Amy Jane Von Purr on bringing burlesque to Self Love Week

amy jane von purr
Photo by Jenny Fisher.

After the success of last autumn’s ‘Babe-Lesque’, Amy Jane Von Purr is once again bringing Burlesque worskhops back to Sadleir with a free, one night workshop during Self-Love Week then and 8-week long course in Burlesque performance starting on February 17.

The course is being brought back and redeveloped (so that people who took the first one can take this one as well to continue their pursuit) largely as a result of popular request and enthusiasm for the first one. “I’m really excited about this,” she says, “I may actually have to put a cap on the number of students that can enrol.”

“Its not something I wanted to do (putting a cap on enrolment) but it was necessitated by space constraints,” she continues, “I was really overwhelmed by the level of enthusiasm for burlesque here and I wanted to do it again.”

“I had been approached by the Trent Queer Collective last year to do a work shop for Self-Love Week last year and it was a fantastic success. The idea behind the self-love workshop is to promote the actual classes while giving people a taste to see if this is something they’d be really interested in.

According to Purr, Burlesque and Self-Love are a perfect fit for each other, “A heavy influence for me was this idea of body confidence, a theme which we had approached with ‘Babelesque’,”she says. “With these classes the emphasis is finding your inner ‘babe’ and being comfortable in your own body.” She continues: “Burlesque shouldn’t be just about having your audience respond to you, it should be about loving yourself and showing the audience how much you love being up there performing.”

Part of the workshop’s goals, she explains, “is finding and celebrating the parts of your body you love and incorporating them and your own talents into creating a persona and performance. A lot of performers often have backgrounds in acrobatics, ballet, fire poi, and bellydance. My background is in bellydance, for example, so there’s a lot of bellydance in the way that I teach.”

Keeping with the theme of Self Love, one of the homework assignments is called Mirror Stage (a reference to Lacan, she is a PhD student in Cultural Studies after all). Purr explains it as “Students have to go home and spend 5 minutes looking at themselves in the mirror naked. They can’t look away and they have to spend the whole 5 minutes looking at themselves, and at the end of it they have to write down three things that they notice.”

Explains Purr, “This serves to be a very intense experience. It can be very difficult to encounter you nude form in such a concentrated way as we’re not used to having to just sit and look at ourselves in that way very often.”

Students don’t need to have previous experience with Burlesque to join, says Purr, “Most students have some idea of what burlesque is from somewhere in pop-culture. For example they know who Dita Von Teese is but have probably never seen an entire performance. And of course, clearing up several of the misconceptions, most commonly that Burlesque is not stripping, something I’ve had to explain to my mom several times!”

Purr continues, “Most people come in and they’re interested and say “I don’t want to strip and no one wants to see me strip” to which I say, “well, you don’t have to strip and everyone wants to see a confident and happy performer on stage; that’s what matters most”.

“Its important to understand the history and revival of Burlesque which has a lot of comedic elements and a lot of what we see now is neo-burlesque and taking classic Burlesque and puts different twists on it. I come from the more classic background. Its all about the art of the tease, you’re not showing, you’re unveiling a little bit of something, intimating at, and tantalizing the audience.”

Most important to Purr though, is that students learn how to have fun performing, “If a performer isn’t enjoying themselves on stage then it shows. Burlesque should be all about enjoying one’s self.”