The power of burlesque to develop empowerment, body positivity and self-confidence will be on display in its sparkling, unapologetic glory in Knaresborough this week.
The town is playing host to a professional cabaret show, a burlesque workshop and craft sessions celebrating the female form.
Knaresborough business owners Sarah Lowe from Orchis Escape beauty salon and Laura Dudley from Painting Pots have teamed up with organiser Autumn OhMyDayz and the OhMy! Cabaret Club to bring the event to the town.
“It’s totally changed how I feel about myself”
Sarah, who goes by the stage name Foxie Gingerella, is a chair dance performer and instructor who says her life has been completely transformed by burlesque after she tried it for the first time just six years ago. Sarah, 45, said:
“Dance is a total escape for me. I’d never danced at all but at the age of 39 decided to have a go at pole fitness at Urban Circus. I started off with private lessons because I was too scared to do a class with other people. I moved on to doing pole and hoop sessions, and would leave the classes feeling empowered. As you learn to do more moves, you naturally grow to love your body.
“It was especially important for me when I went through my divorce about two years later. I was absolutely broken but I carried on with the classes. The whole community is really supportive of each other and I made new friends. It became a really big part of my life. I was living on my own for the first time and when we went into lockdown I started practising pole and chair dancing at home every day, learning routines, and it really got me through it. It’s totally changed how I feel about myself and I just want to give that to other women.”
Giant martini glass workshops
After taking part in a workshop hosted by a professional showgirl, Sarah was inspired to become an instructor herself and started teaching pole and chair dancing workshops. She now does giant martini glass workshops and confidence-building photo shoots as well.
Sarah loves seeing people grow in confidence through her classes, which are inclusive and welcome anyone of any gender and age. They are largely attended by women “of all ages, shapes and sizes”, and Sarah says you don’t have to be particularly flexible or strong to join in as routines can be adapted depending on ability. She wants her daughters to grow up feeling confident and empowered and says many teenage girls constantly see unrealistic images of women’s bodies.
“I just feel as women we are not allowed to feel good about ourselves, especially as we reach our 40s and 50s. I create a safe space where women can be unapologetically themselves. The mental health benefits are huge, it makes you feel very empowered. It’s good for your wellbeing, you make new friends and it’s really fun. The good thing with chair dancing is you don’t feel so exposed and self-conscious.
“It’s so important that we have a positive body image and feel good about ourselves. It’s about women supporting each other, which is so important. I always give my classes homework to do, where they have to write down something positive, something they are proud of and something nice about someone else in the class. I want them to get used to talking kindly to themselves but also to say encouraging things about each other. When women empower each other it’s really wonderful.”
Burlesque, boylesque and circus acts
Some of the women in Sarah’s class have grown in confidence so much that nine of them are joining her on stage for a chair dance performance as part of the ‘Love and Seduction’ cabaret show. Sarah will also be performing two solo dances at the show, which will feature a diverse lineup of performances including burlesque, boylesque and circus acts from some of the country’s up-and-coming performers.
Sarah will also be giving a workshop alongside Autumn to help women learn to love their bodies through burlesque movement, feather boa work and chair dance. She said:
“I’m so excited about the show. It’s so good that we are having it in Knaresborough; it’s a wonderful opportunity.”
Laura Dudley, owner of Painting Pots in Knaresborough, is a school friend of Autumn OhMyDayz and suggested she bring her burlesque show to the town. Her shop will be complementing the show and dance workshop with some burlesque craft sessions on Wednesday and Friday, February 7 and 9. The first will be a burlesque-themed jewellery workshop with Amy from Make Harrogate, while the second will make clay pieces depicting the female form.
‘Love and Seduction’ takes place at the Park Place Social Club on Saturday, February 10, and the two-hour burlesque workshop with Autumn and Foxie runs on Sunday, February 11. A charity raffle will take place at the show in aid of the Strut Safe strutsafe.org charity, a volunteer-operated and non-judgemental phone service offering safety support and reassurance for people travelling alone.
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