From the moment I saw a woman pull Taco Bell out of her bra, I knew I wanted to be a dancer.
Thanks to Dita Von Teese, burlesque has made a comeback as a popular form of performance art in the past few years. A mixture of tongue-and-cheek and striptease, burlesque is sexy, satirical and sports sparkly satin costumes. However, burlesque has more than its nipple tassles meet the eye. Burlesque isn’t a tacky stripper with a Carmen Miranda costume, but a classy way to increase your self-esteem and your ability to strut to the beat of a song. The value of burlesque as an art form has the opportunity to transform both the performer and the audience’s way of looking at themselves.
Jodi Hahn, the leader of Fort Myers burlesque troop Hen House Entertainment, says burlesque is all about the empowerment of women. “It’s for women cherishing and appreciating their bodies. It’s not about perfection, it’s about embrace,” Hahn said. Hahn got involved with burlesque after she saw a performance in Buffalo, N.Y., at a bar that caters to lesbians. “I saw a girl and said, ‘I wanna do that! And I bet I can do it better!’”
Not only did Jodi Hahn wind up taking her place, but she also brought the culture to Southwest Florida as a form of community three years ago. At first, Hahn found many dragking performers, however, she quickly realized there was a great interest in burlesque. Hen House Entertainment became something completely different from what “Mama Hen” originally intended it to be, but also much greater.
Mama Hen, who will be offering burlesque classes in January once a week at The Bottom Line, encourages women to own what they’ve got. Students are encouraged to wear whatever they want as long as they have heels. During the first class, Hahn hands out a survey to find out why the women are there, whether it be to boost their confidence or a fun new way to induce foreplay in the bedroom.
“My students aren’t allowed to say they are not the right type,” Hahn said. Many women have performance names. Hahn choose her name, Autumn Skye, after her October birthday. However, unlike “Candy,” the chick at the gentlemen’s club, burlesque stars don’t have to take off all their clothes. In fact, they may only take off a single glove. During one of Hahn’s performances, she popped her costume, an assortment of balloons, with a needle to the beat of an old song from the 1950s. Burlesque songs are usually vintage, with music by artists such as the Squirrel Nut Zippers. The costumes may be elaborate, or they may be as risqué as pasties.
“I get nervous, but not because of losing clothes. Just nervous period,” Hahn said. Because burlesque performances are subjective to each show and performer, the result is a personal experience and exchange from the audience to the entertainer. However, Hahn was surprised at all the negative feedback she received due to the gay connection. “There was a lot of response from the crowd to ‘cut the gay,’” Hahn said. She laughed. While Christina Aguilera’s burlesque is much more glamourized, burlesque can be as simple as a dance on a chair or as elaborate as a cabaret in New York City. In teaching burlesque, Hahn has watched women go from struggling with not feeling good enough to smiling, all in one session.
“We’re all human, and I definitely have my moments , but when I get thank yous from women for helping them love themselves more, I find that so inspiring that I know I am doing the right thing,” Hahn said. The true beauty of burlesque is not being naked in front of an audience, but the power that comes from the performance. The audience feels the dancer’s energy and members are on the edge of their seats waiting, wondering what she will do next and wanting more. A woman can be silly, sexy or both. It all depends on what she wants — and that makes the delay all the more fun and all the more hot.
Ashley Scott is a junior majoring in journalism with a gender studies minor. She enjoys art, reading, listening to Savage Love and drinking more coffee than anyone ever should.