Self: Express Yourself

 In Culture, Feature

Learn the art of burlesque dancing and bring out your inner sassiness at this new boutique dance studio.


It was at The Grove’s Atomic Cowboy in 2007 where I was first introduced to burlesque by way of Lola Van Ella and the Alley Cat Revue troupe. At the time, the sexy vaudeville-style dance was only just beginning to shake it on the mainstream circuit nationally and locally. Now, thanks to movies like “Moulin Rouge” and “Burlesque,” this art is more popular than ever. So when I heard that Lola had recently opened a boutique dance studio that offers basic to advanced burlesque classes, I decided to give it a try, despite my inhibitions.

The Class
“It’s a flirty and fabulous way to stay fit and have fun,” says Lola Van Ella, the sweet,
sassy and instantly likeable dancer. Teaching burlesque isn’t anything new for Lola—she previously taught burlesque classes at Floored on Grand—but this is her first full-studio
venture, which allows her to increase her repertoire of classes. Located on Cherokee Street, VanElla Studios teaches all-things burlesque, from beginner movements and poses to advanced choreography and boa work. And as I learned one Tuesday evening at “Burlesque Basics,” whether you want to work out or simply work it, one thing’s for sure: You’ll have fun and feel confident after only one hour at VanElla Studios.

The Movements
Sporting high heels, we start the class with simple stretches to warm up, followed by striking a series of classic vaudeville pin-up girl poses. This gets us revved up and ready to start short dance routines, focusing on poise and exaggerating our femininity in sensual and sassy movements. Catchy 1920s music plays throughout and participants “perform” to a long narrow mirror that acts as our audience.

We eventually move to boa techniques, learning how to sashay and handle a feather boa, and even how to master the art of removing gloves in a slow, sexy burlesque style. Both aren’t as easy as they look. It’s easy to catch on and get into it pretty quickly, and once you drop your inhibitions, it’s fun, playful and helps you become aware of your own body movement, all while keeping your heart rate up. Burlesque isn’t the only class offered at this boutique dance school; others include retro-style bellydancing and cardio tease.

And the burlesque sessions don’t stop at the techniques and movements; the studio offers a few “how-to” classes as well. “We realized that some women want to learn the entire art of the performance and even create their own solo act,” says Van Ella during my Tuesday night class. So classes like “Evolution of a Costume” and “Confidence in Character Through Physicality” were created, and eventually a class series about makeup and hair will be introduced into the lineup.

As for me, although an on-stage performance isn’t in my future anytime soon, I’ll definitely be back for another class—and I might even invest in my own boa…maybe.


1413_531.jpgLola Van Ella teaches burlesque at her new studio.


Photo credit: Photo By Daniel Darkside

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