Life · mental health

Body Image and Burlesque

Last week my therapist asked me how I was handling the break-up. (For those who may have missed that post, I wrote a break-up letter to the eating disorder that I’ve struggled with for 15+ years. I relapsed sometime last summer. Now, I am trying very hard to let go and regain my balance.)

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If I may be honest, it’s been difficult. My therapist pointed out that there’s always an adjustment period following any sort of break-up, so the fact that I am struggling is normal. The past few weeks I’ve been trying very hard to just eat what I want and not make my choices based on what my ED says. (This is within reason, obviously. I still want to be healthy, so I can’t go around eating nothing but chocolate all day. Although that would be lovely, wouldn’t it?) I’ve been doing okay with this. I’ve spent less time stressing over what I’m going to eat before meals and have been enjoying more foods that I didn’t always “allow” myself to have.

The problems begin after I eat. The negative voice (ED’s voice) still creeps in and tries to make me feel shitty. Even though I technically dumped my ED, we’ve been together so long that my instinct is still to let it dictate what I do. It’s hard to just let go of behaviors that, as destructive as they may be, have become the norm for you. Le sigh.

As frustrated as I am, I’m still hanging in there. My body image isn’t exactly the best, but I’m finding things to help keep me distracted when the negative thoughts show up and things to make me feel better about myself.

One thing that’s been helping is burlesque. Since injuring my shoulder I’ve had to take a little break from pole dancing, which sucks because I really miss it. Rather than just take a hiatus from dance entirely, I’ve been focusing on burlesque. This has been a challenge in and of itself because it’s quite different from my normal dance routine. With pole I can get lost in my own world, but with burlesque you have to focus entirely on the audience.

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Entertaining an audience is difficult when you’re naturally introverted and/or self-conscious. I’ve really had to step outside of my comfort zone with this. Burlesque is all about teasing your audience. Everything has to be done with intent and has to be done at 100%. You have to put a lot of energy into everything you do – making the right facial expressions, knowing when to move vs. not move your body, knowing when to let things show and when to keep things hidden, knowing how to use your props to enhance sexual appeal, etc. I’ve done a little with burlesque in the past, but now that I am fully immersing myself in it I realize just how beautiful of an art it really is.

Not only does the audience benefit from burlesque, but there are benefits to the dancer, as well. With burlesque you really need to have confidence in yourself and what you’re doing. I’ve been watching lots of videos of professionals and have gone to see some of my burlesque friends perform recently and it’s been amazing. I really admire the confidence that those women (and men) have and how they use it. It’ll take time for me to reach that same level, but it’s teaching me to appreciate my body and to feel more comfortable in my skin. Sometimes I still feel like I’m faking it, but that’s the motto, isn’t it? Fake it until you make it. 

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Two weeks from now I’ll be in one of our shows at the studio. This will be my first strictly burlesque performance in four years. I will admit, I’m somewhat nervous about it.

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10 thoughts on “Body Image and Burlesque

  1. Just curious, since burlesque is not stripping (although most guys don’t know the difference), what kind of costume and props do you use? As you said the art of burlesque is showing just enough at the right time, without revealing too much. I’ve never seen a burlesque show (but I have seen plenty of strip shows). All I know of burlesque is what I’ve seen from historical footage of the “fan dancers” like the infamous Gypsy Rose Lee.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is an excellent question. So, to clarify, burlesque involves some stripping. (Usually, anyway) It’s up to the dancer to decide how much they want to reveal. You can just strip off outer layers of your costume to reveal something slightly more risque underneath or go straight for the pasties and bottoms experience. (This is the route I’m going this time)

      For me, I’m leaning towards a more classic style this time. I’ve got an elegant looking gown, long gloves, a big fancy hat, and heels. (Ever see Pretty Woman? That was my inspiration for this costume). It depends on the theme you’re going with, however. I’ve seen people come out in all kinds of crazy costumes or just normal clothing. (There’s a video online somewhere of a girl dressed as a burrito doing burlesque.) I typically lean more towards the 1920s-1950s glam looks. SFor me, essentials usually include a garter and stockings or a corset. The more stuff you have to remove the longer the tease.

      Your props will also depend on what your theme/style is. I have a long cigarette holder, complete with a fake cigarette this time. The hat will also be used as a prop. We’ve got all kinds of things in the studio- phones, riding crops, fake guns covered in rhonestones, feathers, etc.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Go Girl, I’m glad you’ve found something that’s helping you to move forward & an alternative after your injury. Good luck with your show, it’s a very brave thing to put yourself out there expecially with burlesque! I imagine it’s very empowering once you’ve done it!

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  3. I find this to be a fascinating post. The idea of performance of any kind makes me crazy! I cannot do it. That’s why I was always behind the scenes where I belong when it comes to theatre. Of course I also have no real rhythm. The one time I was forced to take a dance class even the teacher admitted that I was the first person she couldn’t teach. We of course became friends. I think that it is beautiful that ye can use the burlesque to help deal with the body image stuff. A lot of me crew would find that counter-productive. I think it is brave and awesome. And yes I would like a photo if ye be inclined. Arrr!
    x The Captain

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s too funny that they “couldn’t” teach you. Dance isn’t everyone’s thing, I suppose. I’ve always loved to dance. When I started doing pole and burlesque I NEVER would have thought I would be able to perform in front of people. Dance helped boost my self-esteem enough though that one day I just decided I could do it. I still get super nervous, but once I’m there I get in character and feel more confident. (I wish I could apply that to other areas of my life.) I will post pics as it gets closer to the show! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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