Burlesque proving to be a naughty hit in the capital
Cherry Blossom aka Kaiya Browning of Miss Kitka?s House of Burlesque performing Jungle Fever at the Canberra Irish Club. Photo: Jay Cronan
Canberra women - and even some men - are getting their ''sexy'' back thanks to the glitz of burlesque.
By day Jane Turner, 38, is an ordinary public servant - but by night she dazzles audiences with her showgirl glamour.
Turner didn't have a lot of opportunities to spread her wings as a performer until she took up burlesque two years ago.
Big, bold, burlesque
Bright lights and deep shadows on stage at the show. Photo: Jay Cronan
''I'm trying to get some sexy back,'' she laughs. ''But it's not sleazy. It's about doing it for you - not for the audience.''
She said the dance form helped her and fellow burlesque performers ''discover inner strength''.
''I've reclaimed my femininity,'' Turner said. ''But not in a girly way or a weak way.''
Ash Johnston of Miss Kitka?s House of Burlesque comes off stage after performing Jungle Fever at the Canberra Irish Club. Photo: Jay Cronan
She said her work colleagues would not suspect that their fellow employee in defence affairs would be into something as extravagant as burlesque.
''If they ask me directly I tell them [that I do burlesque],'' she said. ''But I don't go around advertising it.''
Turner is just one of many Canberrans who indulge in burlesque. The dance form is making its mark in Canberra with sell-out shows, growing class sizes and high levels of internet traffic.
Having been barely a blip online a decade ago, Google Trends showed a major spike in interest online with the release of the film Burlesque, and sustained popularity ever since.
Described as naughty, fun, dramatic and extravagant, the stage shows combine early 20th-century music, fashion and showgirl attitude.
Dita Von Teese, dubbed the Queen of Burlesque, has helped popularise the dance form internationally, but it was the 2010 Christina Aguilera film that seems to have fuelled the Australian boom.
The Australian Burlesque Festival, in Canberra last night, has sold out two years running. A quirky take on the genre, a Star Wars-inspired burlesque show, sold out last month.
And people aren't just venturing out to watch - the dance form is being picked up by dance schools.
Miss Kitka's House of Burlesque headmistress Rebecca Gale teaches burlesque at the Canberra Irish Club and the Australian National University, and has this year expanded to doing classes at Tuggeranong Arts Centre.
She hopes to teach classes next year in Belconnen as well, having seen how the film really ''opened people's eyes'' to the dance form.
But Gale also said that the movie represented modern burlesque, and people going to her classes in Canberra should expect something entirely different.
The burlesque Gale teaches is ''traditional and vintage'' with a soundtrack that is pre-1960.
She is open to teaching ''all types'' of people. Anyone over the age of 16 is welcome. Gale said while her burlesque classes were predominantly female, men made up 5 per cent of her students.
She believes burlesque attracts such a wide range of people because it's about ''helping people become comfortable with who they are''.
Latin dance schools have also added burlesque classes to their timetables.
Kokoloco manager Mario Gordon said the classes - now in their second year - have grown in popularity.
''Burlesque is growing and it is greatly impacting the Canberra dance community,'' he said.
Salsabor Dance Company also teaches a more modern take on burlesque. ''There are no nipple tassels, it is a lot more modern and the girls mainly wear corsets, short skirts and thigh-high stockings,'' director Raquel Paez said.