Burlesque Body Sculpt makes workouts just as sexy as the results they produce
Put away the dollar bills. The art of seduction and flirtatious dance is now a fun, high-energy workout called Burlesque Body Sculpt (though participants might end up with a marketable skill should times get tough).
Led by Jana Edele, founder and artistic director of the burlesque dance troupe, The Velvet Kittens of Le Cabaret Burlesque, the class is a women-only group led twice a week at the Verandah Club. Edele believes there are a lot of physical and emotional benefits from burlesque dancing as a form of exercise.
"People leave less inhibited. More self confident," Edele says. "But I approach it as any dance class I teach. If you have a desire, that’s all you need. It’s my job to teach you coordination. It’s my job to teach you to be graceful. So I don’t buy any of those excuses that people can’t do it."
And that’s the truth. The women in the class I observed were from all walks of life — housewives, professionals, women on vacation, some skinny, some not. Some even came in ready to take on the world while others were comparatively shy and reserved. But by the end of the class, everyone was laughing and with just 30 minutes of instruction, they’d mastered the moves to an entire burlesque routine.
For Edele, the reason women attend her class is always something unique to the individual.
"I think this takes women into being sensual and rediscovering that aspect of themselves on their own terms, in their own way, without being told what they’re allowed to do or how they’re allowed to think of themselves."
It’s not too demanding physically, which makes it a good low-impact alternative to often-mundane exercise classes. The first half of the class is devoted to stretching, sit-ups, push-ups and bar work, followed by a burlesque dance routine that slowly builds by adding additional movements once they’ve mastered the previous ones. The women learn the proper way to shimmy, prance, snap their heads, roll their hips and incorporate a little tease and sensuality into every movement. Edele encourages them to walk as if they have a giant Las Vegas-style headdress on that they’re trying to keep balanced, and it works.
For most of its existence, the burlesque dance world has solely been the territory of women, but there are men who are starting to enjoy the benefits of "bro-lesque" and the power of seductive movement for fitness or other aspects of their lives. Daniel Totten, who’s been Edele’s music director for over six years, is also a student of hers, of sorts.
"I have a performing background. She pulled me in and got me into the burlesque thing," he says. "Jana taught me kind of Pre-Burlesque 101: hip movements, the walking thing, she gave me kind of directing tips and I went from there. My stuff is very basic, so I don’t do a lot of the moves that really help tone or whatever, but you definitely have to stretch for performance. As a guy, it’s moves I definitely don’t do every day."
And no matter what, it’s definitely more fun than an hour on the StairMaster.
Verandah Club and Spa at Hilton Anatole, 2201 N. Stemmons Freeway. 214-761-7855. VerandahClub.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 19, 2010.