I am angry. Really angry. Like a fire in my gut kind of angry.
Following my burlesque Troupe’s sold out show, we decided to bring our show to our home town of Strafford. 5 out of 7 members either live in the vicinity or have family that do. We recognized that this raised the embarrassment factor because we could potentially be dancing in front of neighbors and our kid’s friend’s parents (eek!), but the fact that we were so self-conscious was exactly what we wanted to address. We are not ashamed of our dancing or of our bodies, so what is the big deal, right?
I reached out to book our local Community Club. We wanted full disclosure of what we were offering, so we showed the Building Manager photos from our last show. She saw the female empowerment and was thrilled for us. Although this venue is much more expensive than our previous, I signed the contract. The ladies in my Troupe are ready to step up to the last remnants of shame, and body consciousness embedded in their psyche. They want their community to see their growth, their beauty and hopefully, be inspired by it. Men and women alike. “How?”, you ask. Well…women might be inspired to find beauty and self-expression in their bodies, no matter the age, shape or size, casting aside societal demands for perfection. (a rant for another day, but who determines what is beautiful and what is not?). Men might see women as fully realized, confident and independent…not dancing for the audience’s pleasure, but for their own. How refreshing to reinforce that we do not exist for your pleasure, but for our own.
So, why am I angry?
Where to begin? I reached out to the local community paper to take out an ad. I recognized that having “Tits” in your name does not make for family friendly print, but wanted to verify and seek clarification on cost, dimensions etc. I also inquired about submitting an article discussing my professional journey of empowerment via yoga, lyra arts and burlesque to help inform the community of what is available and how it supports empowerment of men and women. The response I received was insulting. “I’m assuming this is not a real burlesque show. I’m sure the BLCC would not approve that.” What the what?? I was further advised that they would allow an article or ad for my yoga as that is “appropriate”. Let me be clear, I am not angry that the publication won’t allow me to use my name. I chose a risqué, in your face name, knowing full well the limitations of doing so. That they have determined my show to be immoral and inappropriate chafed. I taught yoga last night and practiced a loving-kindness meditation. I was really working to accept that not everyone is going to love what I do.
Upon booking the venue and attempting to market the show, I set up our ticket sale and created an event on social media. I invited all my local peeps to attend. Shortly thereafter (seriously, under an hour), an acquaintance posted an article about Burlesque from FeministCurrent.com and stated that our middle class privilege to take off our clothes discounts the women who do this to survive. Sigh. We are not strippers (not that I have any issue with sex workers of any kind). We are grown ass women who have found ourselves stifled by judgement, conditioning, family, sexual assault, mental and physical abuse and so much more. We are removing these shackles and reclaiming our bodies, our image of beauty. We are dancing! We are creating friendships. We are holding space for each other to be unique and weird and shy or whatever else we are. We are stepping out from under other people’s definitions of what we are and trying to define it ourselves. This is a scary process. It is deep work. Who knew stripping off a robe to wear the same amount of clothes you would wear to Bow Lake could feel so vulnerable? Furthermore, who knew people would be lining up to throw stones…to lock us back up in their little box of appropriate. You know that box. The one that demands that you look nice, but not too nice because then no women will talk to you because their husbands are staring. You know the box where everyone talks about love and equality and openness and love thy neighbor unless you look differently, or act differently than their expectations and then you are OUT. Don’t forget the box of whore. Or virgin. Because apparently, there are really only 2 boxes here and I am MAD!!!!!! But, do be the kind of woman who straightens another’s crown, right? Grrrr. I think I am almost done. Ultimately, I am sad. I am disappointed. I am disillusioned.
But, I am not stopping. This show will go on and hopefully, if this sparks something in you, you will attend and experience firsthand the absolute joy these women feel when they dance.
I am not stopping. I am going to keep turning inward to uncover the spaces where I have allowed myself to be small, instead of powerful.
I am not stopping. As long as women (and men!) keep signing up to take yoga classes to connect with their divinity, lyra arts to connect with their inner child or burlesque to connect with something that was taken from them, I will do this work.
Thank you for reading this. If there is a part of you that comes up wishing I was a little more tasteful, respectfully, please explore it’s origin. If there is a part of you saying, GO GIRL!, then please stand with me on June 15 to support these gorgeous women and their journey! You can buy your tickets here. And if you feel curious to explore any of these offering, please let me know.