Burlesque – Being a little less self-conscious and more conscious of your self


What makes someone captivating? What does self-consciousness have to do with it? What happens when we stop being so self-conscious and be more conscious of ourselves?

There is something captivating about a confident individual – man or woman. Most of the time it has nothing to do with the way they look – its’ something about their poise, their gaze and the way they walk – the purpose with which they move. Go and sit in a coffee shop and people watch for an hour or so, and you will notice that those who draw your gaze are not always what society, or certainly what the majority of marketing companies out there would have you believe is attractive. Its’ just something about them.

We feel our most attractive when we feel good – and that ‘feel good’ is often related to either physical factors such as weight, items of clothing, new hair style or psychological  ones such as a promotion, a new relationship or sporting success. These changes make you feel good, and when you feel good, two things happen.

  1. Everything around you changes – you expect to be approached positively and you will look for positive affirmation as opposed to criticism
  2. You change – when we are positive and feel good about ourselves, we hold ourselves differently. Head up, laughing, open – like a peacock, we want to shake our feathers.

The irony is that its’ how we react when we feel good, not those external factors that actually make the difference. Its’ something that comes from within that changes how we interact with the world around us and how we inadvertently shape the way others interact with us.

The crux of where this je ne sais quoi occurs is when our internal thoughts and feelings meets the external world – via our body. What if we could move and hold our bodies as if we were feeling on top of the world – skip the need to be super happy all the time – but still initiate positive interactions with the world around us?

Learning from the best – Burlesque Classes

They say in life you should look at those who do it well and learn from them. I don’t know if you have ever seen a burlesque performance – watched the way the performers hold themselves, the confidence with which the artists move their bodies, their deft purposeful movements and the timing they use to completely enrapt the audience. (If you haven’t already, check out Dirty Martini in Love America – its’ not for everyone but what I think she does is pure genius). These performers have that je ne sais quoi.

Hands up, not all Burlesque now-a-days aligns to its traditional roots in Victorian Music halls with routines including elements of storytelling, humour or satire. But when you get a great performer it shows how this art form is the ultimate finger up to what fashion magazines and publicity push out about the body. The best Burlesque performances I have seen have not been amazing because of the performer looked like or what they wore; rather it was how they moved – with conviction, purpose and impeccable timing. It was something that came from inside.

So to cut a long story short – I booked onto a burlesque call in the city, bought nipple tassels, raided my sock draw for a matching pair of stockings and convinced my boyfriend to lend me a white shirt.

Class begins

There were about 20 of us in the class – all shapes, ages and sizes and a very elegant teacher, complete with knee length dress and modest looking heels. She introduced herself and got us to start walking – slowly, deliberately – heads held high and shoulders back.

When you walk confidently, consciously and proudly its’ not just your posture that changes, but also something emotional as well. As if your physical body can impact your mind-set.

After a few minutes of corrections, we were ready to strut our stuff solo around the room – on the proviso that we made eye contact with everyone we passed and either winked, smiled or give a flirty little wave.

The act of deliberately making eye contact with as many people as possible then interacting with them just using your body language was a weird feeling and I am not going to lie – you feel very self-conscious.

We often hear the term ‘self-conscious’ and associate it with being uncomfortable, but that same self-consciousness can be turned into a positive – to be conscious of your ‘self’, conscious of your body and your movements. That became more apparent as we moved onto the next exercise.

Our instructor worked us through a series of movements- the Marilyn Monroe, tiger, cat etc… their names are in fact a dead giveaway for what they looked like. We ran them through a few times together, then alone for a while.

With each movement being conscious of your self was essential – where were your hands, were your shoulders back, your stomach tucked in? Because everyone was doing the same thing you didn’t feel like sore thumb, so as opposed to thinking about what everyone else thought of you – you find that the attention you once would have flung outwards, turns inwards – and you began to grow an increased awareness of your place in your skin.

We then paired up with a partner and stood at opposite ends of the room. Before being informed that we would then have to strut towards each other pull two or three of the poses and strut back … one pair at a time.

Not going to lie… it was great fun! Everyone was cheering, clapping and whistling with every move that was pulled. I noticed the more committed we were to just going all out – the better the moves looked. It was almost as if it was nothing to do with what you were doing – more the conviction and commitment you had to doing it.

The last part of the session was a group set. After being divided up by the instructor we then had to choreograph a series of six of the movements we had learnt in our groups, and perform a mini-show to the group.

Despite being at the end of a long day, the whole hour was exhilarating and we all left buzzing. It was an amazing experience to be in an environment where ‘fitting in’ and ‘toning down’ wasn’t the order of the day. Every person in the class started a little nervous but by the end of the hour had this je ne sais quoi, and it was not due to a new haircut, new clothes a promotion, but just spending an hour throwing themselves ‘out-there’ consciously.

So often in life I meet individuals who try to fit-in, either with expectations they hold, or because of expectations of those around them. The result is holding yourself back and feeling like uncomfortable in your own skin. I am not suggesting we should all go out there with a pair of nipple tassels and start throwing a Marilyn to random strangers in the street, but maybe we just start being a little less self-conscious and a little more conscious of ourselves.

And if you are worried someone will judge you just remember that’s’ their problem – don’t make it yours. x

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