By June Le’Fleur
For me, 2015 was an important year. I moved into my first roommate-less apartment, ended a 3 year relationship to put more focus on myself, and began to confront an eating disorder that had plagued my life for over 5 years. As big as 2015 was, I was determined to make 2016 even bigger! I made many promises to myself on how this year would be different; I was going to go out, have new experiences, meet new people, and finally act like a 23 year old! When the first four months of the year passed without much success, I’d pretty much settled with the idea that maybe next year I would break my habits, maybe 2017 would be “my year.”
That all changed on a sunny morning in April when I saw an ad for the Burlesque Academy’s Facebook page. I’ve always been attracted to things that others may look down or find taboo, so I was immediately drawn in. Of course I had heard of burlesque before, and had long been a fan of the glamour and sparkle of this beautiful art. However, I had no idea Asheville had its own unique burlesque scene, complete with dozens of talented and beautiful performers. With a quick visit to the academy’s website, I knew I needed to take a class. A little more research, and I found out the Burlesque Academy has a scholarship program for the 101 class! I was in disbelief! Could this be true? Was there actually a sparkly lady who donated her time and energy to give people the amazing experience of burlesque? After a rather difficult email to Deb, I found out that not only was it true, but that I had been offered a full scholarship for the May Burlesque 101 course! I was blown away with excitement, but anxious to learn whatever I could from the class.
When I walked into my first class, I had no idea what to expect. This was the first time in my life I’d taken any sort of class or been part of any kind of production. While introducing ourselves that day, Deb asked everyone “what’s something unique about you?” I had the hardest time thinking of how to answer that question; there was nothing specifically unique about me, and I was too nervous and embarrassed to talk about myself anyway. That embarrassment quickly subsided when we moved on to our next exercise- practicing our sexy walk. In the past, Body Dysmorphic Disorder prevented me from ever feeling comfortable in my skin and I never felt sexy, especially in a group of people who were still strangers. I fumbled my way through the walking exercises with awkwardness and anxiety, but I left class that night with hopeful thoughts of who I, as a burlesque dancer, would become.
The Burlesque 101 course turned out to be one of the most self-enlightening experiences of my life so far. Throughout the 6 week course, I was challenged on many levels. I chose a fast-paced song for my graduation routine and had never performed a fully choreographed routine in heels before, but my biggest obstacles were mental and emotional. Every day was riddled with anxious thoughts of “what if I fuck up?” or “what if I get up there and people see me the way I see me?” There were a few very difficult times: trying on costumes, standing in front of the mirror while getting ready, and putting on pasties for the first time with my classmates. However, I was supported throughout the entire process; not only by my friends at home, but also by my new burlesque family.
By the graduation show, I was no longer the quiet, awkward one. I was now quiet, awkward, AND sexy! Seeing pictures and videos from my performance gave me a huge confidence boost and allowed to see myself in a way I never had. It may sound strange, but I had a hard time believing that person on stage was actually me. Burlesque 102 is next on my list, but I’m not stopping there! I still feel a bit like a baby giraffe that’s getting used to its legs, but I’m growing every day and I’m excited to be a part of Asheville’s burlesque community!
Header photo by Tommy Propest