I’ve been modelling for years so I’ve been no stranger to stripping off for the camera in the past.
But this assignment was altogether a different challenge — a lesson in burlesque and I wanted to see if I Can-Can do it.
I’ve been told that the name ‘burlesque’ comes from the Italian word ‘burl’, meaning ‘joke’, but I'm struggling to find the funny side of dressing up in stockings, heels and a basque and prancing around in front of two strangers while being snapped by Sunday Life’s photographer.
I have some knowledge of the art of burlesque after being lucky enough to see Dita Von Teese perform in London a few years ago.
I have to admit thought that even though she looked amazing and the show was entertaining I thought there wasn't much “art” to it and it was really just a very sexy girl sashaying around while removing some clothes.
But I was about to be proved very wrong! My lesson was to take place in the Burlesque Boudoir, a studio in Conway Mill just off the Falls Road in Belfast.
I make my way there feeling very nervous as I'm going to meet Lorna King, aka Ruby Rumpus, and Christine O'Neill, aka Bambi Devine, who together go by the stage name of Babycakes.
As well as performing at events and parties, the girls also conduct workshops and hold private lessons for hen parties.
The studio is very bright and looks just like a normal dance space apart from the eight poles erected around the room. I'm instantly put at ease when I’m told that the poles are nothing to do with my bur
lesque lesson — it’s just that the studio is also used for polercise, an exercise class that uses a dance pole. Lorna and Christine are waiting for me and are looking great in hot-pants, fishnets and black lycra tops.
I insist on wearing the gym gear that I arrived in which is fine with them. I start my lesson and I soon find that indeed there is an “art” to burlesque.
The first thing I’m taught is how to hold my body in the standard burlesque position.
Shoulders are the key: they must be pushed back as far as possible as your chest is leading your body. I find it really difficult to hold my body in the burlesque position while I’m doing the moves and I feel a little silly to begin with.
But it’s not long before I start to feel glamorous as I begin to learn moves such as the sexy strut, the removing of the glove and the intriguing ‘show what you have’ move.
After an hour of patient tuition from Lorna and Christine it’s time to put my routine to music and be the star — but not before I’m gently convinced it will only look right if I change into the correct outfit.
The Burlesque Boudoir has a dressing up box of girly props so it’s
not long before I’m kitted out in a gorgeous red corset and sexy fishnets which immediately makes me feel downright glamorous!
Feather boas and some fuschia fans complete the look.
All I need now is a stage name.
Lorna and Christine show me a sheet which they use to help their pupils come up with an appropriate name.
I take the third letter of my first name and the third letter of my surname, check it against the list and hey presto!
Goodbye Gemma Garrett ...hello Mocha Sprinklecake! I realise that burlesque is all about the power of suggestion and it is nothing like stripping or lap-dancing.
The routine goes well and my burlesque teachers kindly give me an A-Plus! After my lesson I become Gemma once again and ask the girls about how they came to be involved in this rare art.
Lorna said: “I was involved in polercise but I always loved the era of burlesque and what it represented. So it just happened and
now we teach it. It’s escapism — it allows you to be someone else for a while and that's why we encourage stage names.”
Christine added: “People confuse burlesque with stripping which can be frustrating and even though there can be nudity in some acts that is not the main focus.”
Afterwards I make my way home feeling happy and with an air of sexiness. I can’t wait for my husband to ask “So how’s your day been?”What’s your burlesque name?
What's in a name? Every burlesque dancer needs a memorable stage name. Work out yours with this guide...
A Juicy; B Fabulous; C Cupcake; D Fifi; E Danger; F Venus; G Ermine; H Marvelous; I Perky; J Sinuous; K Emerald; L Peaches; M Mocha; N Cleopatra; O Jewel; P Frankly; Q Candy; R Topless; S Leopard; T Frankly; U Sensual; V Sexy; W Silky; X Diamond; Y Breathy; Z Bonbon.
A Heartbreaker; B Smartypants; C Nipples; D Snowstorm; E Unmentionables; F Cupcake; G Evening; H Poser; I Sunshine; J Jigglejugs; K Fluffkins; L Wiggles; M Vibrations; N Glitterbomb; O Majorette; P Baracuda; Q Crustacean; R Sprinklecake; S Cheetah; T Snakeskin; U McStruttington; V Von Trapp; W Shakespeare; X Moonbottom; Y Chocolate; Z Favours.
Burlesque is coming to Belfast this week with a new cabaret show featuring breathtaking pole performances, classic burlesque routines and fire-breathing belles.
Jewels is a burlesque showcase which treats the audience to the high glamour and glitz of a Las Vegas-style cabaret show.
Local singer Martin John and his Swing Time Band will provide the sounds of Sinatra and Dean Martin while guests are encouraged to dress in their burlesque best.
The best dressed babe will even take home some glamorous gifts including a burlesque master class to help her learn to twirl her tassels like a pro.
The evening, which is suitable for couples, a girls’ night out or a hen party with a difference, is being organised by Fanfare Productions which specialises in pole and burlesque performances.
Jewels takes place on Friday, September 30 at the Emerald Roadhouse, Finaghy.Tickets, which cost £10 and include a complimentary sparkling wine reception, are available by phoning 07955 011494. For more information visit www.theemeraldroadhouse.com/jewels.