What can I say? I'm a curious person... How could I not be intrigued and want to know more when I found out that Wenatchee has a burlesque troupe?! I didn't go looking for risque, sexy, dancing ladies with a healthy sense of humor, no, I posted a question on Facebook. One of the people who responded gave accolades to a popular porn site. Since I am no fan of the industry, I gave him a piece of my mind. Then another person spoke up in defense of the site. This time, though I was still not at all a proponent of pornography, the way I answered was different. Skylar Hansford framed her response respectfully, from an informed and intelligent platform. She was worthy of debate. She had experience in the sex industry and I knew she would provide fabulous insight for my current non-fiction project, Sex and Jesus. Instead of starting a fight or arguing I asked if we could meet and talk. And did we ever talk! I wish there had been more hours and more time to hear her story let alone the history of the Radar Dames, Wenatchee’s own burlesque troupe.
She was instantly intriguing to me, this young woman with bright vibrant eyes and hair divided right down the middle in two starkly contrasting colors. She carried herself with an air of confidence. She was proud of her femininity and sexuality and I respected her for it, not in spite of it, and yet, not solely because of it. Skylar Hansford embraces sexual expression as part of her whole self, and I will tell you this ladies and gentlemen, it is sexy!!!
I would consider myself a modest person by choice but, if I'm truly honest, also because of fear. I want my husband to think I’m sexy, and to get turned on at the sight of me. I want him to desire me and be the person who enjoys my body most but that doesn’t mean I want to deny my sexuality the rest of the time. I am a sexual being, not to mention the fact that I’ve spent the last several years living a fit life. I want to be appreciated for being feminine, fit and sensual as much as for being compassionate and skilled at writing. But, I don’t want to be violated because someone else thinks I’m sexy or was “asking for it.” I've been in situations wearing risque clothing where I was mistreated. When you’re a woman and you “know” you’re wearing one of “those” outfits and something bad happens, even if no one says it out loud; the question is… Was it something that I wore? I told myself, and society told me that I gave the guy the wrong impression because I was dressed inappropriately. I should have expected it to happen. And, so, since then, again both by choice and because of fear I’ve chosen to dress toward the modest side of life.
There is one more fear that ought not go unmentioned. I spoke about my fear of man, now I need to speak of the fear of woman. We feminines are interesting beings. I think we all want to feel pretty, dare I say attractive, but if we see a woman who has crossed the line from attractive to risque… many of us judge. She’s one of “those” women or is trying to get “that” kind of attention. I will say this is largely situational and cultural but it’s definitely a thing. I will contend that it is a thing because we are sexual beings and it pricks at that part of our humanity that’s been conditioned to be repressed; and those women who dare to express or expose themselves challenge our own sexual perceptions. As much as I do not want to be in an unsafe situation with a man because of my attire; I also do not want to lose respect in the eyes of my female peers because because of it.
So I am modest, by choice and by fear.
But I digress, I was at a table listening to a beautiful young woman speak. She was proud of herself, proud of her body, and proud of the fact that she is able to express her sexuality. Despite the fact that she will wear pasties in public, Skylar demands that she should be respected no matter what she wears. No matter what?! She was sure of it and I was the one challenged to re-frame my thinking. Was it really OK to embrace my sexuality that boldly? Could I acknowledge it as part of who I was and expect, or demand, no repercussions from men or women for how I dressed? Can that actually be a thing? What would the world be like if it was? Obviously there’s a time and a place for the more sultry expressions of sexuality and this is where the conversation turned to burlesque.
Skylar, a former exotic dancer, former dominatrix, woman with a sexual assault story of her own that helped form her opinion about sexual expression, heard about the Radar Station. She accepted a bold invitation to stand semi-exposed for an event at the funky, modern museum of controversial art and pop-culture. The new mother was still breastfeeding and says she was not necessarily an image of super sexuality, but feminine reality. Flesh, skin, breasts and beauty. She embraced the philosophy of the founder of the Radar Station, Ron Evans, and in partnership with him started to dream about a burlesque performance. What would it look like? How would the event turn out? They asked the questions and Skylar took the leap, became Moxie Rose, and the Radar Dames were born.
Originally a troupe of four women who, like Skylar, each have their own stage names: Moxie Rose, TNT, Kitty Katastrophe and Gypsy Moon were the first of what is now a troupe of ten performers. Burlesque, from the Italian word mockery, was originally meant to be a performance that parodies some of societies more serious situations in an often comedic and provocative way. The image that comes to my mind is of a bold, fishnet clad, jovial woman, strutting and teasing a rowdy crowd as she executes her performance. Though thick with feminine strength and mystique Skylar clarifies that the burlesque art form embraces all genders, ages and body-types. It is about feeling confident and proud in your skin and making a statement while embracing sexuality not repressing it.
Her goal now is to bring burlesque to the men and women of Wenatchee. To introduce and invite onlookers, and others who are interested, to participate in a class that will run six to eight weeks and end in a performance in front of family and friends… maybe more. The question is whether Wenatchee is ready for burlesque. Skylar made a request on Facebook for people to attend an “Intro to Burlesque” video session in preparation for the newly envisioned classes. I said “Yes!” as did a number of my bold and brave lady friends. We showed up at the Radar Station, listened to Skylar share the history and intention of burlesque and strutted our stuff, flung feather boas, swished and shimmied in removable skirts. And we laughed!
We were silly and carefree, like girls playing dress up, only we weren’t girls, we were women. We dressed up to flirt and seduce and laugh at ourselves and with each other. It felt amazing to be in a safe place, to dress (or undress) on purpose to be sexy. I was not judged by my lady friends, we were sultry and sexy and risque together! We got tips from Skylar and the other burlesque performers on how to move more provocatively; deliberately tempting, teasing and seducing an imaginary audience with our motions. It was liberating to move my body in time with music in alluring and explicit ways. I am a sexual being and the freedom to express it safely was empowering.
Of course all our parts stayed covered and our novice techniques left much room for improvement but I think we all walked away from the lesson standing a little taller and feeling sexier. It was more the idea of actually doing it that was exciting than the execution. Could I really perform like this in front of others, for fun and for freedom? How much skin would I show? How damaged would my reputation be in certain circles? These thoughts swirl around in my mind like the skirt did around my waist. I think I’d quite like to make up a light-hearted, sexually expressive burlesque performance of my own. I’ve imagined what my stage name might be. But... do I dare?! Definitely for my own (and my husband’s) sensual pleasure I would learn more about this art form. Maybe, just maybe, in a private setting, amongst my other brave friends who understand the intrigue I could dare to bare some skin I normally keep under clothing. I wonder and imagine and I eagerly await more information on when and what the structure of the Radar Dames burlesque classes will be and maybe, just maybe, this modest writer-lady will sign-up!