It was over iced coffee with a pastor that I came to the true realization of why I love teaching “adult” dance classes so much. Yes, that’s right, I had this epiphany while discussing my spiritual journey with a man of God. Let’s just say that I have an incredibly progressive pastor and go to an incredibly progressive church, which works out well since I have a rather progressive mind and outlook on things.
I explained to him during our conversation that one thing that always made me nervous about going to church or talking to truly devout people is the fact that I used to lead a double life – and sometimes, I still do. I was a burlesque entertainer for a few years with a local dance company called Scandalesque. There are pictures of me scantily clad on the good old interwebs covered in feathers and sequins and fishnet stockings and merkins and pasties. I’ve done some implied nude modeling for a friend’s line of couture scarves inspired by desert landscapes (and it was tasteful and gorgeous!). I’ve taught dance classes that have helped women tap into their innate sexuality. Currently, I teach pole dancing at Purple Rain Pole Fitness in booty shorts and hooker heels.
And I won’t apologize for any of it. I don’t think any of it is wrong or that anyone can chastise me for the work that I do. And I don’t think I’m any less holy or deserving of spirituality because of it.
And that’s because is goes so much deeper than a hip roll or a bustier. I don’t teach because I like sex. I don’t teach solely to be provocative – although it is a perk! What can I say? I do love the attention.
I teach “adult” dance classes because women need body consciousness and confidence. Women need a place where sexuality is okay and they can explore it without compromising their safety. Women need a place where they can be strong and beautiful and not have to answer to anyone but themselves. Women need a place where they can learn and be encouraged by other women.
I know this, because a few years ago, I was the woman who needed all of these things.
My last serious relationship was not a positive one. I won’t get into the details, but the breakup (which spanned over a six-month period) left me emotionally exhausted, completely insecure, and a little unhinged. It was bad. Really bad.
Enter Scandalesque and an opportunity that scared the shit out of me – the opportunity to become a burlesque entertainer. I went for it, because I needed something in my life that made me feel something other than insecurity. And so I tried on an alter ego and fell in love with her. I tapped back into my body and found a new way to move. I learned the art of the tease. I realized that with the roll of a shoulder, I could command the attention of a room. I found out I was a decent costume maker. I got back on the mic and started singing publicly.
Most importantly, I found a part of me I thought I’d lost. I found that vibrant, sexy, beautiful girl who could take over the world on a Saturday afternoon if she wanted to.
I healed, because I remembered my worth. And my worth wasn’t found in merkins or studded bras or corsets. It was found in the way I could take the stage, the way I could make eye contact with someone and smile genuinely during performance, the confidence that every single curve of my body was put there for a reason. (Seriously, if you ever really want to tackle body image issues, start performing in front of people virtually naked. Problem solved.)
I began to realize that my alter ego was simply an extension of myself. And thank God I did. Because I couldn’t be the girl I am today without her. And I think I’m pretty fabulous.
So, when I teach dance classes, I’m trying to pass the torch. I’m trying to create a sacred space for women in which they can recognize and celebrate how damn beautiful they are. In all actuality, it’s a public service. If a woman stands up a little straighter, smiles a little brighter, feels a little more confident in that new dress, I’ve done my job. Because that woman might apply for a better job because she has some newfound confidence – or her relationship with her husband might be enriched because she finally feels comfortable in her own skin – or she may find the artist within herself and feel more personally fulfilled.
And I’ve seen it happen. I’ve had women who’ve come up to me and thanked me for things that are so much bigger than a dance class. And I’m happy and proud that I helped them get there.
That’s why I teach “adult” dance classes. I want to empower women. I want to inspire others. I want to positively affect lives.
And my pastor and my church and God understand that.