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)

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

44 thoughts on “The class that made me take myself more seriously”

  1. After my jaw dropped and I giggled a little, I realized this makes so much sense that it’s scary. The result of this class has been so obvious in your posts, but who would have guessed it. Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us.

  2. Wow.That sounds really fantastic and I was a little..surprised?.. when I saw the word “burlesque.” But as I read and the more I thought about it, yeah, I can see how a class like that could totally change how I see myself.
    I’m jealous.
    I’m definitely hiding behind something. I’m not even sure what. Maybe the facade of exhaustion that comes with having had 2 babies in 17 months? (I’m a SAHM with a 5.75yr old daughter, a nearly-19month-old daughter and a 7 wk old son.) I do NOT feel sexy. My marriage has been going on autopilot for the last few months and I’m not happy about that.
    I wish I could find something that would make *me* feel strong and empowered and sexy and smart, but I have 3 kids who cry when I’m not in their immediate vicinity.
    I need to get out *way* more and I would LOVE to take a class like that! Thanks for sharing this experience, Moxie. It really helped me clarify in my own head some needs that I have that I’ve been ignoring for too long.

  3. Oh, I love burlesque! I went to a burlesque show a few years back and it was SO wonderful and sexy and fun. And it was women of all shapes–and, yes, their being sexy and owning their power made ALL the women there be gorgeous. That’s a great insight, on your part.”…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.” As soon as I read that, it clicked for me so clearly that that statement was more about your self-perception, your history, of your sexual identity… and when you said you changed it I wanted to cheer.
    Thought for the day: If I was a burlesque dancer, what would my performance piece be?

  4. Thanks, Moxie. I didn’t think I could appreciate this site more until today. The long road to body acceptance is paved with so many people who, while well-intentioned, do not see how negative self-talk is damaging to us ALL.Here’s to being a voice of understanding. We are NOT what we look like, we are what we ARE…which is so much more complicated than just our looks that it is THRILLING and empowering just to even explore it.

  5. Wow, Moxie! Go on with your bad self!!! So proud of you for taking such wonderful, calculated risks. Enjoy the many rewards of being able to fully embrace your authentic self.

  6. This was inspiring, and yet it also made me sad. Hopeful, but sad. Because I totally agree that “if you think you are, you are,” but I’ve more been feeling, “if I think I’m not, I’m not”–and it’s hard to change that. Just deciding I am doesn’t help. So I’d like to get there, but don’t yet see the way. But it’s encouraging to know that you are not only seeing it, but going there!

  7. That’s fantastic! Go Moxie go!One question — when you decided to start trusting people, how did you make that work? I have perennial issues with trusting everyone from my partner to my colleagues to my family to myself. In my darker moments, I find myself grasping at a reality only I can define, and when I don’t trust myself, I’m in trouble. How did you do it, Moxie?

  8. Wow, that’s powerful stuff! Thanks for sharing this part of your journey with us.Fear is a powerful motivator (demotivator?). A while back I read one of Seligman’s books (Learned Optimism, I think). It claims that there are really only two types of fears: fear of not *being* enough and fear of not *having* enough. For me, it usually boils down to fear of not being enough. Being a Mom is bringing up new areas of perceived insufficiency, and they are starting to weigh on me. Thank you for this reminder to reach beyond those fears.
    Coincidentally, I recently went through a multiple session training for people new to my organization. At the end, the trainer had us choose a stone from a closed bag. Each stone had a single word on it, and the trainer said that most people found the randomly-chosen word to be very appropriate to them. The word on my stone was “DARE.”

  9. Chaosgirl, for me it was two things. The most important one was that I just knew in my bones that God was taking care of me and that it was all going to be OK, even if it wasn’t alright. If that makes any sense. I mean, I failed viciously at being married, and God was taking care of me, so that meant I was being held in the palm of his hand. I was living the “what would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” question and the answer was “connect and live fully.”The other thing was that I’d spent a lot of time not trusting, and putting myself into situations in which I couldn’t trust, and that had gotten me into a soul-crushing life. At that point, trusting just seemed like the least scary alternative.

  10. “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.”This is EXACTLY what I’ve been feeling, but so much more eloquently put. I realize with my recent life change that it’s time for me to just tune in to myself for a change. (Of course I will be tuning more into my kid, too, so this isn’t to imply that I’m just going to have all kinds of free time to go to the spa.) There are too many things I do because I am SUPPOSED to do them. Some of them are obviously important, like exercise or giving my kid a bath, but others, like working full-time outside the home just so I can say I am doing it all, are not necessary.
    P.S. Thanks to all who read my blog post yesterday! You are the greatest.

  11. I’m having trouble putting into words just how happy I am for you that the class turned out to be such a good thing for you. But I am really thrilled for you.

  12. Wow, this strikes a nerve. Moxie, you are doing a great job of finding the life you want and I appreciate your willingness to share the journey with us. Because of some stuff in my relationship, I have been feeling much, much less powerful than I did in the past. This is a great reminder that I am giving my power away — it isn’t being taken from me. Now I just have to figure out how to take it back, even without a burlesque class. Thank you.

  13. It’s funny, but my marriage has been like one big burlesque class for me (now about 14 yrs. long.) I’m so grateful to my husband for that, for helping me to find my inner sexy, powerful spark, and for giving me such a safe place to shake off feelings that that’s bad, for some reason. We have gone through cycles, though, of connection and dischord, through pregnancies and infancies, but we’re in a pretty good place now, which is good because we just found out baby #4 is on the way, and so here we go again!Thanks, Moxie, for diving in despite your fears. I hope to follow in your career footsteps someday.

  14. Thank god, when you said “class” I was so worried you were going to start preaching the EST class crap that so many people I know have gotten into.And YES – feeling sexy is the most empowering thing ever. In the last year I got out of a very long term relationship that hadn’t let me feel sexy, or good about myself in many ways, for a long time. For me, it was actually a man who gave my mojo back to me – someone who gave me the amazing gift of letting me realize just how beautiful and sexy I really am.
    To say that that realization has changed every single facet of my life is not an understatement – I’ve switched careers, reconnected with my friends, improved my relationship with my family, started treating myself better, and started treating those around me better.
    Even though it wasn’t meant to be with that particular man (from both of our perspectives, although things ended well) I will appreciate forever what he did for me, which really in the end was just believing in me so much that I couldn’t help but start to believe in myself again.

  15. I was invited to a group exotic dancing lesson last year as part of a friend’s birthday celebration. I learned so much about myself and about what makes a woman sexy. The first exercise involved walking slowly toward another woman with intention and presence while looking her straight in the eyes. It was powerful and sexy and very challenging! I bought the DVD and still strip for my husband sometimes when I’m feeling like my breasts are only for lactation and my hips are only a shelf for babies. The instructor, though, said she has never danced for her husband, only for herself. It was such a revelation to realize that sexy is all about my relationship with myself. Anyway, I think there are classes all over the place. Here’s the link if anyone is interested.

  16. Woo! I didn’t guess, but I totally get it.I’ve been doing Middle Eastern Dance since I was 9 years old. My sister took lessons and then started teaching, and she taught me my first lessons. She’s now a professional dancer (troupe leader, programmer, consultant, equestrian rescue trainer, etc.)… dancer is right up there, though.
    And I dance, some. I taught for a while. Your teacher sounds great – better than I was, though that’s exactly what I was trying to teach – that belly dancing (in case you didn’t read ‘belly dancing’ from Middle Eastern Dance) is power and movement and freedom, communication, compassion, and connection. You can’t hide when you dance, and you can’t lie, but you can perform.
    I’m definitely at my best when I’ve been dancing recently. Which I haven’t much, lately. Need to get back to that (though I’m now waaaay out of shape, it would be good to get back into shape again… I remember one massage therapist saying I had more back muscle than most men, and it was all from dancing. I miss that.).
    Very cool. I’m glad you’ve found so much, though I’m not surprised at all that the class did what it did – that is the way they tend to work, if they’re good. I admit it took me a second to put you into a mental picture of a Burlesque routine, but then it probably takes a bit for others to put me into a belly dance routine, too. (Not cabaret style, not my thing. More American Fusion or Tribal, which might bend even more brains than Cabaret would…)

  17. That. Is. Awesome! Way to go Moxie, with your sexy self! And when I read “burlesque performance” my first thought was “awesome!” I’m really impressed at what you got out of the class. I think it would be very self-impowering and fun!Like hedra, I was also going to suggest belly dancing for people who want to get in touch with their sexy side. I think those classes are easier to find in some areas and really can give the same vibe. I’ve only been to a class or two, but I have a good friend who is really good and is now teaching it. It’s helped her so much.
    @rudyinparis – “Thought for the day: If I was a burlesque dancer, what would my performance piece be?” Mine would be Fiona Apple’s Slow Like Honey. Not that I’ve thought about it or acted on it or anything. 😉

  18. From an old married lady, 30 years this January, WAY TO GO MOXIE!When the kids are gone and all you have is each other, feeling sexy is very important. It’s just too easy to let that part of who you are fade away.
    DH says, it makes no difference whether a woman is small or large, if they radiate sexy, then we’re attracted to it!
    One of the many reasons we’re still together!

  19. I’ve heard great things about doing burlesque. Go go Moxie!!!I have to third the bellydancing thing – I haven’t done it regularly in nearly two decades… and damn, I wanna get back into it, because it’s so awesome!

  20. WOW. Moxie, I think that is perhaps the most honest piece of writing I’ve ever read. Very strong. Very touching. Very honest. Very REAL. Thank you.”* 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.”
    Oh so true. This is something that I’ve come to figure out myself through a very long trial and error process (and to some degree sometimes I still need to remind myself that I know this, so stop thinking and start trusting the gut. It is NEVER wrong…or so I’ve found).
    And last point: Woo hoo for you! Very courageous and a good reminder to the rest of us. Enjoy everything this experience has brought you.

  21. “pay more attention to your body”YES
    When I was contemplating quitting my FT corporate job to stay home, I was getting bad headaches everyday while driving to work. DUH! Can’t believe I didn’t clue up. Might have been psychosomatic, but still…
    Haven’t regretted quitting the job. Not once.

  22. I’m watching a few friends doing the same type of stuff (taking pole-dancing classes etc) and they seem to enjoy it. From my perspective, I view it as moving backwards to when our hair and clothes had to be perfect before we went to high-school. As I get older, I’m less interested in how I look and whether or not I feel sexy and more interested in how I’m doing emotionally and spiritually. Maybe I’m just not in that life phase yet or maybe I’m missing something big because every other post thinks this is a great thing.

  23. I’ve been thinking and thinking of a great way to bring my women friends together to celebrate my birthday next year. And I’ve already e-mailed Vic to see what the possibilities are. (There are just enough of us interested that the Intro workshop isn’t going to work too well, but she’s awesome, I can tell already.)This is great inspiration. I want to feel sexy again, and what better time than my birthday to do it?

  24. Just wanted to follow up and let you know that I had a private class with Victoria on Saturday with 7 of my girlfriends. Totally awesome!

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