Meryle Trouble says she does everything “ass backwards”. That’s one of the reasons why she got into burlesque dancing. She wanted to end the self-conscious attitude towards her breasts.
“I felt the easiest way to get over my body issues was to force myself into a situation where I had to be very exposed and without a top,” she said.
Now that Trouble, 29, is a professional burlesque dancer and she says her performing helped her. The idea of “body politics” that exists in burlesque has always intrigued her. This means there is no body type that is better for burlesque than another.
Before she started burlesque dancing, she says she went to a show and where she saw women of all shapes and sizes on stage.
“A dancer went up and I thought to myself, everyone thinks she is awesome,” Trouble said. “Then I thought, maybe I’m not so bad either.”
And that’s what burlesque really is about to a lot of people. Different and confident bodies fill the stage. Trouble says, it’s a misconception that burlesque dancers are all women who fit a perfect hourglass look. At least when it comes to breasts, dancers come in all different moulds. And seeing these breasts nearly naked is never an anomaly. They jump and twirl and inspire confidence in the women that perform it. In contrast to a strip show, burlesque is nit about taking off your clothes for money. Trouble says it is preforming a story that “ends kind of naughty.” She also believes, burlesque isn’t about giving your sexuality away, but empowering it.
Fellow Toronto burlesque dancer Coco Framboise takes a different approach to this. She says breasts are “bubbly bits” that women have, yet it’s in our nature to be constantly surprised and delighted by them in any given performance.
“I want to see how (burlesque dancing) makes me feel about my body,” Framboise said. “I’m amused about all this excitement about bodies because it’s not like we don’t know what’s beneath the layers, yet every time we’re intrigued.”
She says she is charmed by this.
Framboise and Trouble also include something in their act called tassel twirling. This is where tassels are attached to the pasties that are glued to the performers’ nipples. When the dancer moves or bounces in a certain way the tassels spin. This is very common in burlesque routines. Trouble says her breasts are “on the larger side”, but it’s never hindered her from doing anything in a performance, such as tassel twirling.
“I’m a large-chested girl so I’m a bit saggy and not really perky,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you don’t look exactly like a Playboy (magazine model).”
Dolly Berlin, 22, is another burlesque performer. She says she’s the perfect example how smaller breasts work in burlesque just as well as larger ones.
“If the boobs were the only punch line, then I wouldn’t have much of one,” she said.
She says because of her breast size she often has to work harder to find different ways to make her routine fun and interesting.
“If I had C cup breasts, it would be great,” Berlin said. “I could go up there, do less and then take my top off and that’s the show.”
Trouble says the audiences at burlesque shows typically don’t mind the size of a performer’s breasts. This is probably a good thing for the moments when the dancers get butterflies in their stomach.
Burlesque dancer Betty Quirk, 21, says the first time most dancers go on stage is always the scariest for them. Though she says she’s now very at home with her body and her performances, it’s not always a cake walk, but it’s always fun.
“All of the sudden your body is saying, ‘Look at my boobs!’” she said. “You can’t ignore them. They’re mesmerizing.”
And it’s a good thing the audience will pretty much always agree, because as Framboise says, “Breasts are fun,” and feels that it’s imperative that everyone doesn’t take themselves too seriously. This is important because as we now know, even burlesque dancers feel self-conscious sometimes.
“The fact that I’m not judged for it is what I really want,” Trouble said.
Despite what some may think burlesque is never demoralizing, according to Trouble. In fact, Trouble, Framboise, Berlin and Quirk have all said burlesque dancing is “a lot of fun.”
That makes a lot of sense because Quirk says the word “burlesque” comes from the word “burlesco.” That is an Italian word for absurdity.