Misadventures in Wonderland: Burlesque with Gypsy Charms
Female empowerment vs smug stripping? Our intrepid columnist Alice White tries a burlesque class
What was I expecting?
I presumed this was just going to be another fresh hell which List HQ was going to put me through. I’ve never been interested in burlesque because it’s always seemed like smug stripping. I was expecting it to be bitchy and snooty and I prepared myself to be ignored by a bunch of clique divas. Worst of all, I had to go to Falkirk which, well, you know, it’s Falkirk.
What actually happened?
Well, the rant I had planned on writing has been totally ruined. It was a full class and it was all mainly friendly, boisterous women in their 50s: my favourites. The teacher, Gypsy Charms, was in fact very charming. There was a lot of laughing as she paraded around, almost conducting the class like an audience participation show (another thing I’d thought I’d hate). She managed to trick a whole room of people into exercising with a wide range of different era moves and stylised stretches. If I had cash on me, I would’ve thrown it at her.
How sexy was I?
The whole thing is based on a caricature of femininity. I learned how to pose properly and how to bend to make my chest and arse look bigger while adorning an exaggerated range of facial expressions. My favourite piece of advice about messing up choreography was ‘act like you were right’: I’m going to apply this to every aspect of my life. If you do anything with enough conviction and brass neck, of course you’re going to feel like the most sexually powerful thing in the world. I was doing all sorts of thrusting, tiger paws and bum wiggles. So, was I sexy? Very.
No. Turn to your pet right now and say ‘be sexy’. That blank reaction? That’s what I looked like. Some members of the class were oozing sexuality so naturally. However, despite how liberating the class was, I don’t have the heart of a cabaret performer. I was doing all the right moves but I reckon I was dead behind the eyes … Wait, I’m not saying your dog has ‘moves’. Let’s stop talking about this.
So is it just smug stripping?
I’d had an obnoxious conversation years ago with someone who talked about her ‘art’ while using some pretty stag-do language about exotic dancers. Surely sneering at another group of vagina-owners is against any gender empowerment you’re trying to promote? I realise now that it was her I didn’t like. She was my first encounter with burlesque and I presumed everyone else would be the same. I guess I’m guilty of being judgemental too but she was being more of an idiot than I am now: I promise.
Think what you like about provocatively taking off your clothes for money or entertainment, but being in control of your own sexuality is important. I’ve not been fully converted yet but I’ve come a long way in a one-hour class. I can now see the appeal once all the pretentiousness of one bad apple has been stripped away.
Gypsy Charms’ Burlesque class takes place every Thursday at Falkirk Town Hall.