What Does It Mean to Be Queer-Friendly?

What Does it Mean to Be Queer-Friendly - shayaulait.com

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.

What Does It Mean To Be Queer-Friendly? - www.ShayAuLait.com
Photography Credit: Dennis Manuel

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.

The next thing I did was a google search for “queer friendly dance studios” and “queer-friendly fitness studios.” I happened upon, “Queer-Friendly Gyms Grow in the East Bay.”

“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.”

East Bay Express

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

  • Roz “The Diva” Mays – She offers a workshop titled, “Coaching Plus Size Athletes.”
  • 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.

Queer-Friendly LANGUAGE

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.

Queer-Friendly REPRESENTATION

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.

– P

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.”

– C

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.

The Genderbread Person - www.ShayAuLait.com

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.
  • Genderbread Person, LGBTQ Umbrella and a Lesson Plan – “Using the Genderbread Person as a guide, the activity leads participants to understand the important difference between gender, sex, and sexual orientation. “
  • 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.”
  • LBGTQ Resource List via GlaadSelf explanatory resource list via Glaad.
  • 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.”
  • Taking Up Space Versus Adding to Space – “Questions to Consider. Unpacking the phrase “you’re taking up space,” and talking about showing up in a social justice framework.”
  • Facilitating XYZ – “A free online resource for all facilitators”

What does it mean to be a Queer-friendly dance or fitness studio to you? And what places would you recommend for pole, burlesque, sensual movement and/or boutique fitness?

12 Wonderful Burlesque Archetypes You Need to Know

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.

speakeasy noir burlesque archetypes - www.shayaulait.com

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.  

"The Showgirl Burlesque Archetype" - www.shayaulait.com
“The Diva Burlesque Archetype” – www.shayaulait.com
“The Star Burlesque Archetype” – www.shayaulait.com
"The Bombshell Burlesque Archetype" - www.shayaulait.com
"The Vixen Burlesque Archetype" - www.shayaulait.com
"The Femme Fatale Burlesque Archetype" - www.shayaulait.com
“The Harlequin Burlesque Archetype” – www.shayaulait.com
"The Flapper Burlesque Archetype" - www.shayaulait.com
"The Free Spirit Burlesque Archetype" - www.shayaulait.com
“The Sorcerer Burlesque Archetype” – www.shayaulait.com
“The Ingenue Burlesque Archetype” – www.shayaulait.com
"The Savage Burlesque Archetype" - www.shayaulait.com

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?

Brands With Nude Shades For People of Color

sweet spot pop erotica burlesque variety show - shayaulait.com

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.

Brands With Nude Shades For Women of Color - shayaulait.com

First, here’s a list of 12 Brands that offer Nude Shades for People of Color

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. Nu Nude – There Swimwear and Dresses give options to a few new shades who didn’t have it before.
  5. 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.
  6. Nude Barre – They have basics like thongs, fishnets and bralettes in a variety of shades.
  7. Naja – There Anais Bra Nude is my favorite everyday t-shirt bra with a nude shade for me.
  8. Being U – I really like the shades that they cover.
  9. Meiahh – This is another brand that has everyday clothing in nude shades. They have some amazing dresses.
  10. 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.
  11. Kahmune – The brand focuses on offering 10 shades in various sshoe types for women of color.
  12. Nudz Intimate Apparel – They offer a nice range of nude shades for lingerie basics.

Nude Shades for People of Color on Amazon

  1. I always wanted some nude, completely bedazzled ballroom shoes and found a decent pair on Amazon via Roymall. If you search deep enough, you may find some great, affordable items on Amazon.
  2. I also came across these bedazzled tights. They turned out to be darker than my skin tone but they worked for a few performances and if you’re the right shade, they are absolutely perfect for you.
  3. These ballroom shoes are just begging to be the right shade for someone.

Do you know of any brands that have nude shades for people of color?

Creating a Burlesque Curriculum, Syllabus and Lesson Plan

Burlesque Curriculum

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.

burlesque curriculum - shayaulait.com

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

There’s also a few that just seem to be a fitness certification with a sprinkle of burlesque as a theme.

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 websites and 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. 

What Is Burlesque?

sweet spot pop erotica show - shayaulait.com

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.

what is burlesque - shayaulait.com

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 explore Wikipedia some more! Burlesqueis 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.

Here’s more from wikipedia. “The word derives from the Italian burlesco, which, in turn, is derived from the Italian burla – a joke, ridicule or mockery” Burlesque overlaps in meaning with caricature, parody and travesty, and, in its theatrical sense, with extravaganza, as presented during the Victorian era. A later use of the term, particularly in the United States, refers to performances in a variety show format. These were popular from the 1860s to the 1940s, often in cabarets and clubs, as well as theatres, and featured bawdy comedy and female striptease.”

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“,[22] 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.”

You can really get a quick trip down the rabbits hole by exploring Burlesque, Neo-Burlesque, Victorian Burlesque, Striptease, Minstrel Shows, and Can-Can on Wikipedia. If you want to explore the websites that share the history and culture of Burlesque, click here. I curated a list for you. All That Glitters Dance and Academy has a post titled, “Burlesque History” that I found helpful.

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.

You can experience a burlesque show in a theater, entertainment venue or at a supper club like Duane Park or at an immersive event created by Production companies like Sublime Boudoir. Burlesque may come in the form of Shanghai Mermaid, The Fly Honeys or The Box.

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.