Know when to fold ‘em


Just over a month ago I announced I was starting burlesque dance classes. I knew they weren’t going to burn huge amounts of calories or help with my very poor cardiovascular fitness…. but I wanted to feel a bit better about myself and my body. And I wanted to have some fun.

Five weeks in and – I have to tell you – the classes have had the opposite effect.

My biggest fear when starting wasn’t the dancing itself. I’m relatively coordinated and once did a heap of different zumba and body jam classes and the like. I was mostly worried about feeling out of place as a fat and frumpy 40-something in a room full of lithe 18yr olds.

Fortunately that wasn’t the case either. 

I quit

However… to my surprise my challenge has been the dance itself. Well, more specifically, the fact we’re dancing with a chair.

By the end of week 1 we were flinging ourselves sideways across the chair. I was not doing a lot of flinging however, as I was on a borrowed chair and paranoid my hefty weight would break it. But, by week 2 I’d procured my own chair (an old dining chair made from timber and steel) from a second hand store for $10 and was ready to go. That week we had to straddle the chair backwards, put our legs over the backrest and lie back.

Which I couldn’t do. It may only be the fact I have a long body or short arms, but… I couldn’t lie back and still hold onto the backrest. It was okay though. I felt a bit self conscious, as if it was weight-related; but I hung in there. Literally and metaphorically! ;-)

In week 3 I bravely donned some high heels I found in the back of my cupboard. I had however, been dreading the class all week as our instructor had (casually) mentioned us ‘standing’ on the chair. I’d watched the week before as she’d tested someone’s chair… standing up on it and jumping off. Faaaarck!

As it happened my fears were both realised and unfounded. If that makes sense.

Firstly I did something weird to my shoes so that the entire class was interrupted by a loud cracking noise as I knelt forward onto my toes. I can only think that as the soles were wooden and unworn for a decade, I ummm…. broke them. Though not visibly. We all paused to see if I’d broken the floorboards or similar, but no…

Then there was a move which required us to kneel on the chair and reach our arms down to the ground and crawl along until we’re in a plank pose and then crawl our arms back. It reminded me of the ‘ball walks’ of my pilates days. I could do it, but not particularly quickly. And just after that…. the pièce de résistance - we get up onto the chair and ‘pose’. Now fortunately that was the end of the routine so getting down OFF the chair can be done however gingerly is required.

I found myself quite breathless with the last few movements and struggled to move as quickly as necessary. I felt clumsy and awkward.



That was two weeks ago and I have to confess I skipped last week’s class. I wasn’t feeling great and had an achy back. But… when obsessing about pondering on the class, it occurred to me that I was seriously dreading it. Rather than making me feel better about myself, I was feeling worse.

I emailed the coordinator of the studio saying I was finding the class a bit hard. I have to admit I was hoping she’d offer to transfer the rest of this term’s payment to next term when there will be no chairs involved. Alas, she didn’t.

Instead I received an email from the instructor yesterday. A lovely email. She was worried that she’d made the dance too hard and said that she could alter the choreography of the second dance (again a chair dance, as that’s what we’re doing this semester) so it is easier.

So, of course then I felt bad. Others shouldn’t have to suffer because I’m fat and unfit.

I’d all but convinced myself I could quit. Even IF I didn’t get a refund. I told myself it was no good if it was making me so unhappy, nervous and self-conscious. I’d wait until next term and re-enrol. When we’re dancing with fans or the like. Quitting felt justified.

However, now I’ve had this sympathetic email from the instructor who said she’d ‘hate for me to quit’ I feel bad. Guilty. Like a wuss.

So – though I’d legitimised my need to quit in my mind – I’ve now decided to hang in there. I don’t want the instructor to feel bad on my account and it is all self-inflicted. I can hardly expect sympathy when my weight and fitness are MY issues. MY fault.

So… wish me luck!

Do you ever feel that quitting is justified? 

Linking up with Jess and the IBOTers today! 

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Char February 18, 2014 at 9:39 am

It makes it hard to quit when there’s someone there rooting for you and happy to change things to accommodate you. My coach has changed some of our Thursday hill sessions because I WILL NOT run Owl trail. Mind you, the other trails he’s chosen are probably just as hideous but haven’t been blown out of proportion in my mind yet.

And can I say that high heels are just as scary for me as Owl trail. You would never catch me jumping down from a chair wearing a pair – not with my lack of balance.


Debbish February 18, 2014 at 10:59 am

Yes, thankfully the dance ends with us standing on the chair!


Lisa Barton-Collins February 18, 2014 at 9:45 am

Oh, this sounds like some kind of cruel and unusual torture! I mean, I like chair porn as much as the next person, but I don’t want to do a sexy dance with one. There is something to be said for persevering and overcoming challenges, but if something is just not for you, even after you’ve given it a good go, I think it is fine to walk away with your head held high. Of course the instructor would ‘hate for you to quit’ because then she would have it on her conscience that someone quit her class because it was too hard, and the problem would be on her…

Have you thought about belly dancing? Much more forgiving, and no chairs! :)


Debbish February 18, 2014 at 11:06 am

I have tried belly dancing and enjoyed it. In fact that led me to try burlesque as I wanted something similar but a bit more energetic.

As you say, if I’ve given it a chance I’ll feel better IF I need to quit. I think the term is only 8 weeks so if I can do another week or two I’ll feel better.



Liz February 18, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Deb, good on you for not quitting. Proud of you. That said, I’d rather race skeleton than do a burlesque class – less scary – so you have my complete respect!


Debbish February 18, 2014 at 12:34 pm

Thanks Liz. (I don’t even know what ‘race skeleton’ means (but will google it) but it sounds scary!


Jackie February 18, 2014 at 1:43 pm

Awesome on you for not quitting, sounds like torture to me, they were starting one where I live and was thinking of giving it go…. not now lol. Think I might just find the guts to do belly dancing first now :)


Debbish February 18, 2014 at 1:52 pm

Oh no… don’t let the chair thing turn you off. The women I’m doing it with did a different routine last time and I understand the instructor wanting to mix it up a bit. As I said, next term she said we’d be using a fan etc.

Another class member told me the instructor also teaches at a gym (wish I’d known that beforehand) and of course they wouldn’t have chairs etc on hand.



Lee-Anne February 18, 2014 at 2:33 pm

I was giggling all the way through your post, Deb as I visualised your contortions and chair-pain (laughing with you, not at you!)

Burlesque dancing sounds like a form of extreme torture and you’re incredibly brave to hang in there. Hopefully, it will get easier (and the instructor is delightful) :)


Debbish February 18, 2014 at 3:06 pm

I have to say that one of the best things is that we’re all working out our own moves so we aren’t really watching anyone else – particularly cos we are rarely standing straight on watching people. It’s not like many group classes where you can see what everyone’s doing cos we’re constantly circling our chair, sitting, lying or standing on it (or straddling it!) etc.


Kylie Purtell, A Study in Contradictions February 18, 2014 at 3:42 pm

I think in certain circumstances there is nothing wrong with quitting, especially if you’ve given it a good go, which it sounds like you have. But if it’s making you stress and worry and feel worse about yourself then personally I would quit. Life is too short to feel like crap when we don’t have to. #teamIBOT


Debbish February 18, 2014 at 10:39 pm

Hi Kylie and thanks for dropping by. I’ve decided each class I do is closer to the end of term and the less I have to feel guilty about quitting! ;-)


Debbie February 18, 2014 at 3:59 pm

There is so much stress out there I truly believe that the way you are feeling, you’ve given it your all it might be time to move on! It’s not quitting really,it just means it’s not for you,:)


Debbish February 18, 2014 at 10:40 pm

Yes, so true. I like to think that I did analyse my reasons for not going last week before I skipped it – ie. not just laziness, but really realised that I wasn’t enjoying it – in fact it had a negative effect!


Neen February 18, 2014 at 7:04 pm

Oh gosh Deb it sounds torturous! How much longer do you have? I think you should maybe go to the next class and if you still feel uncomfortable, then just don’t go back.

Why spend the whole week worrying about one hour? There’s no shame in realising something isn’t for you.


Debbish February 18, 2014 at 10:42 pm

I went tonight and it wasn’t as bad. Having said that the class was harder – the new dance requires us to get up on the chair, then crouch down and jump off with a leg either side straddling the chair. The instructor is okay with us putting one leg down at a time. I’m not wearing heels and even doing that with heels I wouldn’t have been surprised if I’d twisted my ankle, but it was fine in bare feet.

I’m just not as nimble as I used to be.

PS. 3 lessons left!


Jess February 18, 2014 at 8:37 pm

I am pleased to hear next term isnot going to be all on the chair. I have done burlesque and there is so much more to it. Hopefully the instructor will learn and tailor her classesso that they are mòre universal, perhaps with alternatives. I have taught fitness and dance classes to adults in the states and their feedback could be cutting but I did learn a lot about what different people with different body types felt uncomfortable doing. But I think many women of all shapes would feel awkward standing on a chair, straddling it and jumping off in heels. Good on you for going!


Debbish February 18, 2014 at 10:43 pm

Thanks Jess. I don’t really get to see what the others are doing but I suspect I’m the most paranoid about breaking the chair and embarrassing myself. I need to remember that part of that is about ‘me’ and no one else. HOPEFULLY they think it’s good I’m even trying!


Rach February 18, 2014 at 9:40 pm

Take it one week at a time. I am in awe at the amazing effort you have made so far it is both brave and incredible. I think sometimes there is a difference between quitting and exchanging. Exchanging is looking at what you are experiencing and the results and thinking hmmm maybe this isn’t the most suitable for me what else is a better fit…..either way Rock it girl xxx


Debbish February 18, 2014 at 10:45 pm

Thanks Rach. Tonight was a bit of a turning point cos the new dance involves some steps I really struggle with – but – for the first time it occurred to me that it doesn’t matter that I don’t do it properly or do everything. In aerobic classes I’d drop down a level if I was struggling with high impact moves etc so I’m not sure why it feels wrong in something like burlesque!


Satu February 18, 2014 at 9:55 pm

I’ve quite plenty of courses in my life so I don’t see that as a big issue. The course may well be too difficult to your current fitness level.

This reminds me of my unfortunate ashtanga yoga experience years ago – I went to a “real” yoga studio where I participated in a beginner (!) class. Six weeks after that I had to quit yoga because I had developed an overtraining syndrome.

I wouldn’t say our salsa class is easy either. It lasts 90 minutes and in the last 15 or 20 minutes I can’t follow the choreography properly because I’m so tired. Luckily we don’t have to use chairs or other props!


Debbish February 18, 2014 at 10:47 pm

I’m glad you enjoy your salsa classes Satu. Tonight I had to catch up with the dance learned last week and fortunately that wasn’t too bad. I really do think the problem is just more about my mobility and confidence at the moment. If I was only 70 or 80kg and leaping off a chair I’d feel very different to the way I do (being so much heavier than that!).



Camilla February 19, 2014 at 10:25 am

How brave you are!! I’ve always dreamt of doing something liket that but my size holds me back too. For now it’s just bootcamp and gym and I’ll work up to that. I look forward to hearing more about your classes!


Debbish February 19, 2014 at 10:42 am

Camilla – I’m the opposite at the moment. My size and fitness definitely stops me from thinking about bootcamp – plus I don’t like bootcamp!!! (burpees, shuttle runs, carrying tyres etc – BLAH!).

I’d like to get back into the gym when I’m a bit fitter though. (Which I know doesn’t make sense, but I don’t think I’d get my money’s worth at the moment!)


Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me February 20, 2014 at 9:24 pm

Oh Deb, I bet that was a shitburger feeling :( But sometimes we all have to admit when we are out of our depth. Last year I did this in regards to ‘friends’ who weren’t really friends. You’ll be back in a few months I’m sure xx


Debbish February 21, 2014 at 7:05 am

I went along on Tuesday and was glad I did. Even if I decided not to go back now I’ll know I gave it a real shot.


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