Movies like Moulin Rouge definitely played a part in revitalising the Burlesque movement worldwide – which is good in many ways, except for the fact that Nicole Kidman was a floozy before she met Ewan McGregor. Unfortunately, this ‘loose’ stereotype has been passed on to the broader Burlesque community.
Let me begin by clearly stating: Burlesque performers are not strippers. Nor are they prostitutes. This should not come as a surprise, because, as VaVoom Room Owner Vivienne Starr pointed out, the definition of Burlesque tells you exactly what to expect.
“All kinds of different performance styles fall under the Burlesque umbrella, it’s really whatever people want it to be: Burlesque means ‘to jest’, so is a performance with a little comedy in it and the art of the tease. You’re not taking all your clothes off: you’re just teasing that you may take them off when in reality you won’t,” said Vivienne.
“A lot of people say Burlesque is all strippers but it’s not stripping at all, it’s totally different. We have girls who are more into it for body confidence – it’s really good for self esteem. We have some girls who will start off saying ‘Just put me up the back so no one can see me, I don’t want to be seen in this outfit,’ then a couple of weeks later they’ll be in the front row tearing gloves off, throwing hats into the audience and giving cheeky winks to people.
“It’s really good to see women going from being really reserved and shy to having all of that confidence in themselves, and appreciating beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. For me, that’s the best part: women hate on themselves so much and are really critical of themselves and other women. But all the women that come through our doors learn to see that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, there’s no right or wrong, everyone’s beautiful, and they become more confident – in everything they do, not just dancing. You see their whole persona change and to me that’s really satisfying.”
The VaVoom Room, opened in April, provides a permanent space for Vivienne’s dance classes to be held – as well as offering studio space to a range of other interested groups.
“We had been running classes and courses for years out of different spaces – so had them at the Sovereign outside of their opening hours, at Golds Gym before they closed down, Genesis Thuringowa… all over the shop. It got to the point where it wasn’t great to not have our own space.
“The VaVoom Room opened sometime in April, and it’s been going well since then. We’ve got four instructors that run under us, then have a belly dancing lady; a Latin lady; we have Dancenorth in there while their building’s being remodelled, so there’s tonnes of stuff going on.
“I would prefer to be in the studio 24/7, but can’t until it becomes a bit more viable. It’s hard when you start out – before we were hiring spaces, whereas now we’ve got our own space so have to pay for the studio, the electricity, and all these costs rather than just a one-off hire. It’s more expensive to run, so my job [working in BHP mines] is good because it helps keep the studio running.
“It’s funny because my role involves going to five different mine sites every month. Whenever I visit, there’ll be conversations about what I do on weekends and at two of the sites, they’ve now asked if I can do some classes with them while I’m out there. I actually don’t know if I can so am currently in talks with my boss, because technically I’m on work time. But it’s funny! If it works, they said they’d love to keep it going regularly too.”
While Burlesque classes are seeing growing class sizes, the Moulin Rouge stereotype is one that is causing issues from unlikely places.
“When we were organising our last headline show we were trying to find a venue, and I was turned down by four places – they said they didn’t want that kind of stuff there. None of them were willing to comprehend what it was. In the end, I walked into the Herbert [Hotel] and asked if I could hire their function space and they were all for it. We advertised the tickets and they sold out in 10 days, so the demand was there and it was an incredible show.”
Think of the absurd. Think of the quirky. Think of the sexy. But don’t think strippers.
The VaVoom Room start new classes every five or six weeks, with regular performances at the Sovereign Hotel. Catch the VaVoom Room’s next Sovereign performance on 30 June. Follow the VaVoom Room on Facebook for more information.