Just drop me in a giant martini glass and call me Dita. Or, maybe not. Six Irish Burlesque School courses later, and I’m still less Crazy Horse, more Deranged Old Nag. But who cares – where else can you don red lipstick for an hour of exercise? Blame a diet of 1980s dance movies (Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Flashdance, Dirty Dancing), blame Strictly Come Dancing, but over the past decade I’ve dabbled in bellydancing, salsa, the jive, foxtrot, waltz, tango, and cha-cha-cha. That I’m a jack of all dance genres and a mistress of none is not the point; for me, gyms hold all the appeal of a sweaty jockstrap next to the joyful fluidity and nervous camaraderie of dance. And give me Peggy Lee over a Faster! Harder! spinning-class soundtrack any day.
My first burlesque course in November 2011 was the very opposite of intimidating Spearmint Rhino, my fellow students a reassuringly inclusive melange of different ages, abilities and body shapes all in it for the craic. Led by Lisa Darling aka Lisa Byrne, it was nouveau burlesque, Blond Ambition: We just about learnt how to Vogue. And as the weeks went by, gym-wear became replaced with hot-pants and ribbon Mary Janes … The next two years passed in a riot of pink parasols, feathered fans and frilly garters, each new choreography like starting over despite having graduated from beginners to intermediate level. Sure, there are burlesque motifs – the high-kicked struts, the hip-swinging swagger, the coquette’s gaze – but just because you’ve mastered the feather boa doesn’t mean you’ll conquer a bentwood chair …
Before I knew it I was heading out on stage at The Village for a group ‘silk glove removal dance’ as part of the school’s annual summer show. “What am Idoing…” I gulped backstage, a choreography of butterflies battering my stomach. The last time I wore hot-pants was as a teenager in school productions of Cabaret and The Threepenny Opera – at 37 years old, and 20 pounds heavier, I really should not be shimmying in a red corset in front of 150 people. Nothing though beat the thrill of having truly vacated my comfort zone, leaving a trail of false eyelashes and adrenaline in my wake.
The whole thing is addictive. Routines twirl around your head when you’re trying to