” Now they call it “Exotic Pole” and “Low Flow.” That’s nice for PR. I prefer “Floor Fucker.” In addition to being a “Floor Fucker,” I was an attention whoere. I saw so many women only wanted to dance in dimly lit rooms and in the corners…during freestyle portions of my sensual movement class. Me, I wanted all eyes on me and if you needed to turn the lights on brighter to see my ass, do so! I wanted a good shot from the photographer. I told you, I was dramatic and I’m a child of the theater.
The more I danced, the more others asked me to teach them my ways again. It reminded me of college when I was asked to teach mostly women, how to flirt in their walks and body language. And so I started hosting, producing and leading retreats and workshops all over the US and there was usually a dance element. I’d lead these sensual erotic movement classes that were co-ed utilizing everything I knew from theater, dance, movement, rituals, woo-woo and always tied it to archetypes, emotions, and values. And if I wasn’t leading a dance class, I was hosting groups at studios I loved that allowed for erotic exploration, welcomed all genders and had a portion where movement happened within community so everyone could bear witness.
And then, I got asked to dance by a producer who said their event didn’t have a pole, even though I was a pole dancer. I told the producer it would be ok because my home pole studio taught us the art of the striptease, as well as pole dance. They taught us how to floorwork, chair dance, give lap dances, strip out of anything, wall dance, use anything as a prop and dance to any song…all the while freestyling in a sensual if not erotic way. So, it didn’t matter that they had a last minute gig and needed a dancer and there was no pole, I could make it work.
I guess I must have did my thing because less than a year later, I was invited to join the production company as a resident burlesque dancer touring full time to 20 to 40 cities every three months with audiences in one night ranging from 100 to 1600 people, dancing at venues like Howard Theater, House of Blues New Orleans and the now-gone Santos Party House.
There was a way that the host always introduced dancers and when it came to me, for the first few months, I told them not to call me a burlesque dancer. I never minded when someone ignorantly called me a stripper. I corrected the mixup but didn’t mind it. I had a special affection for go-go dancers, especially the more dramatic ones like Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge. I was okay with terms like sensual, sexual and erotic. But hold the fucking phone, I was not a damn burlesque dancer. My ONLY understanding of that word was from that one “Cheesecake Burlesque” class I had which was Kitschy meets PinUp meets Way To Cheeky For Me. I was not a fucking BURLESQUE DANCER.
The production company paid me no mind and whatever term I gave them, they read the script appropriately…until one day, I told them they could start calling me a “burlesque dancer.” I’m a curious person. And I’m self-aware to know that often when I reject something with so much emotion and no substance of deep understanding, there is probably something there to explore. That lead to me researching what burlesque was. And that led me to recognize my own ignorance.
Now, …HA, it seems like my entire life has come full circle and the point of it all was for me to be a burlesque dancer. I was quite literally born for BURLESQUE. And I don’t even care about the genre. Now I could authentically and soulfully rock a Nerdlesque number or a Cheesecake number. Education and openness do wonders for liberation and freedom.
So there you have it, my history…or path to Burlesque. Which really was getting over semantics and finally seeing myself for whom I’ve always been.
If you combine Theater with Dance, you get Burlesque. That is so me. That also makes me think…
If you combine Theater with Singing, you get Opera or Pop Stars.
If you combine Theater with Acrobatics, you get Circus or Aerial Arts.
Theater of the Spectacle and Theater & Culture <– two genres of theater that move me, speak to the original Burlesque Travesty and Extravaganza.
Throw in vaudeville, circus, aerial arts, variety shows, and speakeasies and I’m wet with images of Femme Fatales, Flappers, Rebels and the general public’s desire to see and experience everyday gritty art.
I feel like strippers, pole dancers and drag queens really all were inspired and influenced by traditional burlesque.
Literally, as Theater became mainstream years ago, especially as a form of entertainment…especially for the high brow, what came were the rebels… Burlesque.
None of this is here to explain what Burlesque is. Its to give you the path I took to Burlesque. In becoming a Burlesque Teacher, I had to decide what my school of thought was with burlesque as an industry and genre of movement and study. I had to decide what my own personal philosophy was, what my blinders were and more. And in order to do that, you must always be aware of the path that brought you to where you are.
What To Wear To A Burlesque Striptease Dance Class
If you’re anything like me, you like to be prepared and unless you’re already deep inside the burlesque culture and industry, you may not know what to wear to your very first burlesque striptease dance class. Have no fear! I’ve got you covered. If anything I suggest isn’t already in your closet, most items can be found on Amazon, at the very least. With prime 2-day shipping, you should be all set long before your next burlesque dance class.
The first thing to note is that burlesque has many genres. It’s helpful to know the genre your class is in, as this determines the type of movement and style you will experience. If you’ve signed up for a “Cheesecake Burlesque” class, suitable clothing might be different than if you’ve signed up for “Neo-Burlesque” or “Nerdlesque” or “Showgirl Burlesque” or “Polesque.” I have a few more genres that I throw in there such as “Speakeasy Burlesque” or “Trumplesque.” The latter being how I define Modern Political Burlesque. So, be sure to inquire about the genre your burlesque dance class will be taught in. This may help narrow the selection of what to wear.
I love teaching a combination of “Traditional Burlesque”…like truly traditional. Like back when it was an extravaganza/travesty and took the form of musical theatre parody. Plus a bit of “Showgirl Burlesque” because I fucking love glamour and glitz and a dramatic Femme Fatale. And a smidge of “New Burlesque.” I call this combo “Speakeasy Burlesque.” Let me set the scene.
A Speakeasy is an illicit establishment. I like the word ILLICIT. Burlesque is a literary or dramatic work. It seeks to ridicule by means of grotesque exaggeration or comic imitation of the dignified.
Therefore SpeakEasy Burlesque is a mysterious and forbidden order of society for wicked and wayward souls. For 90 minutes we explore power, pleasure and play through sensual movement and erotic expression. With that in mind, what comes to mind when you think of how you’ll adorn your body? Below are some suggestions.
Shay Au Lait’s List of What To Wear To A Burlesque Striptease Dance Class
First, ONLY wear what makes you feel comfortable.
If you’re not into heels, don’t bring them. If corsets feel like a puzzle, fuck them. Wear what you’re comfortable moving your body in. (If you don’t know what you’re comfortable in yet, that’s ok. We’ll figure that out in class. I have lots of exercises and activities and prompts.)
Wear what makes you feel good.
It’s one thing to wear what makes you feel comfortable. It’s a whole other level to also wear what makes you feel good. What in your wardrobe makes you ooze? What makes you feel delicious and turned on? What makes you arch a bit? These answers are different for every person. It might be a specific color, a specific texture/fabric or a type of item.
Bring lots of layers.
I’m all for several outfit changes within a single class. My mood changes too much and I like my options. So bring options for yourself. Go all out. It only takes a few seconds to swap out one shirt for another, if the wind blows a different direction mid-class. Also burlesque is mostly about the striptease. In each class with me, at some point you’ll take something off. It could be a glove, a shoe, a shirt, a leg warmer or anything. You might take out your hairpin. So the best thing is to bring layers to play.
Bring the “SpeakEasy Burlesque” wardrobe staples
Bra – You can wear a sports bra, a lingerie bra, a bedazzled bra or any type of bra you like. No. Wear a bra you LOVE!
Panties – Whether we ever strip down to panties or not, wear the panties that make you do a hip circle.
Booty Shorts – These could be yoga shorts, frilly shorts, sequin shorts, tuille shorts, high waisted shorts or whatever you want.
Leggings or Yoga Pants
Tights – (my personal favorites are suspender tights or extra wide fishnets)
Knee High Tights
Tshirt, Tank Top, Button Down
Corset – (front or back fastening)
Shoes – Wear shoes that you can dance in. Start with kitten heels, if you’re not used to heels.
Accessories and Layers that are fun to play with or make things easier
Leg Warmers or Knee High Socks
Wig – Because WHY NOT? 99% of the time, I wear a wig to class, just for fun.
Bring the “SpeakEasy Burlesque” additional staples
A journal – (my classes are interactive and immersive. Activities, including writing prompts, will be provided and workshopped during class.)
A bottle of water
A face towel, if you tend to sweat or glisten
Wipes, for your feet
Honorable Mentions of What To Wear To A Burlesque Striptease Dance Class
Elbow length satin gloves
Hat or Headpiece
A shimmy belt
A panel skirt
It’s time to pack your bag!
You may be attending a burlesque class for any number of reasons. Perhaps you simply want a sweet taste of burlesque. Perhaps you’re training as a performer. Or maybe you just want a flirty fitness experience. In either case, make it fun. Play dress up and enjoy clothes that help you find the extravagant, dramatic and emotional range of your storytelling, striptease and subtext in movement.
What else would you add to my list? What do you wear to your burlesque striptease classes?
I also have several Pinterest boards that might serve as inspiration and suggestions on what to wear and bring to class. Follow below:
This board is more for Burlesque Costume Inspiration for Live Performances and whatnot. However, many, if not all of this, can also be worn in class. If you’re feeling froggy, do it. Come in full regalia.
What is Burlesque? That is the question. In one succinct blog post using my experience, research and tons of links, I’m going to try to answer that question as simple as possible for those looking for a quick answer, and as thoughtfully as possible, for those seeking a more in-depth answer.
Asking “what is burlesque?” is just like asking “what is theater?” Burlesque is a genre of art and entertainment. I want to explore the concept of theater first, so you can truly understand the scope of burlesque beyond “a woman doing a striptease.” According to Wikipedia, “Theater is a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place, often a stage.” Fine art, according to Wikipedia, “is art developed primarily for aesthetics or beauty, distinguishing it from applied art, which also has to serve some practical function, such as pottery or most metal work.”
That means to say that theater exists for beauty and pleasure. While it can have social context and change the world, its a fine art in that it acknowledges some things exist for the joy of its beauty and the sensation of its pleasure.
Let’s look at more of the definition of theater. “The performers may communicate this experience to the audience through combinations of gesture, speech, song, music, and dance. Elements of art, such as painted scenery and stagecraft such as lighting are used to enhance the physicality, presence and immediacy of the experience. The specific place of the performance is also named by the word “theatre.”
So that’s “theater,” whether it be Broadway, Shakespeare or puppet theater.
So what is burlesque? We can exploreWikipediasome more! Burlesque “is a literary, dramatic or musical work intended to cause laughter by caricaturing the manner or spirit of serious works, or by ludicrous treatment of their subjects.” Burlesque is a parody of theater. At least its origins. We haven’t gotten into what is Neo-Burlesque as a dance genre. I’m simply exploring the original definition of this art form. And by definition, its burlesque is a parody of theater, or just a parody of serious art and culture.
That’s burlesque by its most basic and history definition.
A grotesque imitation of the dignified or pathetic or serious and comic elements were juxtaposed or combined to achieve a grotesque effect.
“Victorian burlesque, sometimes known as “travesty” or “extravaganza“, was popular in London theatres between the 1830s and the 1890s. It took the form of musical theatre parody in which a well-known opera, play or ballet was adapted into a broad comic play, usually a musical play, often risqué in style, mocking the theatrical and musical conventions and styles of the original work. The comedy often stemmed from the incongruity and absurdity of the classical subjects, with realistic historical dress and settings, being juxtaposed with the modern activities portrayed by the actors.” This is why you see the costume silhouettes within burlesque, they were traditional to their specific era in time. They wore the dress of who they were mocking.
“American burlesque shows were originally an offshoot of Victorian burlesque. The English genre had been successfully staged in New York from the 1840s, and it was popularised by a visiting British burlesque troupe, Lydia Thompson and the “British Blondes”, beginning in 1868. New York burlesque shows soon incorporated elements and the structure of the popular minstrel shows. They consisted of three parts: first, songs and ribald comic sketches by low comedians; second, assorted olios and male acts, such as acrobats, magicians and solo singers; and third, chorus numbers and sometimes a burlesque in the English style on politics or a current play. The entertainment was usually concluded by an exotic dancer or a wrestling or boxing match. By the 1880s, the four distinguishing characteristics of American burlesque had evolved: 1. Minimal costuming, often focusing on the female form. 2. Sexually suggestive dialogue, dance, plotlines and staging. 3. Quick-witted humor laced with puns, but lacking complexity. 4. Short routines or sketches with minimal plot cohesion across a show.”
Knowing its historical definition and bringing it into modern day context, Burlesque is extreme parody, emotional storytelling and extravagant striptease. Its theatrical (dramatic), political and entertaining. Its naughty and taboo. Its fun and humorous too. Also within Burlesque, there are genres from Classic Burlesque to Nerdlesque to Cheesecake or Neo-Burlesque.
As Burlesque is a form of entertainment, just like Theater, that means people (the audience) go to see it. Thus “Burlesque Shows.” People go to see Burlesque Shows. In the US, as far as I know, Burlesque Shows have manifested in a few ways…
Variety Show – a curated night of entertainment featuring all sorts of art forms including poets, singers, comedians, musicians, aerial artists, burlesque dancers and a host.
Curated Burlesque Show – a curated night of entertainment featuring individual burlesque dancers/acts and a host.
Theatrical Burlesque Show – a theatrically produced night of entertainment featuring burlesque dancers such as House of Perle.
In order for people to experience Burlesque Shows in any genre, covering any theme, that means there need to be Burlesque Performers. Thus the need for Burlesque Dancers, Burlesque Schools, Burlesque Classes and Burlesque Dance Troupes. As the genre gained popularity, those classes were also being taken by the general public as a form of fitness, nostalgia or new fun hobby. And as the industry continued to grow, Burlesque has its own conferences, competitions and more.