Gazelle-pop* and Tiny Bubbles* take the stage and take on burlesque dancing. A review of  “Bawdy Shop Burlesque Presents: Bawdy Building: Burlesque & Beyond” by Rebecca Juliette and Gail Ellen

*stage names

Spring was particularly cold and blustery this year. And winter is always winter. So when Bawdy Shop Burlesque (BSB) offered two contributors from BmoreArt the opportunity to make things a little hotter, we jumped like water on a stovetop (even though, paradoxically, this opportunity meant eventually taking our clothes off).

Bawdy Building: Burlesque and Beyond, a five part series at the Creative Alliance, consists of group classes in the art of burlesque. Each class focusses on a different theme—from hip bumps to lip pumps, choreography to costuming, and everything in between, beyond, and most definitely from behind.

Instructors Kay Sera and Ruby Rockafella

Students can drop in to a single workshop or sign up for the entire session. The program culminates with students and instructors strutting their stuff on stage LIVE, before what will most certainly be an attentive audience at the Creative Alliance’s Bawdy Building class showcase Magna Cum Bawdy on May 20, 2016 at 9pm (doors 8:30pm).

The series description invites participants to “be the most audacious, bold and confident YOU that you can be!” After attending the first class of the series “Mov Dat Bawdy,” we can honestly say that our seductive self-awareness was already unleashing itself.

Entering the studio, we were welcomed by a team of vivacious instructors and a circle of students upright and eager—from professionals, to theater majors, to stay-at-home moms—all there for markedly individual reasons. Whether to break out of routine, gain more confidence at the office, or discover more alluring personas, many students echoed their need to validate a side of themselves that was buttoned-up through the week and needed a come-hither platform to set free.

And freeing it was. From the moment the class began, we were swaddled in an atmosphere of acceptance for erotic expression.

The Bawdy Shop Burlesque members are self-defined feminists, on a mission to promote body positivity and support women, men, and gender neutral people in owning their presence. These are women who are unabashedly sexy in their own skin. Confident, with a high level of intelligence and dedication to their art, these ladies know how to turn a casual walk into a sensuous stroll dripping with suggestion.

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Formed back in 2014, the troupe wanted to continue the tradition of scripted burlesque shows when Sticky Buns Burlesque turned off their ovens. They now present one or two scripted performances a year, while each of the individual members—Sunny Sighed, Cherie Nuit, Kay Sera, Ruby Rockafella and Giddy GoGo—perform solo acts in a variety of venues and compete at the Burlesque Hall of Fame.

Still, you won’t find these gals taking themselves too seriously. After all, burlesque by definition is a parody. During the class, the laughs flowed freely. Students can rejoice in racy cheers of support from fellow classmates and mean-spirited criticism is banned.

Which means a lot as we all shared our stage names and began inviting others to look at us. That’s right! The art of seduction starts with letting people really look at you… and looking right back! Eye contact seals the deal between performer and audience member. Awkward at first but completely effective.

If that’s too much to swallow, consider the fact that burlesque performers are all in character. It is about creating an evolving persona that emboldens you on stage, and draws the audience in, drooling over, or at least fascinated with, your every move. Sure, stripping may be involved, and that certainly has its merits. But when a simple walk and stop motion becomes sexy, that’s a super-power in full tilt and it’s exhilarating. Who doesn’t want THAT?

Ruby Rockafella walking the walk (students blurred in background for anonymity)

As Kay Sera slithered about in tiger print leggings (complete with strategically placed whiskers and saber-toothed mouth on her V-box), the mood stayed light. The components of strolling, shimmying, bumping & grinding, and lastly, the titillating glove reveal were all covered in detail. Ba-da-bing! Lastly, we put it all together in a 60 second choreographed number. Hips were swung, boobs were lifted, asses were slapped. We were well on our way to becoming amateur Blaze Stars.

In addition to the Saturday morning class, this well structured program comes complete with resources to support you through your exploration process of the medium. Students are assigned a bawdy buddy to assist with developing their character. A private Facebook page connects participants with additional resources to delve into burlesque.

“The class doesn’t end with the five sessions. We provide a mentorship network throughout the year.” And lucky for us, Charm City has a vibrant community that loves burlesque. For many, taking these classes exposes individuals to a whole new world that is both empowering and intoxicating.

By the end of the class, we began to wonder why we hadn’t jumped on this racy band wagon before? Burlesque luminaries overnight we were not, but we learned how to turn up our salacious appeal, and can churn out a decent grind with the best of them.

Bawdy Shop Burlesque brings the art of the burlesque to Baltimore, offering an opportunity to be part of an experience, not just to be part of the audience. If this piques more than your interest, get off your arse and go shake it at the Creative Alliance or catch up with the Bawdies any time of the year for private lessons and shows.

Authors Rebecca Juliette and Gail Ellen are, obviously, willing to try new things.

Wanna shake things up? This session is now closed for drop-ins, never fear, Bawdy Shop offers private lessons for individuals and small groups. They will also offer another workshop ‘package’ next year. For information about the series and tickets for the final performance visit www.bawdyshopburlesque.com.

And check out the student showcase, Magna Cum Bawdy – Friday, May 20th @ The Creative Alliance. Doors 8:30pm // Show 9pm

Photos courtesy of the Bawdy Shop Burlesque website and by Rebecca Juliette.