Burlesque’s revival

Townsville Burlesque Dancer and Pin-Up girl, Jessie DeVine. IMAGE: Studio Republic.

When people mention Burlesque, I always picture the Christina Aguilera movie where she does an average job of pretending to be poor. Everything else about the movie seems to be pretty accurate though: the extravagance, the routines, and of course enough glitter to fill the Rockpool.

In past decades, it has been a behind-closed-doors, gentleman’s club-style business, rarely talked about in public. However these days, it is a great way to keep fit, and an even better way to improve your self-confidence. We were lucky enough to chat with QueenB Burlesque’s Jessie DeVine about the art form that is Burlesque, and its revival in Townsville.

Lately it seems like Burlesque has been on the rise in Townsville. Is that the case?
Absolutely! I started Burlesque myself about two and a half years ago with QueenB Burlesque, who are my dance family that I love to pieces. It’s a really strong friendship group who love creating and bringing these dance pieces to life through all eras of dance. So everything from 1920s through to modern neo- stuff. Every year – or even every month – the more classes we hold, the more women get involved.

Why do you think Burlesque is getting this new interest?
It’s not just creating, it’s about body confidence and making women feel good about themselves. Not even just women actually, we’ve had some boy-lesque dancers as well who have gotten involved, and it just makes you feel sexy in your own skin no matter what your size or awkwardness. We’ve got some girls who feel really clumsy but when they’re on stage, they own their sexuality and are f*#king hot! If you’ve got that confidence in yourself, then it comes across – not all of our girls and boys perform, they just choose to come to the classes to make themselves more confident. We find that by the second or third course, they’re asking when we’re taking our clothes off. Because through doing it, you realise a confidence in yourself you never knew you had. That certainly happened to me, I was always a size 8 since I moved to Townsville but am a size 12 now. But right now, I’ve never felt sexier in my life, and a lot of that is to do with Burlesque because it’s okay whether you have a few extra curves or you’re a tiny little stick figure – we have girls of every shape, size and age: from 18 to 80, and all of them feel good about themselves. It’s because we’ve built that environment where you can come and feel sexy and confident and create. Burlesque is something different from your typical dancing: it’s got that extra layer of getting in touch with your sensuality.

How did you first get involved?
I met Vivienne Starr, one of the directors of QueenB, doing a pinup photography session on Magnetic Island. We were on a tall ship in our pinup bikinis and we got talking. She told me about QueenB and it sounded really interesting, but I had so much on at the time that I didn’t sign up then. I really wanted to get back into stage because I missed it, I hadn’t really done anything creative in that regard since high school. Uni and work get in the way and then you sort of just lose it. Then one of my friends encouraged me to audition for Legally Blonde so I did, getting into the chorus, and had such a fun time. It made me realise how much I missed performing and it revitalised me.

After Legally Blonde wrapped, I realised I needed to find something to fill that void. I got back in touch with Vivienne and asked if she was still running courses and that I was keen to get involved. So I signed up for one course, then another, then another, and by the end of the year I was writing my own solo pieces and performing them which was something I never thought I’d do. I’ve always been an actor and a singer, I never thought of being a dancer. When I found Burlesque, it was a dance style that really spoke to me and made me feel confident. It’s helped me with my other dance styles as well, because I came to realise that I might not be at the same level as other incredible Townsville dancers – because there are so many talented people up here – but it’s made me more confident to put myself out there. It was just the stars all aligning, meeting the right people at the right time and falling in love.

To the people out there who aren’t the most confident in themselves or haven’t thought of trying something like Burlesque before, what would you say?
Give it a try. We have closed classrooms with small groups of 15 or less. There’s taster days where you can come along, try it out and see if it’s for you. You’d be amazed how much you laugh, smile and change just in that first hour because of how good it makes you feel. Our instructors just have this ability to bring out a happiness in you, and when you’re happy, you’re naturally more confident. You’re having fun, and that’s the most important thing: when you are having fun, you feel more confident and you do put yourself out there a bit more. We’ve had such shy women come and start, but now they’re doing solos. Of course it isn’t for everyone: there’s some women who came to a couple of classes but realised it wasn’t for them… but they might learn some moves they can take home to their partner at least!


For more information about Burlesque classes in Townsville, visit www.queenbburlesque.com

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