It's MMMMonday! Each Monday, we bring you special, maintainer-curated content intended to enrich your VP experience. Please note that you can find past MMMMonday posts using the "mmmmonday" tag.
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Our MMMMonday post this week is a guest post written by Daisy Chains, a burlesque performer. You can find out more about Daisy at her Facebook page, here: http://www.facebook.com/chains.daisy
Content notes: Because of a NSFW photo of Daisy performing, the piece is behind an LJ-cut. Also, be aware that the first part of this piece briefly discusses weight gain and loss.
Photo credit: Sean Rowley
Burlesque and Bodies
I was never proud of my body until fairly recently. I was the kind of girl with a nice face, but everything below the neck was…sort of forgettable. As a child, I was never athletic, never picked first, and I always hated gym (unless we played with those little scooter things).
In high school, I played field hockey, where I was decent at some aspects of the sport, but really terrible at running and being competitive. It turns out that running and being competitive are fairly important for a team sport. I got by.
In college, I developed a more than occasional habit of takeout and sitting on the couch. I wasn’t healthy and I wasn’t happy. During my senior year, I started working out and eating better; I lost the weight and gained a little muscle. I felt pretty awesome.
I felt great, but I didn’t have much support at home. My boyfriend thought I hadn’t lost enough weight, and he thought my new health kick was stupid. I kept at it.
I made a few more life changes, including getting out of that relationship and starting a new, wonderful one. My new boyfriend thought I’d enjoy going to a burlesque show at a local bar; ten minutes into the show, I turned to him and said, “I want to do THAT.” He introduced me to the leader of the troupe, and I started going to rehearsals.
I was in that troupe for over two years before I moved out of state with my new boyfriend (who is now my fiancé). Let me tell you: burlesque changed how I see myself and how I see others.
Here’s how it worked for me. Burlesque is an art form that focuses on movement and the gradual exposure of one’s body. The first time I stripped onstage, I was terrified. What would people think of my body? Would I look appealing enough for the audience? Would they respect me as an artist? Was I performing enough, or was I just dancing on a stage, which is not what this audience was paying for? All of my anxiety was mostly unfounded, despite my first performance being a bit of a train wreck. (Wrong shoes, hadn’t cut the tag out of my bra, my costume was too plain—you live and you learn.)
As time went on, and I performed more and more, finding my niche was easy. I became known as The Girl with the 42” Hips and the Booty that Never Quit. My big hips and booty were my calling cards. My boyfriend bought me an ice cream maker so I could pad my hips a little more. Being bigger was better for me in burlesque, as far as I was concerned. I loved the hoots and hollers I got just from bending over. I was in charge when I was on stage. You don’t get the booty unless you do what I want, and I want you to cheer.
As my stage persona, I could be the biggest goofball on stage and it was more than okay, it was my THING. I’m naturally a goofy person, but in real life, it can make me seem really strange and awkward. By pumping up my personality onstage, I could be the curvy, weird, surf bunny who sometimes read love letters to cheeseburgers (and then ate one off a silver platter).
Burlesque forced me to reexamine how I felt about my body. I didn’t know the power of my hips or the curve of my booty before I started deliberately showing these parts of my body to an audience. Once I realized that I could control an audience just by twitching one or two muscles… that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship between my body and me. I started, and continue to, lift weights regularly, because it makes me feel wonderful. (Finding *your* wonderful is one thing I can highly recommend.) I also like to show off the contrast between my muscles and my curves onstage--show the booty, flex the biceps. It's two halves of myself that add up to the beauty of my body.
Take a look around the burlesque community. Look at these performers. Gay, straight, conventionally beautiful, strange-looking (and beautiful), short, tall, big, small—it’s a virtual rainbow of diversity. A few examples of our incredibly diverse burlesque world: Dirty Martini is a gorgeous, voluptuous burlesque performer; Julie Atlas Muz is a rather athletic (yet graceful) burlesque performer; Cruel Valentine is an ultra-curvaceous, powerful, show-stopping performer of color who absolutely shines onstage; the Stage Door Johnnies are a trio of boylesque performers of color--they are muscular, strong dancers who make their audience blush; Madame Envy is a whirling, twirling, gender-defying slim and strong redhead who makes every single thing she does passionate and a little wicked; RedBone is a tall, slender performer of color whose slim, muscular frame creates gorgeous angles onstage--she also gives great face. (Those are just a few! If you take a look at the neo-burlesque world, you'll find even more performers to love and appreciate.)
Every performer knows their body so well and knows how to use it to their advantage. That’s really the key to being successful as a burlesque performer: knowing your body and loving every inch of it. Think about what makes someone interesting. You don't necessarily want to see the same cookie cutter person over and over again--that's something the mainstream media does, and burlesque strives to be more than that. When you see someone on stage that looks different, that looks interesting, it piques your imagination--who is this person? What brought them to the stage? What are they going to do up there? Being different is what makes a burlesque performer stand out.
When you see a performer removing a glove and lovingly stroking their bare skin, you know they really love that arm of theirs. When they bend over and cheekily wink at you through their legs, they know exactly what you’re seeing and they want you to love it as much as they do. When a performer thrusts their hips at the audience with a saucy smirk, they’ve been practicing that thrust; the smirk might be a side effect of how amazing they feel. It turns out that most audiences don’t just want to see a perfect body doing perfect dance moves. They want to be entertained, and the most entertaining people are interesting, funny, smart, and passionate about what they do.
When you know your body, love your body, and love making people smile, burlesque makes so much sense.
VPers: is there something you've done that has helped you appreciate the body you have more? Have you ever watched or performed burlesque, or is it something you think you'd be interested in? Feel free to discuss in comments!