Overcoming Judgment, Acceptance, and Burlesque

This was a post I have wanted to write for a lot of reasons but have always put off for also a lot of reasons. As I am digging through all of my Halloween costumes, I am reminded of something else.

*deep breath*

I was a burlesque dancer for almost 10 years. Technically, I would still be a burlesque dancer, if not for public shows being limited. The last performance I did was about a year ago for Halloween. What is burlesque? Burlesque, by definition, is meant to be a parody, a performance, an art. It does not necessitate stripping or sexuality, but those are tools that may be used in the show. There are almost always legal regulations about what can or cannot be presented, the same as most other performance art. Burlesque has a long history but within the last century includes celebrities like Mae West, Lili St. Cyr and Gypsy Rose Lee. Neo-burlesque includes Dita Von Teese.

I have been advised, since the time I started performing, not to tell anyone about it. It could be seen as a negative, as a means to judge me. People might hear about it, talk about it, and make a decision about the type of person I am based on what they know or (more importantly) do not know about burlesque. My career could be limited!!! I know I have one former workplace where I haven’t been in years but it is still a source of gossip. [Side Note: My epilepsy is also a source of gossip there]

Of all the various posts I have, why THIS subject for the blog?!

Dancing is something I am proud of. I’ve been in festivals. I’ve been part of troupes. I’ve made really great friends. I have amazing costumes and props (everything from a question-mark-cane to five-foot feather fans). It’s where I started to learn to do costume makeup. I’ve gone on stage and been able to make people laugh with the pop culture references or just general comedy. I’ve probably performed in as many burlesque shows as I have run half- or full marathons.

I’ve heard an employment adviser tell people with epilepsy not to disclose their medical condition during a job interview (an opinion which I think is garbage). Years ago I was warned not to let anyone know that I am a burlesque dancer. That were two major parts of my life that I hid for a long time, for fear of judgement. At what point, do we fear judgement so much that we just become shadows of ourselves and lose all the enthusiasm and energy that makes us who we are? I can’t stop being epileptic but I could give up on burlesque. But I never did.

I also don’t hide it very well. First off, glitter is really hard to get clean off. Second, I’m usually so excited about the costume or the performance that I talk about it. Hence, the room for judgement. What I take out of that conclusion though is that there are people where they are more afraid of someone who isn’t afraid to challenge themselves, that it becomes their issue. Isn’t the classic trope of “worst nightmare” to be undressed on a stage in front of people you know?

Lastly, what about the disability? When I get on a stage, not only am I a performer, I’m a performer with a disability. As part of the community, I became close to people to learn more and I found that there were a lot of people who were experiencing conditions, permanent or temporary. In my case, there were times where I had a seizure backstage. If it was beforehand, I couldn’t necessarily go up on stage but the community was supportive. If it was afterwards, I still had that backing from other performers.

I may be making my own judgement here but what is the perspective about what it means to have a disability? To be a person with a disability? What do we look like, what can we do? I won’t try to speak for everyone but I know that as a person with a disability, I can also be a burlesque dancer. I have made costumes, I coordinate my choreography, I take deep breaths before stepping up on stage. I am a person with a disability and I perform burlesque. The audience sees a representation of the Cheshire Cat, not a person with epilepsy. When I’m up there, I’m not hiding my condition. I’m embracing it knowing that I am more than just my condition and that I have no fear. Anyone, myself included, can be fabulous and still have a disability.

How strong is the idea of judgement that some people never pick up a feather boa, no matter how much they want to? It’s Halloween. Even if we can’t go to a party or trick-or-treating, this is the time to get fabulous. Be dramatic. Take that first step. Embrace the glitter.

Also as an FYI, I have an Instagram account. I will start posting things about running, epilepsy and everything else but I am starting with Halloween zombie makeup. Check it out here.

Overcoming Judgement, Acceptance, and Burlesque

This was a post I have wanted to write for a lot of reasons but have always put off for also a lot of reasons. As I am digging through all of my Halloween costumes, I am reminded of something else.

*deep breath*

I was a burlesque dancer for almost 10 years. Technically, I would still be a burlesque dancer, if not for public shows being limited. The last performance I did was about a year ago for Halloween. What is burlesque? Burlesque, by definition, is meant to be a parody, a performance, an art. It does not necessitate stripping or sexuality, but those are tools that may be used in the show. There are almost always legal regulations about what can or cannot be presented, the same as most other performance art. Burlesque has a long history but within the last century includes celebrities like Mae West, Lili St. Cyr and Gypsy Rose Lee. Neo-burlesque includes Dita Von Teese.

I have been advised, since the time I started performing, not to tell anyone about it. It could be seen as a negative, as a means to judge me. People might hear about it, talk about it, and make a decision about the type of person I am based on what they know or (more importantly) do not know about burlesque. My career could be limited!!! I know I have one former workplace where I haven’t been in years but it is still a source of gossip. [Side Note: My epilepsy is also a source of gossip there]

Of all the various posts I have, why THIS subject for the blog?!

Dancing is something I am proud of. I’ve been in festivals. I’ve been part of troupes. I’ve made really great friends. I have amazing costumes and props (everything from a question-mark-cane to five-foot feather fans). It’s where I started to learn to do costume makeup. I’ve gone on stage and been able to make people laugh with the pop culture references or just general comedy. I’ve probably performed in as many burlesque shows as I have run half- or full marathons.

I’ve heard an employment adviser tell people with epilepsy not to disclose their medical condition during a job interview (an opinion which I think is garbage). Years ago I was warned not to let anyone know that I am a burlesque dancer. That were two major parts of my life that I hid for a long time, for fear of judgement. At what point, do we fear judgement so much that we just become shadows of ourselves and lose all the enthusiasm and energy that makes us who we are? I can’t stop being epileptic but I could give up on burlesque. But I never did.

I also don’t hide it very well. First off, glitter is really hard to get clean off. Second, I’m usually so excited about the costume or the performance that I talk about it. Hence, the room for judgement. What I take out of that conclusion though is that there are people where they are more afraid of someone who isn’t afraid to challenge themselves, that it becomes their issue. Isn’t the classic trope of “worst nightmare” to be undressed on a stage in front of people you know?

Lastly, what about the disability? When I get on a stage, not only am I a performer, I’m a performer with a disability. As part of the community, I became close to people to learn more and I found that there were a lot of people who were experiencing conditions, permanent or temporary. In my case, there were times where I had a seizure backstage. If it was beforehand, I couldn’t necessarily go up on stage but the community was supportive. If it was afterwards, I still had that backing from other performers.

I may be making my own judgement here but what is the perspective about what it means to have a disability? To be a person with a disability? What do we look like, what can we do? I won’t try to speak for everyone but I know that as a person with a disability, I can also be a burlesque dancer. I have made costumes, I coordinate my choreography, I take deep breaths before stepping up on stage. I am a person with a disability and I perform burlesque. The audience sees a representation of the Cheshire Cat, not a person with epilepsy. When I’m up there, I’m not hiding my condition. I’m embracing it knowing that I am more than just my condition and that I have no fear. Anyone, myself included, can be fabulous and still have a disability.

How strong is the idea of judgement that some people never pick up a feather boa, no matter how much they want to? It’s Halloween. Even if we can’t go to a party or trick-or-treating, this is the time to get fabulous. Be dramatic. Take that first step. Embrace the glitter.

Also as an FYI, I have an Instagram account. I will start posting things about running, epilepsy and everything else but I am starting with Halloween zombie makeup. Check it out here.

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