DESPITE the fact that Burlesque has been around since the 19th Century, mention it and you’re certainly going to turn a few heads. Viewed by many as a taboo form of entertainment, Burlesque tends to come along with a bit of a bad reputation. However, it’s few who actually understand the intricate layers of this particular art form.
One woman who spends much of her life delving in and out of the seductive world of Burlesque is Evonne McMahon – Burlesque performer and instructor.
Evonne instructs Burlesque classes for hen parties with the company ‘Dancing Hen’. The search for an alternative hen night is growing in popularity and Burlesque certainly has something different to offer. Evonne says: “First, I give a little talk to the girls about Burlesque and explain that Burlesque is for every woman; every woman of every shape and size and from the shyest to the most elegant to the most mischievous. There’s a place in Burlesque for each woman.” Evonne explains that Burlesque is “really a celebration of our individuality”, with no better place to emphasis this than during a performance. But what exactly does Burlesque involve?
Evonne says: “There are really four main, strong characters in the Burlesque world and most of us would be stronger in one of them.” These four characters are the Femme Fatale, Sensual Seductress, Cutie and Rule-Breaker. Evonne divides the hen party group up by asking the women which character they associate with most and according to her, this is a great way to get the group to loosen up, with friends helping to identify each other as a certain character. Once “in character”, the group learn a dance routine with each character group receiving some individual instruction and having their own small piece in it. Evonne stresses to the women at this point that they “won’t be stripping but learning about the art of the tease.”
So who are these four characters then? The Femme Fatale, Evonne explains, is “like the ringleader in the group”. Evonne says: “She’ll be the first one to walk into the room. She’s confident, she moves quite sharply – she’s very sure of her movements and she’ll claim whatever she wants.” After the Femme Fatale is the Sensual Seductress; a woman who, according to Evonne, is in no hurry and knows that men will come to her. Evonne says: “Where they fall in lust with Femme Fatale, they fall in love with Sensual Seductress.” Cutie is very popular with women and unlike her predecessors, “being innocent totally works for her”. Finally, the Rule-Breaker speaks for herself – rules that are a no-go for other Burlesque performers are the name of her game.
Burlesque, Evonne explains, is “really about embracing the shape you have and working with that, instead of trying to hide it and fit into this stereotypical perfect kind of size”. It doesn’t matter if you’re shy or cute, she says, the point is to work with it and embrace it. Burlesque, according to Evonne, is a huge confidence builder because of this. Evonne says: “If you’re around other Burlesque performers and see them completely embracing their body, the different shapes they have and the different ways they move, it completely builds confidence.” Evonne also says that you’ll often find more women than men at Burlesque shows as it is so empowering for women to see other women fully embrace themselves. “A Burlesque performance is about having a glimpse into somebody’s beautiful imagination, seeing them express themselves artistically, maybe showing a vulnerable side of them that they don’t get to express all the time.”
For the bride-to-be and hen party, red lipstick, heels and fishnets, typical characteristics of Burlesque, are encouraged. Evonne says: “Some people come in all corseted up and very little on, whereas others will come in completely done up in classic, nice little tight suits…but it all works.” According to Evonne, doing a routine together and then watching the other character groups’ individual pieces is a great way for the hen party members to connect with each other and get the party going. Props are also used during the performance, ranging from feather boas to gloves to feathered fans to a tie.
Dancing Hen offer various dance classes specifically catering for hen parties throughout a range of counties in Ireland. Limerick is one of their most popular locations, with brides-to-be and their flock coming from all around the Emerald Isle to celebrate here in style. For more information, visit dancinghen.ie.
Published in the Limerick Voice newspaper on 12th December 2013. The Limerick Voice was created by final year Journalism and New Media students and MA/Graduate Diploma Journalism students studying at the University of Limerick and was distributed as a supplement in the Limerick Leader.
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