Burlesque, Deportment and Wet-Day PE lesson

burlesque-georgina
Georgina Gale

We had the fabulous Georgina Gale from Art of Dance, Plymouth, come to talk to our WI last week about Burlesque.  Not a usual topic for WI you may be thinking – but maybe you have the wrong idea about burlesque – or the wrong idea about WI ?  🙂

Burlesque is more about the suggestion of sensuality than about sex : WI is about women having fun while learning stuff together.

As Georgina talked it was noticeable that she wanted women to ‘own their space’ to be ‘certain and proud of being a woman – and show it’ and that this was aided by a few minor alterations to how we walked, how we held ourselves, and how we used whatever props came to hand.

At one point I found myself flooded with a memory. A memory that was of a lesson I learned when about thirteen or fourteen and have generally tried to follow – when I remember.

It was a wet day, a really wet day and it was not only PE but our PE teacher was away and so the HE (Home Economics) teacher was covering the lesson. Worse, with only one Gym, the boys and the girls had to take turns on these wet days and it was the boys turn – so we were relegated to the hall. The hall was used for some sports anyway – it had a badminton court marked out on it.

Back in those days teachers were not expected to have lesson plans ready for another member of staff to pick up and use if they were away – so the HE teacher was left to her own devices.

She chose to teach us a little deportment.

Now this may have been usual in some schools (maybe in the nearby Princess Margaret-Rose school for instance) but in our mixed secondary modern it was not on the general curriculum.

She started with walking – as did our Burlesque teacher last week – getting us to walk around the hall following the painted badminton lines, placing one bare foot in front of the other, on the line, as we went. Placing was a good word for it, toe – heel, toe – heel. Those who straddled the line were put right – one foot in front of the other! We were walking with grace – not clumping along.

Then she upped the stakes.

She’d brought along a pile of soft-backed old HE books and now we were to balance one on our head and continue our perambulation. Head up, eyes forward, looking at the line now in the distance. How it straightened backs and shoulders! It sounds stuffy but we had fun – it isn’t easy, that balancing the book on the head stuff – especially when you turn – so there was laughter too!

And so it was in our Burlesque evening (without the books – but with shoes) plenty of laughter but then suddenly we were looking far more confident, all looking taller. You could see how someone walking like that would draw attention, someone looking so confident somehow makes you believe that they know who they are, what they are doing and where they are going – and that confidence is attractive.

It made me think – how often do we as women duck our heads, look at our feet, slouch, unsure what to do without arms? Giving the impression that we are not confident in the world. How much of this is learnt behaviour, learnt ‘feminine’ behaviour? That maybe we have lost some indefinable female power by ignoring, or deliberately turning our backs, on elegance and grace of movement. If you ever watch dancers, off  stage, they still have it – maybe we all need a few lessons.

How often do you see young women ‘clumping’ along (as my teacher put it) like a boy – but with the rest of the body language that says, ‘don’t listen to me, don’t look at me, I don’t know what I’m doing here’ ?

Maybe a little deportment should be taught – maybe under another name? Positional empowerment?

Whereas back in the school hall the teacher finished off by teaching us how sit and how to get in and out of a car elegantly without showing your knickers no matter how short your skirt – very useful in those early mini-skirt days! Georgina added how to stand, so that you are comfortable, your back well supported, (she’s also trained in Pilates), your hands poised in a relaxed position that allowed you to stand tall and look confident – comfortably. (Plus a few cheeky poses and the removal of … gloves 😉 )

What do you think?

Positional empowerment lessons for girls?

A load of old-fashioned nonsense?

Love to hear from you

best  –  Ann

Ok, you can admit it now – you went and got a paperback or magazine and tried walking with it on your head, didn’t you?   😉

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