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What does Burlesque mean to Sadie Sly?

As a girl who never quite measured up to societies standards of physical beauty, I struggled in my younger years to feel confident in my body. As someone who is quite creative and musical, I always wanted to go to dance classes as a kid but my mum always encouraged me to sing and play instruments because she felt I did not have the frame of a dancer. My sister, on the other hand, was thin, tall, and lithe – I was so jealous of her ballet classes and modelling workshops.

When I turned 18, I was working full time while studying my music degree and I finally had enough money to get a personal trainer. My trainer worked me hard and with some unhealthy dieting, I got down to a more acceptable body type. With my newly found confidence in my ever shrinking waistline, and a dream to move to Europe, I discovered pole dance first!

When the time came to move to Europe (with a healthy bank balance), I settled into my new life overseas…. but something was missing. I missed dancing sooooooo much. The dance classes were a little too expensive for what I could afford on my retail salary, but fate intervened and I happened across an advertisement in a local paper looking to audition dance teachers for a dance school.

I sent them an email letting them know I had zero formal dance training but would they let me audition – and they said yes! So I went along, the interview went great, the audition was fun, and even though I had no idea what I was doing, they recognized my abilities and my passion.

They hired me, formally trained me, and within 6 months I was teaching my own classes. I taught pole dancing (at both beginner and intermediate levels), burlesque, striptease, can can, and many many hen’s/bachelorette parties! I got opportunities to perform at private and corporate events. I was 21 year old. And I never felt more sexy.

The confidence I had gained from dancing and performing changed me as a person. I felt brave and beautiful. I felt driven and desired. But there was still something missing. I didn’t love myself. I still struggled with the girl in the mirror. She still wasn’t what I wanted to see.

The more I learned about dancing, the more I studied the history of the burlesque performers who have come before us. The inspiring stories from the female performers like Gypsy Rose, Lili St. Cyr and Blaze Starr taught me so much about the struggle of women to progress in society.

They would perform risqué routines that were very progressive and daring in the time of prohibition. They became icons for progress!

So I realized that I needed to be my own icon for progress. I needed society to see me and to know that I am sexy, and I am worthy - no matter what their standards say. I needed to show other women that we are all sexy, and we are all worthy.

So what does Burlesque mean to me?

It means progress.

It means unashamedly being who I am.

It means self-love.

Sadie Sly, teacher at Burlesque Luxembourg

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