Health & Fitness
Sep 7, 2007

Burlesque dancing 101

Author: Elle Canada

Health & Fitness
Sep 7, 2007

Burlesque dancing 101

Burlesque dancing is like wearing fancy lingerie under your business clothes: it's a fabulous little secret just for you. What other workout lets you sport feathered fans, garter belts, or tassels (for the really brave) while you strengthen your core muscles? And, thanks to the momentum of The Pussycat Dolls and Dita Von Teese, the burlesque revival has hit the mainstream with classes offered across Canada at various dance studios.

Burlesque has a long, and fascinating history in Canada. In 1898 when gold was discovered in the Yukon, burlesque performers made their way north to perform in saloons with performance names like: Diamond Lil', Diamond-Toothed Gertie, and The Oregon Mare. And, in 1913 the first burlesque house, The Dominion Theatre (also known as Le Figaro), opened in (none other than) Montreal, Quebec.

So, whether you're performing for a crowd or just one lucky viewer, it's an incredibly empowering experience to hold a captive audience. Burlesque is more about concealing rather than revealing everything right away; a tantalizing performance is one of the key ingredients in good burlesque dancing.

"It's nice to have a little surprise for an audience of one at the end of the day when you might want to reveal a little tassle-twirl or a great bump-and-grind number. It's great to have these secrets; I think that these little delicious feminine mysteries often get lost along the way. Everybody needs to indulge their alter ego every once in awhile," says performer and burlesque teacher Nikola Steer (alter ego: Coco Framboise). Steer first started performing and teaching burlesque about four years ago when she saw a show in Toronto. After years of dance training she knew this would be her calling, and she started working elements of burlesque into dance routines.

Her burlesque classes offer an opportunity for people to indulge in the feathers, fans, sequins and glamour without a huge time or monetary investment. Steer teaches eight different classes (with more constantly being added as demand increases) in Toronto with scintillating names like: Bump N' Grind Bombshell, Burlesque for Boudoir (hat & tie), Golden Gams Chair Dance, and The Great Tassle Twirl. Each class is just one hour-long session focusing on staple burlesque moves using a prop (like a hat and tie, or a chair) for $20 a class. She teaches through both her own company, Boom Chika Boomand Superfly Dance Fitness, which both rent studio space in Toronto to facilitate classes.

She says the bump n' grind class is a great workout for your core muscles. The class focuses on some basic burlesque dance steps minus any props. However, don't be fooled, the class is a mean workout for your abs, buns, and thighs. It's an hour-long dance session performed on your toes that will have you shimmying (and sweating) all over the place. And a class that will give your triceps a run for their money is the fan class dance class. You will be provided with feathered fans for the class and learn either one dance routine or a few short routines, practicing revealing selective body parts and twirling the fans like a pro. And although those fans look light and dainty, your arm muscles really start to ache after waving them around for an hour.

Image of Dita von Teese at Fashion Cares 2007 in Toronto, courtesy of

FAQs about Burlesque dancing on the next page ...

Get a sexy and toned back with these tips!

Burlesque class FAQs

Do I have to take off my clothes?
No. You can always pantomime taking off a layer of clothes that you either don't have or don't want to take off. Many people can learn from watching and then practice in the privacy of their own homes, there's no shame in sitting out on a move or two. Steer always uses flattering (read: low) lighting during all of her classes.

"I always try to encourage people to try to break out of their comfort zone just for a little bit, or when all else fails, have a shot of Jagermeister," says Steer, laughing.

Does the ability to twirl tassels depend on the size of your breasts?
No. It all has to do with the movement of your rib cage not your size, men can even twirl tassels! Steer promises that everyone twirls tassels by the end of her class guaranteed, since it looks much harder than it actually is.

"Most people who come to my classes say they experience a surge of power, it's something they feel really positive and excited about...and you can access that power whenever you need it -- whether it's running a meeting or leading a team project," says Steer.

To get a taste of what you learn in a burlesque class, here are some step-by-step instructions to accomplish a staple tantalizing burlesque move: the basic glove striptease. There is a dedicated glove class, however, you'll also learn some basic glove tricks in the bump n' grind class.

"Done well, taking off a glove can be heart stopping and it's a relatively low-risk kind of thing, most people are ok showing some arm," says Steer. Although this isn't a workout unto itself, it may get someone else's heart pumping.

Basic glove-tease
1. Bite the tips of your fingers one at a time, making each tug a little sharp

2. Look directly into the eyes of your audience

3. Then put all of your fingers together into a little bud

4. Bite down on the loose ends of all the fingers at once

5. Then pull your hand straight down -- do this slowly

Tip: If your glove is slippery you'll want to extend your fingers inside the glove and just flutter them to slow down the reveal. If your glove is stickier and won't come off, use your other hand instead of your teeth (because losing a cap would definitely detract from the sexiness of this move).

6. After you've pulled your hand out, you can make a Zorro slap in the air, or give it a little twirl and toss it straight at your intended (aim for the forehead or the chest).

7. For extra credit: add a wink at the end

Every good woman deserves to have a juicy secret up their sleeve, whether it's a pair of feathered fans tucked away in your closet or becoming a tassel-twirling hussy by night. Indulge your alter ego in a little burlesque dancing and don't forget to pick out a cheeky stage name!

Image of Dita von Teese at Fashion Cares 2007 in Toronto, courtesy of

Read more
Get fit in 30 minutes or less!

Why your shoes could be damaging your feet
How to get a bootylicious backside
Share X
Health & Fitness

Burlesque dancing 101