Stoned Enough to Dance Burlesque

As far adventuring goes, this past weekend has been a very good one! On Saturday morning I had the opportunity to have a go at some typical ‘strongman’ stuff at CrossFit Causeway.

First up was an extensive introduction to the Atlas Stones. We started light, learning how to get the stones off the floor, how to ‘hug them’ and then ‘encourage them’ up to our shoulders. (Just so you know, verbal encouragement does seem to work – as long as you have a good relationship with your stone , I reckon it’ll listen and ‘work with you’ ๐Ÿ˜Ž.) The heaviest I managed in practice was a 40kg stone. Here’s me in the WOD (Workout Of the Day) lifting a 35kgย  stone (5 1/2 stone/ 77 lbs):

We also had a go at a Zercher carry. As you can see from the images (one of me and one of Gail, a fellow competitor in the upcoming powerlifting competition), the load is held in the crook of your elbows. The load isย  largely in front of you and this increases the demands on the upper back, while also increasing core tension.

The session was all about strength and this wouldn’t normally appeal to me (I like a bit of the old conditioning too ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). However, I really enjoyed it (I think it was because I’d never done anything like it before and I wasn’t even sure whether I could lift any of the stones) and my body obviously got a pretty tough workout because on Sunday morning my whole body felt like it was full of concrete!

I managed a sprint session on Sunday morning (without it I don’t think I would have been able to move very much at all) before heading to Belfast for the hotly anticipated Rock Goddess Burlesque workshop, led by the brilliant Soup du Jour (Laura Firby). I was sharing this adventure with a writer friend of mine, Belinda Bennetts. We’d both studied the joining instructions very carefully and were ready to throw ourselves headlong (or whichever body part might work best ๐Ÿ˜Ž) into the experience. We had our outfits. We had our attitudes. And we were up for it!

Obviously, we were a little shocked when the workshop started with everyone pretty much fully dressed ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ.ย  During the first part of the workshop we learned how to ‘promenade’ and practised jiggling, hip-swivelling and shimmying (which is much harder than it looks). After a while, we were invited to put on our heels – and that made a real difference: I certainly felt like more of a performer with them on. Just before the tea-break we managed our first routine!

Belinda and I took an executive decision to go the whole hog and put on all our burlesque kit for the second part of the workshop. I was keen to have the full experience and see if dancing like this offered the opportunity to experience my ‘edges’ in new ways. Once it was obvious what Belinda and I were up to, another woman started to get changed. She was about the same age as me – also post-menopausal and also filling her life with new experiences.

I was rather taken with her leather bustier, but it was her homemade nipple tassels that impressed me the most! She’d already done a few classes with Soup du Jour and had obviously found her thing. I loved the joy and playfulness in her – and she had such a free energy in her when she was dancing.

In the second part of the workshop we learned how to take off gloves, take off clothes and do floor work (also much harder than it looks and requires LOTS of flexibility). By the end of the afternoon, we’d learned and performed a second routine. And I’m so glad I changed into my outfit during the tea break: it made such a difference. I felt much more in my body, much more powerful, much more willing to ‘let go’ and try on the full-on burlesque persona. Being in a dance studio, we all faced ourselves in the mirror. As I watched myself, I kept my eye out for things I’d never noticed about myself before.

I noticed how strong I looked and I could see how my adventures have changed my body. I noticed how ‘in my body’ I was, too: I wasn’t trapped in my head. As I watched my body move, I noticed that I was not self-conscious or embarrassed in any way at all – rather, I was thrilled that my body was moving and enjoying the movement. I had invited it to dance and it had accepted the invitation ‘with knobs on’. And when it got to the floor work (I’d say you’d call that the ‘rudest bit’ ๐Ÿคฃ), I noticed how playful my body was.

Burlesque dancing was a brilliant way of finding out where I am in my post-menopausal journey. I am happy to confirm that I feel free, confident, playful and have no hang-ups to speak of about my aging body. I actually love what my body can do – and wants to do. I love that it remembers how to do things, even when my mind has forgotten. I love that it still learns quickly (much faster than my mind). I love that it gives things a go – and keeps giving things a go until it find its own way of ‘getting the hang’ of it.

Burlesque dancing is also a brilliant way of connecting with other women. It was interesting to me that most of the group were young women (in their 20s and 30s), but there were some women there in their 40s – and at least two of us in our 50s. I felt a much stronger sense of sisterhood with the older women, and I have the feeling that if there were a class just for more mature women, it might be pretty wild!

If you’re interested in having a go at burlesque dancing, and you’re based in Northern Ireland, I strongly recommend Laura’s classes. The class I did was a single workshop, but there are courses spread over weeks too. You can do the Rock Goddess Burlesque class at the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast on 2 June!

I’m just going outside and may be some time. (By the way, if youโ€™re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks projectย here.)

JT ๐Ÿ™‚

Rhythm is a Dancer!

I’m really excited to announce that I’ll be doing a fifth adventure this year! This autumn I’ll be learning to dance the tango with my non-dancing husband, coached by the brilliant Paula and Peter McAuley of Tango Northern Ireland.

I’ve always been a very enthusiastic dancer and had at one time (when I was 6) wanted to be a ballerina. I went along to ballet lessons but soon decided the gig was not for me. Here’s what stopped my dancing career in its tracks: we’d been doing this brilliant thing with skipping ropes (straight-forward-no-frills-actual-skipping), which I could actually do (unlike all the other things we were asked to do in the class), when the teacher announced that our ropes were tired and needed a rest. I looked at the other kids, my palms raised skywards and my head shaking in disbelief (well, I might not have actually done this bit). I knew there was no way that rope was an animate object, and ,therefore, there was no way it needed a rest. I then made the fatal error of pointing out the rope was not actually alive. That, dear reader, was the end of my dancing career ๐Ÿ˜‰ .

In my early 30s the urge to dance re-emerged when I trained to be a fitness instructor.ย  Every Monday evening, after I’d run a hardcore circuit class (think Superstars), I’d channel my inner Christina Aguilera and segway into a (relatively clean) dirty dancing class. The classes were surprisingly popular, in spite of the very cheesy choreography, and everyone completely ‘went for it’.

I miss those classes and I miss the joy and freedom of dancing. When I was thinking about my #OldDogNewTricks adventures for 2019 tango came straight to mind (I’ve always wanted to have a go at it), but it took me until now to find a teacher! Big thanks to Sarah Jane Abbot (Johnston), choreographer for The Faerie Thorn stage production, who put me in contact with Peter McAuley ๐Ÿ™‚ .

I’m completely thrilled to have found Paula and Peter. They’re going to help us develop choreography that works for both me (I’m definitely into all the leaping about ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) and for my husband (who, at this stage, would prefer to just stand still and look very moody, which is a skill he has honed over the years ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). We’ll be travelling down to Belfast in the autumn to join as many of the Friday night classes as we can, and we’ll have some intensive 1-1 sessions too. I think we should be ready for a final performance by the end of November/beginning of December.

To help me get into the dance mood, I’m going to undertake a mini dance adventure on 19 May. I’ve booked myself onto a ‘rock goddess burlesque’ dance workshop at the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast with Soup DuJour,ย  one of the top performers in Ireland and a well respected producer throughout Europe.

Here’s Soup DuJour doing her thing ๐Ÿ™‚

Right. I suppose I’d better go and limber up then ๐Ÿ˜‰ . (Oh, and if you’re new to my blog, you can find more out about my #OldDogNewTricks project here.)

I am just going outside and may be some time.

JT ๐Ÿ™‚