Contributor: Paul Paiva, M.Div., M.A.
“I wouldn’t go to a burlesque show with someone I had just met, not because there’s anything wrong with it, just because it’s not me.”
This is the response I received from a lady friend with whom I had had a first date. During that date we were both engaged with each other’s energy. After ninety minutes of conversation over coffee at Vic’s I felt confident that we had a fabulous rapport. We agreed to meet again. A few days later I invited her on a second date to see a “conscious burlesque show at the Dairy this weekend”.
I know that six months ago I may not have wanted to go to a burlesque show, either. Her response to me, while disappointing, seems completely appropriate. I have blown any chance of a second date with her.
I have to analyze my own motives. How has my interest in burlesque evolved?
In my youth, burlesque to me connoted something dirty. I grew up in the seventies when words like porn and homosexuality were not mentioned at the family dinner table. Indeed they were not even acknowledged to be part of English vocabulary.
Last summer I attended a sexuality discussion group, called Sex Talk, led by Jenna Noah and Lucy Wallace. Both these ladies are practicing psychotherapists and graduates of the psychology program at Naropa University. They founded this group because they recognize our society has few forums where the breadth of sexuality can be acknowledged, much less nurtured. The group discussions were amazing. Participants shared deeply of themselves: stories of desire and arousal, and of the successes and difficulties in sexual relationships. I found this to be a safe environment; it was refreshing to be vulnerable for ninety minutes without any fear of being scorned or hurt, or of my spirit being squelched. This feeling of liberation spilled into my day-to-day life as a tonic that revived my post-divorced spirit.
I later learned that Jenna’s stage name is Madame Merci, and she also does workshops and performances in conscious burlesque. I heard of an upcoming event, The Seduction of Madness, to be held at the Dairy Center for the Arts in September 2014. But for me burlesque was still on the fringe and not something that interested me. I didn’t want that tarnishing my reputation. Until I learned that a fellow attendee of the sexuality discussion group, Greg, was going to perform in the show. He and I had gone out for beers and vino a couple of times; he was a new buddy.
So my first experience of burlesque was to support my friend Greg in his performance. This event was a play with eight scenes based on the late psychotherapist Edward Podvoll’s book, The Seduction of Madness. The show had ample titillating shots of shaking booty, yet a thought-provoking inner-journey as well. A story of the stages of psychosis seen through the lens of burlesque.
In the weeks after, I watched dozens of YouTube videos of “regular” burlesque, and attended a live show in Boulder. Fun. Interesting. I get it. “Regular” burlesque is a jocose risqué parody that revels in sexuality in the numerous places where our society is typically prudish. As such, it does us a great service.
Last night I attended my second show of conscious burlesque called Love & Loss at the Dairy. It sizzled. I found it even more satisfying than “regular” burlesque. It wasn’t just gorgeous booty. It is a story of human psyche, of love gained and love lost. I think of The Arts encompassing all aspects of creative expression. Isn’t creation the hallmark of sexuality?
Dating advisors say “do your passion” and there you will meet compatible people to date. Ok. My passion is conscious burlesque.
Paul Paiva, M.Div., M.A.