updated 2 Jan 2012, 23:18
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Bring on the burlesque!
by Sue-Anne Lim

It used to be that the theatrical art of burlesque was cast to the shadows, particularly in conservative Singapore.

But, in recent years, burlesque - which takes its cue from American burlesque and which encompasses everything from cabaret to striptease (emphasis on the "tease") - has been gaining popularity as a dance and fitness trend.

Not only are home-grown dance studios warming to the trend, but the Esplanade also ran two burlesque workshops in August and September.

The workshops were part of its annual da:ns festival, and both workshops were sold out.

So, what exactly is the appeal?

"It's all about feeling beautiful as a woman - being sensual, and becoming familiar with everything that makes you feminine," said Singaporean burlesque artist Sukki Singapora, who is based in the town of Chester in Britain.

The full-time performer said: "When I first started learning the art of burlesque just a few years ago, it was unheard of in Singapore. I remember my parents wondering what on earth I was doing.

"Now, opinions and culture have changed dramatically. People are more aware of and open to exploring new ways of expressing themselves."

Ms Linna Tan, the director of Bobbi's Pole Studio, said that as women here have become more open-minded, self-expression has come in different forms - from pole-dancing to burlesque.

And, she added, art forms like burlesque are popular because it embraces women of all shapes and sizes, and from all backgrounds.

"I think that inside every woman, there's a sensuous creature waiting to come out, and it's just a matter of putting her in a comfortable environment where she feels safe to express herself," she said.

Australian burlesque instructor Rodney James, who was recently in Singapore to lead several workshops at Bobbi's, told my paper: "I always say to women, 'If you love it, we love it.'"

Indeed, Sukki Singapora said that "burlesque is an art that teaches you to love yourself and the body you are in".

Another draw for burlesque, of course, is the glamorous outfits associated with it.

Sequins, feathers, chiffon undies and more are de rigueur in burlesque.

Ms Tan said: "In a burlesque-style class, you get to dress up in heels, feel sexy and get a workout at the same time."

Of the burlesque workshops run by the Esplanade, Ms Joyce Yao, a programming officer with the Esplanade, said that "some (women) even dressed up in sequined tops to get in the mood", while others donned pretty workout gear.

For one burlesque dance enthusiast, Ms Danielle Sim, 28, who works as a buyer, the biggest plus of learning burlesque is not noticing how much she's worked out.

"I really love it because it's so fun. I don't even feel tired after a class," she said.

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