I’m studying to be a writer – a journalist, reporter, novelist…something involving a written splurging of words and thoughts. But if I could be anything—if I could have any career, profession, lifestyle, etc.—I’d be a burlesque dancer. Laugh, mock, ROTFL. I understand the probabilities of ever being said type of dancer equate to those of acquiring political candidacy (not that I would ever want to). Yet I cannot help wishing I could be Christina Aguilera side by side with Cher in 2010, or Blair Waldorf circa 2007 when she wooed the bachelor boy billionaire Chuck Bass with her hidden burlesque talents. Of course I can’t dance, and this poses a bit of pickle.
I am solid evidence that stereotypes aren’t always true. Regardless of coming from a Colombian family in which everyone (and I mean everyone, even the lanky, awkward per-pubescent boys) can dance, I may as well be Lena Dunham. Seriously, it’s like they’ve all been trained by Shakira herself. I guess it’s the other side of my gene pool, the one that’s mixed European, particularly Swedish, that prevents me from being able to move my hips or shake my ass without it looking like I’m a guest star on a Comedy Central skit. I mean, really, most burlesque dancers are just not Eastern European.
The appeal of burlesque, however, is not something I can suddenly force to evaporate. It’s a relatively new career goal, one I discovered at the New York Burlesque Festival back in October. As I watched dozens of lovely ladies dance elegantly whilst also stripping swankily, something I didn’t know was possible, I was mesmerized, intrigued and quite honestly, turned on. There were women of all sizes, of course, but the ones I found most talented were those who were voluptuous and plus-size, or more than plus-size. They shook their curves in the audience’s faces, showcased their cellulite and stretch marks, and jiggled proudly for the world to see…well, for Brooklyn to see. And they were incredible. I’m aware of the fact that they’ve probably been dancing for years, with hours upon hours of practice. But in that moment I was so envious, so amazed, so enveloped. And I wished I had the confidence and poise to do what they do.
To be frank, I have been practicing. Well, no, that’s not frank at all. Mostly I’ve just been trying on sexy outfits paired with thigh-high sheer tights and rocking out to Florence and the Machine in my living room. See photo. In doing that, silly and pathetic as it may sound, I realized my awkwardness and clumsiness would probably hinder my career prospects as a burlesque girl. Then again, burlesque was originally intended to cause laughter. In the 16th and 17th centuries burlesque shows were put on as comedic performances to please Italian nobles. Shame I don’t know of any Italian nobles willing to see an uncoordinated chunky girl dance badly.
I think of other dancers, those at my university or those in professional companies, and for the most part they all fit a certain diagram. Let’s be honest, ballet, hip-hop and pop music all tend to incorporate very thin dancers in their routines. Burlesque is the only style of dance I’ve ever seen live that caters to all shapes and sizes, often favoring bigger gals. I may not ever be a burlesque dancer (sobs) but since that fated October night when I spontaneously attended the festival with my roommate who I’m pretty sure only knew about burlesque because of said Gossip Girl episode I mentioned initially, I fell in love. I fell in love with the costumes, the jazz, the rockabilly feel of the audience and the performers, the hair wear, and the women who got up there and showed off their beautiful bodies. This is probably why I spent something like $130 on the retro, 50s Sea Breeze Beauty dress from My Fancy Fetish. Well that, and the five cans of hard cider. Not that I regret it, it made for an excellent Halloween costume and I’m pretty sure once it’s warm outside I’m just going to wear it all the time and pretend I’m Marilyn Monroe.