Chalkmarks How I shimmed off a burlesque class in Prague

I CAN shimmy now. Yes it’s true. I’d never been able to do that before. This is what Prague has taught me.

I’ve got the gloves, the feather boa, the white tights and the heels so I’m learning to shake it baby.

It’s Tuesday evening in Vinohrady just off Náměstí Míru (Peace Square) in trendy Praha 2 and I’ve joined a burlesque class.

Having dragged my coat off, I join the other girls who look super hot in their glossy, frilly underwear. I’m wearing a very risqué little black dress but as I catch myself in the mirror, I realise I’m over dressed.

The music gets going and Miss Cool Cat leads us: “two, three, four, let’s go”. The track is Venus, (Yeah, Baby She’s Got It). I’m thinking, not yet I haven’t! The moves are not complicated. There’s a lot of walking forward and popping the hip out. “Step, pah, step, pah, step, pah, step,” like that.

Dear god, is there anything worse than this?

We are told to focus on some imaginary bald guy sitting in the audience. The next move is step-bop-pah, step-bop-pah then to shake it, shake it.

The music goes off and we talk about our hands. Miss Cool Cat tells us the audience is always watching your hands when you’re a burlesque dancer.

“If you’re taking your gloves off – especially if they’re silk – it’s good to take some time and make some space. With long gloves – start underneath,” she says.

Chalkmarks How I shimmed off a burlesque class in Prague
Miss Cool Cat in the centre, Natalie on the right

“You should sell your fantasy to the audience. They should feel what you feel.”

That’ll be totally ridiculous, then.

“Think about your fingers and thumb. It can be naughty but very beautiful.

“It can also be done in a funny way. You can bite on it and pull it off. Or you can put your finger in the man’s mouth and he can strip the glove.”

Dear god, is there anything worse than this? Yes, there is. We’re told we’re going to take it in turns to strut up and down, remove our gloves and pose. This is frightening.

Chalkmarks How I shimmed off a burlesque class in Prague
Miss Cool Cat in the blue dress.

She hits the music. This time its Bumps and Grinds by Sonny Lester and His Orchestra. It’s all long trumpets and military drums.

The five ladies are super confident and we all clap and woo each other. Then it’s my turn.

I do know how to walk. And I do know how to take off a pair of gloves. Honestly, I do. But today I can’t do either – especially when they’re put together. I’m not very convincing.

The course is seven weeks but I’ve attended only two classes so I can’t be expected to have mastered this combination of moves while being sultry.  It’s too much too soon.

Chalkmarks How I shimmed off a burlesque class in Prague

“Look at yourself in the mirror,’ Miss Cool Cat says. “Don’t think about the steps. Just play.”

I’m dying. Whoever said this is good for self confidence, lied. I think about my hands. I’m pointing at the (imaginary) man without being accusing.

I want it over as soon as possible so I do it in a rush but that means I have to go again. But, the slower I do it, the longer it’ll take!

“Each item removed with talent could mean a good tip. Start again.” Burlesque comes from the Italian word burla which means a joke. That’s how I feel.

I give it one more shot and I get my cheers and a whistle.

We then repeat the combination of moves in a smaller circle until the end of the class. Next week it’s chair practice.

And that’s perfect timing, because I’ve already booked a seat on the next flight out.

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