Yes I Can, Can, Can

Sunday, March 14, 2010 Permalink

When I ‘cleansed’ this Blog a few months ago I deleted a lot of old posts which didn’t fit into the Blog’s new theme (simultaneously getting rid of a lot of over-sharing).  I am writing a follow up to this particular post and need to reference it however, so need to stick it back in!

Originally posted 9 April 2009 

I signed on before I really knew what I was getting into. So, it could have been disastrous. In fact, it has actually been quite fun.

At an end-of-year gathering late last year, one of my friends told me about some classes she had been attending. Always one to ferret out the unusual and obscure but very-interesting, KK had just finished a Hula Hoop course. Her enthusiasm for the 10-week program was effusive.

I had been thinking about signing up for something to do during the week. Another of my new year’s resolutions (like this blog) was to do more fun things during the week – so the week is less about work and… well, work.

So, a very-informal dance class seemed the perfect option and I asked KK for the dance school details. The options were overwhelming: as well as hula hooping, the school offered several versions of Hip Hop and Funk; Bellydancing; Bollywood; Tahitian and Polynesian Hula; Tribal Bellydance Fusion; and Burlesque.

As someone who doesn’t much like their body, I decided I should do something to help me feel more sensual and ‘in tune’ with my body. I recalled doing a one-off belly dancing class years before and the buxom instructor did make us all feel like sexually attractive and desirable women (I must admit though, that this was at a health retreat and we were alcohol, sugar, caffeine deprived!).

I did however, want something a bit more energetic than bellydancing and when I described to KK what I wanted “something kinda like lap dancing, but without the laps,” she suggested that burlesque was the way to go.

The school’s website described burlesque as “Kylie’s Showgirl tour fused some Moulin Rouge sassy!”

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Source: smh.com.au

My mind started to boggle as I imagined it: fishnets and garters, can-canning across the stage, or perhaps Nicole Kidman Moulin Rouge style – a sequined me on a swing – floating above the masses. Or perhaps it would more akin to PCD (or, for those not in the know – or, you know, over 20 – the Pussy Cat Dolls) and we would be gyrating in leather!

Despite all of this, I sent off my money and enrolled in the 10-week course before sanity or apathy could prevail.

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I arrived late and stressed to the first lesson, having left work late and gotten lost en-route, only to be confronted by a swarm of 20yr-old skinny, bizarrely dressed women.

I was clad for exercise – leggings and big Nike t-shirt (and with sturdy sports bra for the high impact exercise ahead) so I stood out amongst the leopard print skimpy tops, tulle skirts and ‘shorts-over-ripped-stockings’ look. I was also only one or two present unadorned with tattoos. I almost felt bare. I was already regretting my decision. Amidst this group of sex-kittens (a-la Dita Von Teese), I felt positively frumpy and middle-aged. Of the 15 others, there was one other ‘older’ woman. Needless to say, we were a strange group and I often wondered what others visiting the dance studio, thought of us when they saw us en-masse.

Our instructor, Rose* (a burlesque dancer herself and I suspect, not her real name…) had a seam tattooed down the back of her legs and a large wide tattoo just under her neck, across her shoulder bones. She also had a long black ponytail falling from high on her head, perfect for flicking about when the need dictated.

Rose started the first lesson with the good news – that we would be learning a routine to (…wait for it), perform at the end of term concert. (Be still my beating heart, I thought and decided that I will be ‘sick’ or indisposed in some way.)

Nevertheless, we eventually kicked off. The first lesson set the scene for those following. We began and finished with lengthy stretching sessions – though less for preventing injury and more for… well I am actually not sure, but increasing flexibility I guess. Many of the stretches were the kind that went out of fashion in the 80s, or maybe even the 70s – lots of helicopter arms swivelling to touch our toes and bouncing. We were also required to do the splits – or as close to them as possible. I should have been sensible like the older woman, who did her own alternative stretches rather than Rose’s as I often found myself aching in the days following our class, from overstretching as much as anything. (It may, however, interest my myriad of dedicated followers – ahem, I mean, readers – to know that I can actually do the splits frontways but not sideways… just for future reference!)

We did however, manage to fit in about 15-20mins of our routine each week. At this point I should point out that Rose was, and is, actually more of a performer than a teacher. We students and burlesque-novices regularly found ourselves looking at each other in confusion over which foot to start stepping on, as the guileless Rose changed her mind each time.

Nonetheless, she was brimming with enthusiasm and poise (if not coordination) as she put us through our ‘burlesque paces’.

0f68c14269a64f1c0df60a95f642c7a8The movements of burlesque are fairly simple. Lots of hip flicks and circles, shimmies and body roles, with a few supposedly-sexy walks thrown in. (On that note and for future reference again – unlike one’s normal walk, a ‘stripper’ or ‘burlesque’ walk involves planting the toe first and crossing the legs as you walk.)

In no way however, was my sports bra tested throughout the 10 weeks. Our energy was focussed on swivells and shakes, not jumping around energetically. Even our can-can involved low, slow kicks.

Any self-consciousness I felt disappeared as we disparate souls giggled and strutted our way through the routine we learnt over the 10-week course.

Only 7 or 8 regulars attended most of the lessons and I would often find myself looking around, wondering what each was expecting to get out of the class. Not there for exercise I suspect, but more for something different, and perhaps because (I read that) burlesque is becoming the activity or exercise du jour!

Term 1 has now finished (and I – sadly – was unable to perform in the concert) and we ‘graduates’ can now move to level 2. I think I might give it a miss though and try something different.

I don’t think I have come away from the course feeling more sensual, but I certainly have the moves if ever the opportunity arrives.

* Name changed to protect the innocent

In Death…

Sunday, March 14, 2010 Permalink

I have many guilty pleasures.  Some just naughty – champagne, chocolate, red wine and so forth.  Some a little weird – an early years’ fetish for Dr Spock (the one with the pointy ears, not the child-rearing guru).  And some that are mostly embarrassing.  Like the ridiculous pleasure I get from the TV show, ‘Murder She Wrote’ and from a series of novels by romance writer, Nora Roberts, under the pseudonym JD Robb.

I am a prolific reader and constantly running out of reading fodder.  So nothing excites me more than finding a new author, whose work I find digestible, and who already has a realm of books under their belt.  I am as happy as the proverbial pig in mud. No painful searches of the rarely-changing library shelves of my local library; or being driven to fork out hard-earned cash for mediocre books.

I regularly admit to a fairly prosaic taste in literature. Though I find myself balking at some crime fiction (I cannot believe I used to read Patricia Cornwell for example), I don’t mind the likes of PD James, Martha Grimes and Robert B Parker.

So… admissions and self-flagellation completed, a few years ago I borrowed a book by JD Robb.  Though (obviously) by no means a literary snob, I might have bypassed the book had I realised it was written by an author better known for romance than murder and mayhem.  But realise I did not.  I don’t remember what that book actually was, but it was undoubtedly one from somewhere in the middle of the series, given the discovery took place in 2008 and Roberts kicked off her ‘In Death’ novels (as an experiment) in 1995.

I was entranced and literally ploughed through all existing ‘In Death’ novels over subsequent months.  I tried to do so in order – given that an underlying story unfolds as a backdrop to the murderous mysteries unraveling front-stage.

I have read them all now (bar a few short stories appearing in other collections).  And I have even re-read some.  The series has taken its place along with some other staples (TV series’ ‘Buffy’, ‘Pushing Daisies’, ‘Entourage’ and ‘West Wing’; and Robert B Parker’s Spenser or Sunny Randall novels) which I can watch or read again and again and are a source of great comfort.

So, I wonder, what is it about these novels that endear them to me?

Though I am not a Sci Fi or fantasy genre fan, these novels are set in the future, the first kicking off in the late 2050s.  In a brave new world following the ‘Urban Wars’ of the 2020s.  In this world we meet New York Homicide cop, Lieutenant Eve Dallas.  A strong, independent woman, (stereotypically) scarred by childhood trauma.  In the first novel, ‘Naked in Death’ Eve crosses paths with the enigmatic (and if that word was coined with a character in mind, it was this one) Roarke, mega-rich and a law unto himself.

Their relationship makes the novels and (in my point of view) sometimes almost breaks them.  Roberts just avoids Eve falling into some caricature of a former-victim-now-turned-saviour still tortured by her dysfunctional childhood.  As a romantic (at heart) I love Roarke’s devotion to his cop/wife but there is sometimes a fine line between devotion and paternalism; and his compulsion to ‘take care’ of Eve often has me shuddering with discomfort.  I mean, what is it with these people (you read about) who ‘forget to eat’ and who work to exhaustion and have to be carried off to bed by concerned loved ones?   Finally, although not faint-hearted I do occasionally find the sex scenes a bit much to get through and have to skim-read the gory stuff.

But Roberts has a support cast guaranteed to complement the two leads and many of them are as familiar and dear to her readers as Eve and Roarke themselves.  In fact, in many ways Eve’s sidekick – the delightful smartarse, Peabody – keeps me turning the pages as much as the two mainstays.

One of the things that sets the novels apart from the usual murder / mysteries is the futuristic themes.  Technology is more advanced, certainly, and e-cops, computers and virtual reality play a key role in many of the murders.  Guns have disappeared after the Urban Wars and (other than in Eve’s world) murders are few and far between.

I find myself intrigued about how Roberts interprets the future.  She names her technological advances simply.  Watches are ‘wrist units’.  Some form of escalators that take travelers significant distances are ‘glides’.  Telephones are nicknamed ‘links’ and they, along with mobile phones (‘communicators’) offer vision.  Cars (and other forms of transport – which can move vertically) are ‘transpos’.  All forms of makeup and beauty products are known as ‘enhancements’.   ‘Droids’ are prevalent – though mostly working as maids and doormen. In this world people live well into their 100s and plastic surgery is the norm.  And, in Roberts’ vision, we have settled on other planets by the middle of the 21st century.

The futuristic world and its gadgets however, do not distract the readers from the plot itself and I find most of Roberts’ ‘In Death’ series less predictable than most other crime fiction or mystery novels I read.  The plots are always robust and the characters strong and multi-dimensional.  Roberts has recently released her 30th ‘In Death’ novel but given how prolifically she has been churning them out over recent years, I suspect there will be many more to come.   And – for now anyway – that suits me fine.