Rouge and Glitter – Petra La Diamond shares her burlesque story
ROUGE & GLITTER
Dance has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember… from being a bumble bee in my early ballet classes, Mickey Mouse amongst the Minnie’s in my early modern jazz days and the Blues solo that burnt dance on my soul, my spiritual experience. Dance was taken from me suddenly and I lost a part of myself. I didn’t realise how much I had lost until recently. I truly never thought that dance would present itself in my life again, let alone in my 30’ies and let alone Burlesque.
I joined Burlesque in an attempt to get over the loss of my previous dancing life but truth be told I wasn’t really sure it was going to work so instead I joined thinking it would be fun, nothing more, nothing less. I expected to have this moment when I started where I just felt good about the movement and miraculously I would be over it all. But no, when I started, 10 minutes in, I thought, “Oh my God, I don’t have any rhythm anymore, I CAN’T DANCE, I have forgotten how to”. After I got over the initial hump I started to feel my rhythm again and settled, Phew! Classes came and went and I enjoyed myself. Just enjoyed. We had a studio show 3 months in and I think I fooled myself into thinking I was a bit more ready for it than I was, that I was an old pro at shows, after all I have done more than I can count. Wow, how wrong was I! I was so nervous the night before and the day of, that my stomach was out of control. Bubbly sorted that one out quite quickly on the day though.
As a beginner you go through the initiation process of choosing a stage name. The process is challenging but also glamorous and sassy and it is great fun to decide how to use your anonymity. Our real names and stage names tend to be used interchangeably in class and for a while I felt a little uncomfortable with that. My stage name is inextricably linked to who I am but somehow I felt like calling me Petra didn’t acknowledge Pascale and after-all the person you get IS PASCALE. I have mellowed now and don’t mind being called either…
We did a photo shoot for my (2nd) show recently with Miss Ruby and it was a day to remember, a day that I reference back to. I was being my usual “Pascale’ish” self (apparently that is a thing now), a bit guarded, taking a while to warm up etc. Miss Ruby took her time to get to know each of the women which I really appreciated. She wanted to know our story. Married, kids, job, what we like about our bodies and what we don’t and why we do burlesque (she asked me if I was doing burlesque to be “out there”, as a release or to connect). I was so pleased that she respected me enough to not photograph the areas of my body that I would prefer to be without, despite burlesque being accepting of all shapes and sizes. Miss Ruby’s routine was to have a cigarette at the widow and a few sips of champagne while discussing: you. During someone else’s “getting to know you” I too stood in the window overlooking the harbour and the city in its weekend peace. I was all of a sudden taken over by feelings of pain, loss and joy all at the same time. I had tears in my eyes and I couldn’t quite decide whether I wanted to go home or if I was having such a great time that I never wanted to leave. Words can’t express how much fun I had doing my shoot. Lady Magnolia and Penny Pinup wanted to do a “hand shot”. I didn’t know what that was. Turns out it was me without my top on and them hiding behind a chair each putting a hand on one of my breasts. When I (finally) worked out what they wanted to do, there was a split second where I was thinking…mmmm….how do I feel about this? The conclusion was… I don’t give a damn. It was fun and cheeky and it wasn’t uncomfortable. I hope the shot comes out fabulously and really, we all have the same stuff and if they don’t give a damn why the hell should I.
Burlesque was intended as “my cure” and it has achieved its purpose but what I was not prepared for was the sense of belonging. There are those rare moments in life when you find yourself surrounded by a group of people or a single person and everything slows down, like in the movies, and you look around and realise that you just worked out why this person or these people have entered your life. I had one of those moments not too long ago.
I was standing in the Burlesque dance studio after a catch up class with women from various more qualified classes than my own. We were standing around drinking Champagne (as is customary when it comes to burlesque) and getting to know each other. We decided to share our day jobs with the group and the first one to speak says: “I work at SARS” – we all howl with laughter. She doesn’t fit the bill. She is a part time body builder too, so you can imagine the body, and she is a quietly sensual and mysterious burlesque dancer with tattoos all over, wearing red fish net stockings and the most extraordinarily high red heels with a bit of a tango feel to the whole ensemble. A set of contradictions for sure. The conversation moved on and at some point Lady Magnolia said something, and I really wish I could remember what it was, but that was my slowmo moment. The moment when I got it, everything fell into place. I am here not only to find my soul again but to trust and connect with woman of different paths, all of whom have their story and something to teach me. No one is here because their life is perfect, everyone is on their journey and burlesque is a pit stop, a holiday home or a permanent residence. We’re all still working it out re-acquainting ourselves with various aspects of ourselves.
Returning to classes after the show has been a re-awakening. Somehow, no longer being the beginner changed things. Now classes come and when they go, I can’t wait for the next one to arrive. I can feel music and dance running through me again. It’s turned out that burlesque has achieved exactly what it was supposed to. It just didn’t do it in the way I expected it to. It is hard to articulate the “home-like feeling I have experienced but what I know for sure is that I have found the part of my soul that was taken. I have been reintroduced to myself and it’s been a pleasure getting to know ME again. I can close my eyes and feel the music and the movement running through me.
My life has been stained with rouge and glitter and there is simply no going back.
Pascale aka Petra La Diamond
15 November 2015