More than a dozen clubs are presenting the art of burlesque in New York City alone. It has been a successful industry in America since the 19th century. Started as a sexy parody, it evolved to a revealing art form helping women to promote a pride of sexuality with a little help from old fashioned jazz music and glitter.
“It`s all about glamour and creating this vision of yourself, a fantasy that is achievable for all women,” said Calamity Chang, a burlesque performer in Nurse Bettie, a 1950’s style burlesque club in the Lower East side.
Even though teasing is the main part of the show, it is not a striptease. The performers will keep private parts to themselves. Pasties to cover nipples, thongs or a merkin, which is a pubic wig, to hide the rest are required in cabarets and burlesque clubs. Lap dances or touching are not allowed either, but sometimes the audience doesn’t listen.
“Worst was someone slapping my butt,” said Chang. “Women do that way more then men… They think it is OK because we are both women. No it is not OK.”
But there is no fear of being touched in burlesque schools, everybody is equally beautiful, sexy and scared.
“I am the juicy cherry on top of the creamy cupcake” is the first thing the students of Burlesque Bikini Bootcamp in Chelsea, say in front of the mirror in class. Teachers believe it will help students to feel a little more special after a long day at work.
“I just want to make an exercise that is about feeling good as you are right now,” said Lady Chardonnay, the teacher and founder of the school. “Let people know a woman is supposed to look like a woman.”
To help the women loosen up she encourages students to wear lingerie and heals during the class. For those who do not own any sexy clothes, the school provides colorful boas and gloves to practice seductive ways to take it off.
“It`s a great confidence builder,” said student, Liz Eddy. “That`s the best thing. It`s strange looking yourself in the eye and enjoying the moves. The first time we were laughing the entire class.”
Humor helps a lot in achieving the main target – confidence. Teachers never push students to cross any personal borders. But they say to be topless is a very natural thing.
“Eventually, I can probably get to a point when with a group of women, it would be comfortable,” said student, Alyssa Ruderman. “But the fear of somebody will be taking a picture of me is on the back of my mind, but that room feels like a safe space.”