It’s been a bit of a quiet month for me – a lot of my projects are in the implementation stages, and I’ll be jetting off to Australia next week, so I’ve chosen not to take on too many commitments. I did, however, find some time to interview North England’s first lady of burlesque Bella Besame, and the results can be read over at Peep Toe Magazine.
*edit* 11.11.09 The article has since been archived, so I have pasted the text below:
A brief Q&A with the queen of British Burlesque on her latest exploit…
Let’s start with the basics – when and where do these classes take place?
The classes take place in Manchester at M Two on various days of the week, depending on which course is being taught. In Leeds they take place at The Subculture on Thursdays. The Liverpool sessions are taking place on Mondays at a great little venue called Korova and I also do various other one day workshops across the UK.
If there are a group of ladies who paticularly want to learn but have no teachers in the area, I always travel to them and take my boa and high heels with me!!
I’m doing a day workshop at the Thornton Little Theatre on February 17th and also a workshop with the wonderful Scarlet Fever from Faking it! in Birmingham in the Summer so watch out for that one too!
The Manchester and Leeds classes take place in the same venues that I run my burlesque nights in (www. myspace. com/theslipperybelleburlesque) which means that if there are any budding starlets in the classes, they will already know the stage layout for when they wish to make their debut!
You’re quite an established name in the field of burlesque – why teach?
Why thank you! Teaching has always been something that I’ve wanted to get into and after teaching a friends’ hen party, I decided to start doing it full time. It’s turned into quite possibly my favourite part of what I do. Don’t get me wrong, I love performing too, but when you get a group of women who come into a session quite shy and unsure who then strut around full of fabulousness after only a few sessions it’s amazing! Seeing the transformation that these ladies go through is so rewarding and immense fun, for both them and me! It’s also a great opportunity to meet new people and make new friends as there’s a really supportive and encouraging atmosphere.
Burlesque’s had quite a revival over the past few years – what do you think the appeal is for the ‘modern woman’?
There’s so many different opinions on this but I think that it’s the return to real glamour, the acceptance of who you are and the celebration of real femininity.
As women today, we are expected to have everything; the career, the house, the perfect husband or wife, the expensive car, etc. There’s a lot of emphasis on how to change the way we live our lives and the way we look, just pick up any magazine and there will be at least one article on how to loose weight, make ‘him’ fall in love with you or get a job as a brain surgen!! Burlesque is very much about the individual performing and their personality so once you’re on that stage, it doesn’t matter what your status in the workplace is/your marital situation, you are appreciated for who you are.
In a world where everyone and everything is air-brushed, celebrities are critised for having cellulite/bad hair days, models advertising anti-ageing face creams are all under the age of 21 and cosmetic surgery make over shows are common place, burlesque is the loud voice at the front of it all shouting “It’s ok to be a size 18/be under 6 feet tall/have stretch marks and still shake your tush!!”
I think we’ve all grown up with the media forcing images onto us that we have to be this perfect, unrealistic woman who doesn’t really exist and so many women have felt the pressure to be anything other than themselves whether it be through dieting, bizzare exercise plans or wearing fashions that don’t really suit us but are ‘trendy’. I’m not underestimating women’s common sense by any stretch of the imagination, far from it, but how empowering and refreshing to have an art form that actually celebrates us just the way we are?
Burlesque for me is about saying ‘This is me and do you know what, I’m bloody marvellous thank you very much and what’s more, I’m going to show you all that this is very much the case’.
What sorts of people do the classes attract?
As many different types as you can imagine! I’ve taught teachers, dancers, truck drivers, doctors, students, retail workers, etc. Some of them were tall, short, petit, voluptuos, skinny, ranging from 18 years old to a week off their 70th birthday! I couldn’t even begin to give you an ‘average’ student because there isn’t one!
Have you been pleased with the results?
Very much so, regardless of whether they make a career of it or not, each person has taken away something very different with them. Whether it be a new found self confidence, putting emotional demons to rest, the ability to get up on stage and perform or a new set of fantastic friends!
What three items should be in any budding burlesque performer’s suitcase?
Oooh, only three??!!! Firstly I’d say a pair of heels that look great but are also comfortable to wear, heels really change the way you dance giving you a sexy wiggle when you walk!
Secondly, make up that helps you to feel gorgeous and highlights your favourite features. For me personally its all about the eyes so it would be liquid eyeliner, black mascara and eyeshadows.
Finally it would have to be an outfit that gives you that va-va-voom feeling!! It could be a little black number, a fabulous nightgown or a rhinestoned bra and knicker set, whatever works for the individual!
Any plans for the next addition to Bella’s Burlesque Emporium? What does 2008 hold for you?
2008 is already proving to be a very busy year! I’m expanding the lessons to go to other parts of the UK and am listening to where there is the most demand so if you want them, all you have to do is ask! I’m also being filmed for a couple of documentaries associated with burlesque and old school glamour so just waiting for confirmation of dates and locations to arrive. The Slippery Belle Burlesque and Cabaret show I run is also expanding at a great speed so watch out for a show in a town near you!! We celebrate our 1st birthday party in Manchester at M Two on 24th February which I’m so excited about.
With all this, I’m also continuing with my regular classes and workshops as well as performing across the UK. I guess you could say I’m a busy girl…. but a very happy one too!
Bella can be reached through http://www.bellabesame.com/. Watch out for a Slippery Belle soirée and burly class near you!