The class that made me take myself more seriously

Last week I mentioned that part of gaining the courage to quit my full-time job came from a class I'm taking. My last class was last night, so I'm posting about it now.

The class was a class in....burlesque performance.

Yeah, I know. A little, um, interesting. On the one hand, kind of cool, but on the other hand, who takes a class about stripping? Only it wasn't about stripping off clothes, but about stripping off these ideas I had about myself and my body.

I took the class because a friend had taken it and said she felt it helped her come to grips with some body issues. I have body issues. (So do you, I'm betting.) And being/feeling sexy wasn't really part of my marriage, so I wanted to be able to get past that to be able to move forward with my life. Ruthless, brutal honesty with myself is what I've been working toward, so I thought this class would force me to confront my body images, my mental image of myself, and maybe help me be able to be sexy in the future.

The teacher is amazing. She's a performer herself, and some of what she does is burlesque. She's really thoughtful about the process, and her idea of burlesque is that it's not about dancing, not about taking things off, but about making a connection with the audience, about being honest and being present and giving a gift.

A lot of the work we did was on roles, movement, archetypes, and some acting exercises to get us out of our usual habits of body. The goal of the class is to put together one burlesque performance piece that we finish and then do for the class the last day (the class is only for women). Before the class even started I had my music picked out, and it was going to be this funny piece, with this sort of hapless character that just sort of ended up taking things off in the middle of a funny song.

Over the course of the class, I realized that I've been telling myself this lie for years: That I am this hapless, Lucy-in-the-candy-factory character, sweet and well-intentioned, just trying to make her way through life.

In reality, I am strong and powerful and sexy and smart, and also funny.

I have been using fear as a way to rein in my power and to stop myself from doing what I really can do.

So I decided just to stop being afraid and move forward. It was that same "WTF am I doing??" feeling I had two years ago when I decided to start trusting people. So I started small by changing my music and my burlesque piece, to be one that's straight-up sexy and kind of provocative. And powerful. And also funny, but just because it hits a chord in people (so say my classmates).

And then I lined up my stuff (ran numbers on insurance and other costs and reached out to people about freelance work) and screwed up my courage to displease the owners of my company, and quit. To do what I'm good at doing, and live the life I'm still a little afraid to live.

Here are some other insights I've had over the course of the class:

* My being sexy and owning my power makes other women sexy, too.

* If you think you are, you are, and it has nothing to do with the size or shape of your body.

* Taking off just a little is way better than all the way. In class we went down to what you'd see on the (an American) beach, but that's so powerful when done with intention and presence.

* It's usually easier to figure out what you think you should be doing, but your body is telling you what you really should be doing. Pay more attention to your body, and less attention to the voices in your head.

* It's a process. You're never all the way there. And it's never too late.

The next time my teacher runs the class, I'll post the info and encourage any of you in the NYC area to take it.

Edited to add: She's got some workshops scheduled. The first one is a one-time intro, and the second one (the 6-week workshop) is the one I did.

Intro to Burlesque
Saturday, December 13th, 4 - 7pm
Studios 353
353 W. 48th Street (btn 8th & 9th Ave.)
Fee:  $50 (credit card alsoaccepted)
Max of eight students
Pre-registration required:

In this afternoon workshop, Victoria Libertore will take you through the basics of stage presence, the secret of seduction and the art of taking off a glove.  Enjoy being in your body and tapping into your Goddess energy. (women only)


Goddess Burlesque 
Six-week Workshop
Mondays (Jan 5th - Feb 9th, 7 - 10pm
Studios 353
353 W. 48th St. (btn 8th & 9th Ave)
Fee:  $300 (credit card also accepted)
($150 deposit due by Dec 29th)
Max of eight students

Pre-registration required:

Let loose of your inhibitions and get comfortable in your own skin!  In this six-week workshop, Victoria Libertore aka Howling Vic will share her unique skills to help you develop a three to five-minute performance piece that reflects your individual attributes.   Using tools of physical theatre, archetypal energy, intuition, character exploration and imagery, you'll build a solo performance incorporating a striptease and learn how to be comfortable while doing it!  Come and release the Goddess within.  (women only)

Victoria Libertore (Howling Vic) is performance artist, actress, playwright, improviser, curator, producer and teacher. She has performed her work throughout New York City and in Boston, DC, Montreal, Philadelphia, Provincetown and Toronto.  She is a 2008-2009 BAX Theatre Artist in Residence.