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Now I don’t know about you vintage ladies but the thought of going to a gym, breaking out in a sweat and putting my carefully preened top curl into a frizzy spin is not my idea of a good time. I’ve been to aerobics, I’ve been barked at at boot camp. Neither time did I feel sexy or glamorous, before during or even after. On the hunt for something altogether far more vintage I ventured into the world of burlesque dancing, the latest fitness fad frenzy. And you know what? I had a ball!
Don’t get me wrong, this idea did not come out of nowhere. I was working on a shoot at the Salon Parisien Royal Burlesque Revue in Milan where I had the opportunity to catch up with burlesque performer and former Vintage Life cover girl Missy Malone. She was looking in tiptop shape as usual and chatted with me backstage, filling me in on all the benefits of being burlesque.
“I typically perform 3 nights a week, at least, so high energy performances and rehearsals beforehand keep my cardio up. The stilt walking performance in particular tone up my legs and bum.”
Hmmmm, I thought, you won’t be getting me on stilts, I would DEFINTIELY end up in A&E. So I asked her for tips on where to begin – that wouldn’t involve me having to imitate a circus performer. She told me about the fan dance burlesque workshop she teaches twice a week for 2 hours at a time which again focuses on high energy cardio and lots and lots of upper body arm exercise. “All the people who come to the class always comment on how good they feel and they can usually feel it the next day!” she told me, encouragingly.
That was me sold. No more pitiful attempts at aerobics or being yelled at army style at some hideous boot camp. I was going for sophistication, vintage glamour and sexiness: I went off in search of the ultimate burlesque dancing class.
I was nervous to start off with. The thought of sensually stripping off and getting my bits out in a cold gym in front of a load of strangers was not something which immediately enticed me. But after doing my research I had settled on the beginner’s taster class in a small district of Milan’s Monza – a class much in vogue with the current trend of vintage hen parties- and decided I really did want a boost to my self-confidence, I really did want to create a better body image, improve my posture and simply learn a new life skill, as the website promised. Who doesn’t?! I had apparently already begun my journey on the path to burlesque success…
Now I won’t lie. I won’t say that I was a pro from the get go and I can now sensually strip along with the likes of Missy Malone and Gypsy Rose Lee but I definitely learned how to move better, how to feel fitter and more energised, how to appreciate my feminine curves (no ladies, not your wobbly bits! They’re the bits we must love the most in burlesque) and most of all I learned that NOBODY ELSE in the room gives two hoots about what you look like. Mainly because they’re all so concerned with how they look they don’t have the time to worry about your extra fleshy bits and also because the teachers there are so supportive and the feeling of femininity and solidarity is so strong that the old adage really is true: be confident in your body and you WILL look amazing, no matter what. I was that busy learning the moves and trying to choreograph my limbs – it was fast paced to keep the cardio level high – that I really did not spare more than the initial 5 minutes thought to that cellulite on my bottom and my most definitely child rearing hips. I was a sexy, curvy, sensual vintage woman and I felt great before, during and after.

Here are some of the top tips I picked up;
Before you even begin, it might be a good idea to practice stripping at home. Practice with your lucky man or even on your own in front of the mirror. If, like me, you are not the most elegant of sorts, try to make sure you’re not bending over yourself or crunching yourself up into all sorts of ungainly contortions. A chair is a useful aid to prop yourself up against – just remember to go for it; be seductive and sexy, without rushing or fumbling or, falling over.
Do not be intimidated or feel compelled to take off all your clothes in the first session if you are not comfortable. It’s up to you how far you go – if you want to swing your newly bought diamond studded nipple tassles in your first lesson, why not? If, on the other hand, you prefer to keep your lacy lingerie and a little petticoat on, then noone can stop you. Only you know your limitations and noone will think any better or worse of you for sticking to them.
For an instant sexy feel don’t leave home for the class without your heels! We all know our posture improves and our legs look longer and slimmer when we put on our favourite pair – but be warned, as a beginner it’s probably best to stick to a maximum of a 3 inch heel. Make sure you can definitely dance in them!
Treat yourself to your costume and accessories – you don’t have to break the bank to look and feel wonderful in your burlesque garb…a pretty matching bra and panties set, a fitted bustier, wide suspender belt, garters and stockings all look glam and the more vintage the better! Just make sure none of it is too fiddly and difficult to unzip/ remove. It does NOT add to the sexy vibe if you’re literally getting your knickers in a twist.
Fun accessories like feather boas, over-sized fans and elbow gloves can help make you feel uber glamorous!
Don’t be afraid to be cheeky, smile, flirt, wink and even LAUGH. This is a beautiful dance when done properly, but noone likes a miserable burlesque performer. Burlesque is all about the slightly risqué cheekiness of the dancer – so ENJOY YOURSELF and make sure you show it!
Benefits of Being Burlesque
We all know that any kind of dancing improves muscle definition and toning all over not to mention the workout for your self esteem as you definitely come away feeling sexy and empowered.
Burlesque works your core and helps you learn balance and how to control your muscles. If you’re a beginner to high intensity strength training, you can always use adapted moves until you build more muscle tone and confidence. A good instructor will help you put together the right routine to fit your needs.
As with yoga, tai chi and other forms of muscle controlled exercises, burlesque dancing requires you to have absolute control over your muscles to move in a slow, steady way and then mix it up with high level cardio.
Burlesque dancing moves allow you to connect with your femininity and use moves like hip rotations and dips to explore your sensuality.
A burlesque dancing workout is an incredible way to spice up your fitness routine and learn more about yourself and your sensual femininity. With the side benefits of an increased sex drive and boosted confidence, what’s not to love about the beauty of burlesque?!
Where to do it
With the trend for all things vintage showing no signs of abating any time soon (yay!) there is a growing number of Burlesque dance clubs and classes emerging all over the country and beyond. I even managed to find mine here in Milan. The City Academy classes in London are particularly inspiring and tailor made for all ages, shapes, sizes and abilities. The emphasis is on taking this vintage dance form seriously and giving it the respect it deserves. In Milan I found the only Burlesque dance class there was but in the UK they are increasingly easy to find. And seriously, if I can do it, anyone can.
You might even release that inner goddess who has been waiting to be stripped off for a while!
GO GIRLS, GO!

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive – Howard Thurman.

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