My first experience of burlesque was at the Secret Circus, an event showcasing local entertainment ranging from dance to comedy and everything in-between. What drew me was these girls’ seemingly unbounded confidence, despite their anti-consumerist representation of beauty. And having the balls to walk on glass, as if getting their kit off wasn’t enough.
Rachael’s class, which incorporates classic jazz moves into a burlesque routine, is tucked away in the back room of a Renshaw St café. I was nervous, especially since the friend I’d planned to bring couldn’t come after all, but I went along anyway. Most of us were equally unsure what to expect. Ages ranged from 16 to 50-something, each girl with a deliciously varying body shape and look. There was Teena the hyperactive can-can dancer, to Justine with her sultry French accent and looks to match, and Frankii who shaved her hair for charity like a boss (I’m in the doghouse for not flattering all your egos now, aren’t I? You are all beautiful, talented, fabulous etc. women – and you are a woman in sass, little Jemima – love you).
Over the weeks we grew close as we muddled through a routine to Christina Aguilera’s ‘Nasty Naughty Boy’. We learned how to titillate an audience with long silky gloves, among other props. As the performance drew near, Rachael hosted a bra decoration session in the closed café where we bejeweled our boob-hammocks with feathers, diamante and other embellishments which inevitably find their way everywhere including your arse crack.
The night of the performance began with a mass grooming session at my house across the street from Studio 2. Rachael flapped about, helping with hair and makeup, as we slunk off in turns to the kitchen in an attempt to hide the volume of vino consumed to settle our nerves/make us brilliant dancers. My male housemates, apparently overcome with a bout of cystitis, slunk back and forth to the loo. Eventually Rachael managed to shoo everybody out of the door in a flurry of glitter and and feathers for a final run-through before audiences arrived, though most of us were resigned to looking fabulous in failure.
The performance was a shambles (sorry guys), but nobody seemed to notice, and brilliant fun. Finishing with some improv girl-on-girl tie spanking with my partner in crime Spraggs, I felt a million bucks as I whipped my blouse off. The audience were so welcoming and I sensed they genuinely wanted us to succeed (or just see our basoomas, who knows), whilst Rachael jigged about like a Mean Girls Mum.
But what really makes the classes is Rachael herself. I once attended a taster pole dance session in which I caught the assistant making give-me-strength eyes at the instructor as she taught me (when I got home Dad told me to show him my moves on the washing line pole). Rachael is the polar opposite of She Who Should Stick The Pole Up Her Arse. Her performance background is evident in her charisma, and she’s a gorgeous little bundle of energy whose top priority is creating a fun, relaxed environment and making you feel lovely. There’s no pressure on anyone to do anything they aren’t comfortable with, whilst also being free to jiggle those nipple tassels should the urge take you. Rachael is one of those people who radiates positive vibes and is a truly kind person.
Her classes proved such a hit that some of us are already taking advantage of the new one-to-one and duet sessions on offer in preparation for our *gulp-why-on-earth-did-I-sign-up-for-this* solo acts at the Christmas showcase.
It isn’t too late to join the latest batch of Tuesday night classes, whilst Saturday hen party packages are also available. So if you’re ready to shake your tail feathers, come along!
Group classes £5. Contact Rachael Mellor Dance for more information.