Once upon a time I was invited to join a fusion-bellydance troupe that a new friend was trying to put together. It turned out to be a total disaster. Everyone had slightly different dance backgrounds, different ideas of what our style should be, and different thoughts on a name for the troupe (my favorite was Poop Pants Bellydance, because the big, baggy harem pants that were in style back then looked like you were carrying a load).
By the end of the evening I had somehow realigned myself with a faction of two other dancers whom I’d never met before, but who seemed to be in the same phase I was in as far as having seriousness-fatigue. I was ready to goof around; to experiment with something dumb and embarrassing and bold. That night we ditched bellydance and created the Bumble-Butts Burlesque Experience (not really, but that would’ve been a great name).
One of the girls (my future BFF Jezebel Junk), was around my age (27, at the time), and we had a striking amount of interests in common…except that in every area she was way beyond me. She was happily married, and I was less happily long-engaged. She had a degree in anthropology, and I was on a streak of reading anthro books. She was a published poet, and I was a secret dabbler. She was an experienced burlesque performer, and I was newly burl-curious. Jez was like the woman I could’ve been if I had smoked less weed.
The other girl was sort of a trip. She went by Sookie Cookie. She was chronologically 58 years old, but when you combined the facts that she’d had quite a bit of work done with her devil-may-care attitude and penchant for 25 year old men, she seemed younger than either of us (and many parts of her were).
We started meeting up twice a week, and choreographed a few ridiculous dance numbers. There was a lot of butt shaking and naughty surprised faces and whatnot. It was all going swimmingly, so Sookie booked us our first gig for Valentine’s Day.
I don’t exactly know what I expected, but when we got there, “there” turned out to be this old victorian converted into a coffee house. There were folding chairs set up for about 20 people facing a grand piano, in front of which there was a 15 year old girl reading poetry for what appeared to be her ten sets of grandparents. “We go on next.” whispered Sookie. It dawned on me in that moment that these were her peers; that for however young she looked and acted, inside (literally in her organs) she was one of them. Total mindfuck.
Anyway, she didn’t see anything inappropriate about dancing in front of these people, and if we were going to be friends and troupe-mates, neither could I… So we did it. We spread our knees and snapped them shut, we dipped and popped our booties back, we did high kicks three inches from grandma-number-seven’s face. At the end it was silent for a moment, then a few seconds of polite clapping. We shuffled off to make room for the elderly flautist. Awkward.
Burlesque is actually really fun and thrilling and gorgeous though (in the right setting), and Chico is home to more than one great troupe. This week we talked to a couple of the best. Get to know them, and go enjoy some sexy madness.