I have always been intrigued by the world of burlesque. The nocturnal displays of flesh and feathers to tantalise men (and women).
Of course there is the seedy side - private dances becoming a euphemism for tricks and perks.
But there is now a very sensual, liberating side - burlesque and pole dancing.
Both have come to a Paris in a big way. Sports clubs have poles in their studios for classes and you can train to do sort of striptease that would have made Toulouse Lautrec proud. Crazy Horse is one example of French sexiness and art coming together in a glamourous celebration of the nude female form. The latest set has been inspired Christian Louboutin - an ode to beautiful women and beautiful shoes.
I more recently encountered pole dancing at a Bal des Debutantes at the club, Secret Square.
A few times a year they hold classes for wannabe pole-istas and in preparation for a gala night where you get to strut your stuff in front of a live audience.
After my miscarriage I promised myself I'd do the things I always wanted to do. Dancing on a podium is one of my favourite moments when we go clubbing. Seeing the energy of the clubbers and feeding off the dj nearby.
Burlesque dancing as I have learnt takes podium dancing to a new level.
I have always had a complicated relationship with my body. Always feeling bit too podgy here and there. Hips too wide. Too stumpy legs. Blablabla.
I'm getting closer to accepting me - at the ripe old age of 38. But I'm not quite there yet. I thought that getting up in front of people in a glma-tastic costume would be a make or break moment.
So I signed up.
On arriving at the coaching I was full of hideous anxiety - I had anticipated a bevvie of buxom beauties - long limbs, perfect figures. I was of course way off the mark. Everyone was normal. Like me. Some tall and skinny, some more curvy. All groovy girls who wanted to dance for them. A couple were serious practitioners - they had a pole in their house so had some great twisty moves. But actually the key is to be sensual and graceful - tacky gyrating ain't the thing these days.
I decided to check out a class for some top-up training. When I arrived a mum and her toddler were waiting. I thought I'd got the wrong day. Oh no. She quickly stripped off and was climbing the pole like a monkey. The real dancers have stomachs of steel as they use their abs to spin themselves around in the air. The teacher gave me some great tips on looking the part and I left feeling more confident - well 'ish'.
The big night was nerve wracking. Unlike acting it's you up there. So I used a technique from my Actors Studio class with Jack Waltzer - I imagined I was on a set and all the onlookers were the cast. I also substitued my fear by tapping into the last really high octane moment I'd had.
Pretending it was a real scene helped calm my nerves as did the surroundings. Secret Square is more of a boudoir so the lighting is soft, furnishings velveteen and tables glittery. I was surprised to see couples dining together and groups of friends. Not just dirty old men.
I was first up and my friends were rooting for me. I had chosen Kavinsky Nightcall - slow enough for me to avoid my normal a thousand bpm antics.
I loved it and I felt great. No, I felt top of the world. I actually liked myself and others cheering and whistling made me feel a million dollars. The other girls also did great. One was really special - very young, buxom and hour glass figured, glasses and extremely underconfident. Yet she did it. She had the guts to twirl around and she was rhythmic and seductive.
I never thought I'd ever recommend something like this. Before I would have rejected it as disrespectful to women. But now I have seen how the classes and the new types of Burlesque evening I realise they are actually for women, not just men.
My acting coach says actors like their jobs as they get to live hundreds of lives not just one. By day you can be a regular office worker by night anything is possible and you can fulfill your dreams of being whatever you want to be.
For me the first step to accepting your body is to experience it fully. Dance is one way but dancing Burlesque is a full immersion in your own body. You can't help but feel good as you sway your hips, to sultry tunes, in a sexy outfit.
When I did my dance I couldn't look at the mirrors at first. They are all around the club - so you can check yourself out. But by the end I actually managed to glance up to see myself in the mirror and I actually caught myself smiling.
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