Last Saturday night, I was on stage for the first time in my adult life. And got down to my skivvies. Bra. Bottoms. Fishnet stockings. The works. All in front of a live audience. At a sold out Burlesque show.
It was a super chill, low pressure situation. Baha.
For many adult women, being on stage like this would be a waking nightmare. “Acting” sexy on stage for strangers, sparring with your self esteem, addressing any body issues head on. In heels no less.
Most people would pay big $$$ to never have to do anything like that in their life.
But I did it. I paid to be there. I took 8 weeks of classes just to perform in our student showcase. And for four and a half minutes, I was a Burlesque dancer. On stage. At a real theater here in Chicago.
And yet it was behind-the-scenes, during the dressing room moments that had the most impact, and left the biggest mark on me.
[[ Albeit a red lipstick mark and some glitter that I can’t seem to shake off ]]
Yes, it was in between the cups of jitter-soothing champagne, laughing at our own nerves, and trying not to sweat our makeup off, that we all really bonded.
There’s something about being huddled into a small space, crammed together with women of every shape and every size, trying not to step on a belly dancer’s skirt, and attempting to provide a nanosecond of privacy to the girl applying nipple pasties. Something about that literal closeness that brought out inner closeness.
As each of the 16 acts finished or lined up to go, each member of each group would tell you how great you were going to be. How awesome the crowd was that night. How hawt you all looked.
There was no competition. There was no cattiness.
There was just women supporting women.
…well…and super-strength adhesive supporting nipple tassels.
The energy was frantic, bold, and calming all at the same time, and you could inhale a nonexistent perfume in the air every time you took a big, nervous breath – half perspiration, half motivation.
It was so refreshing to feel so free. So empowering to recognize the culture we had been absorbed into that night. We felt like freshmen. Like “new blood” waiting for initiation, but into a club of only the most confident, sultry, and badass bitches we had ever met. A secret organization of women who were only showing up as their inner goddess – on stage, and, seemingly, in life.
And then, it was our turn to go. We lined up in a dark hallway passing by other acts as we all whispered affirmations to each other… “you’ll do great” and “break a leg” (…or as one girl heard, “break a bra!”).
We headed out into the pitch-black theater. Lined up waiting for our music cue.
It was all one brilliant, light-speed blur. One minute we were throwing our hats off at the audience, and the next we were done. Fade back to black.
There were hoots. There were hollers. The audience cheered at all the right parts. We were all so focused. So sexy. So genuine to our own version of sexiness.
The music blared from our song, “Your Woman” by White Town (a one-hit wonder from the 90s). And looking back the lyrics were so intensely fitting. So perfect for such a feminine and feminist spectacular:
“…Well I guess what they say is true…
I could never spend my life with a man like you…
I could never be your woman.”
And we weren’t.
That night, we belonged only to each other.
First time on stage as an act.
One night only.
Sold out show.