Sexy, risqu and entertaining, Burlesque dancing is quickly becoming one of the most controversial new hobbies. But is it an entertainment art or glorified stripping?
Miss Fanteasy, founder of Fantasy Showgirl Academy
The Spotlights are beaming, the crowd is cheering and 30-year-old Hannah McCarthy is acting out her favourite character, Cinderella. Only this fairy tale princess is teasingly stripping down to nothing but a shimmering silver thong and a sparkling pair of nipple tassels. Who knew fairy tales could be sexy?
After only three years of performing, Hannah, also known as Miss Fanteasy, is now a successful Burlesque showgirl, a pin-up model and the founder of one of Dorsetâs leading Burlesque schools, Fantasy Showgirl Academy based in Bournemouth. Hannah makes no secret of what she does. She’s even invited her bosses to her shows: Everyone knows what I do, Iâm really proud of who I am and what I have achieved.
This show is called Wonderland hosted at Bournemouth’s Sherbet Lounge, where make-believe fantasy characters are reborn. Just the thought of standing in front of an audience with all your bits on show is most womens worst nightmare. But the new craze of Burlesque has seen ordinary working women doing just this; ditching their boring work-wear and becoming a whole new seductive character.
30-year-old Post Office worker and Burlesque fan, Karen Mitchell from Bournemouth decided to do Burlesque after watching the Pussycat Dolls perform. Since joining she has found that the Fantasy Showgirl Academy has helped her body confidence enormously.
Ive never felt better about myself. I never had body confidence before, the minute you get up there you feel like a different person. Karen, who goes by the name of Foxi B insists that Burlesque isnât at all like stripping: Its more of an art, youre not just getting your kit off – you havenât got men sticking fivers down your thong.â
29-year-old Burlesque student, Kate Trimnell also known as Lola Loveland, has been performing with the Academy for over a year. She has also found that Burlesque has changed her life. Its just a whole new world she explains. We really support one another and Ive made so many friends from this.
Foxi B (left) and Lola Loveland (right) perform Burlesque at Sherbet Loung
So what actually is Burlesque? Hannah McCarthy explains: Burlesque can be anything, there no set definition, thats just the beauty of it.
Burlesque dancing originated in the 17th century and existed as a theatrical form based on comedy and satire. It has only become familiarised with having an ‘erotic tone’ over the last century. Stars like Dita Von Teese and Immodesty Blaize have helped increase the popularity of Burlesque in recent years, along with the release of the 2010 film Burlesque, starring Christina Aguilera.
Jennifer Slevin, Treasurer for BUst against sexsismâ a Bournemouth University feminist society argues: If Burlesque helps with women’s body confidence then thats great, just dont exploit yourself or others by charging people to see it.
But for show girl Hannah, teaching at the girls academy has meant she has met women from all walks of life who have finally learnt to love their bodies. She said: You learn to love yourself, no one is perfect and everyone has body hang ups. I find it a real inspiration to watch people grow in confidence.
For decades women have fought to be seen as more than just glorified sexual objects but now, with this recent trend in Burlesque, are women just reverting back to the image that they were so strongly opposed to?
Feminists have been fast to highlight that Burlesque’s suggestive nature just another damaging portrayal of women as sexual objects. Feminist Jennifer Slevin protests: Allowing people to pay to watch women take their clothes off is just wrong. Objectifying any sex is never right.
Hannah disagrees: You get people who think itâs just stripping but is so much more than that, yes there are elements of strip tease but it’s all about the art of tease.
When I’m Miss Fanteasy I feel confident and sexy, I can do whatever I want!