Burlesque for Beginners: Learn to Shimmy at the Tool Shed (6 March, ‘Third Coast Digest’)

Brewcity Bombshells at Stonefly Brewery.  All photos courtesy the BB.

If you’re interested in learning to bump, shimmy, grind and strut like  burlesque greats Dita von Teese and Gypsy Rose Lee, your chance is coming this month.

Head over to Tool Shed (2427 N. Murray Avenue) and Vee Valentine, co-founder of the Brew City Bombshells burlesque troupe, will teach you  everything you need to know to get started.

In keeping with Brew City Bombshells mission to promote diversity through the art of burlesque performance, Valentine maintains a “come one, come all” attitude toward her classes.

“The average age [of students] is mid to  late 30s, but I’ve had [students] all the way into their late 50s. I’ve had grandmas; I’ve had a  middle-aged recently-divorced woman who wanted to get her groove back and into a  suggestive mindset,” she says.

Valentine started her class with fellow dancer Bella Sue DeVianti in 2008.  She  feels that teaching burlesque is a way to “work toward the goal of making  (burlesque) something that’s respected and well-known in the mainstream.”  In her opinion, teaching this style of  dance is a way to give women a new-found confidence in their respective body images.

“I’m a  very body-positive, sex-positive person, so I feel like it’s a way that a woman  who is very educated and wants to be taken seriously can still be sensual and  sexy and beautiful and celebrated. Burlesque is the ultimate subversive feminist activity. I’m not going to burn my bra, I’m going  to sew sequins on it,” she says with a smile.

Upon completion of the class, students are invited to join in the  Bombshells’ next performance for a group number taught in class and led by  Valentine.

“I think of it as kind of a  recital, a chance to get all dolled up and show off what you  learned,” she says. “We do it as the first  number of the night. I usually go  up on stage, take the mic, and explain to the audience that most of the girls  have never performed at all. We usually get the loudest yells and calls of the  evening on that one.”

Valentine’s burlesque career began with the Milwaukee branch of a St. Louis  group called the Alley Cat Revue in August of 2008. She has performed with a number of other  professional dancers, including Lola van Ella (of St. Louis) and Gravity Plays  Favorites (a duo which combines tricks one would see in a circus with burlesque  moves).

“I think I’ve drawn a  little something from everyone I’ve performed with, and I’d say I’m qualified to  teach a burlesque class,” she says.

Classes are held March 11, 18 and 25, at $20 per class, or $50 for the entire series. The first two classes will cover some the the aforementioned dance moves (yes, there is a subtle art to shimmying). On the 25th, students will learn to make pasties and various techniques by which to twirl them. Pasties, for those unfamiliar with lingo, are the coverings attached to a woman’s chest via special glue or tape to keep her covered enough to maintain a PG-13 rating.

For more information or to register, call the Tool Shed at 414-906-5304, or visit the online registration page at Tool Shed’s website.

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