I worked by day as a palliative care nurse. I spent many hours at the bedside with families and caring for people who were nearing the end of their life. By night I often was sewing and learning choreography which almost always climaxed with a jubiliant, dynamic and glittering pastie reveal. Not many people whom I worked with knew the details of my creative life and few of my sequined family knew the details of my professional life, both rich and full as they were.
For many years I couldn't quite explain why palliative care nursing and burlesque stripteasing existed so harmoniously together for me. When my "life plan" (ha!) fell apart last year I searched everywhere to understand how my passions could fit together with my work. I could not for the life of me figure out how creativity / sexuality overlapped with wellness / dying. I thank my lucky stars that I bumped into Alex Baisley whose keen listening and insight helped me connect the dots.
Here are the beginning reflections about how death & burlesque are connected for me:
One of the deep joys and honours of working as a palliative care nurse is the ability to hear stories and reflections of people who are keenly aware of their finite time. A universal theme I heard was: Listen to that little voice inside of you. Trust that wisdom, even if it sounds crazy. Actually, especially if it sounds "crazy."
I would hear of stories again and again about the big magic moments in people's lives: how people were able to quiet and still themselves enough to hear the little voice of their inner wisdom. This stillness and silence was often the wellspring of wisdom that informed game-changing decisions in life or career, for partnership or self-discovery. The way people spoke about these points in time always touched me; they shared the vulnerability of not-knowing and of stretching out to hear the subtle impressions / callings of their wisdom. In different stories I heard again and again of big-gulp-moments, moments of where there came a leap in intention, a commitment to follow their teeny voices. I delighted in hearing about the wonderment, joy, challenges and rewards of listening to their little teeny inside voices. In this stillness, this inward listening seemed to help people feel their way to lightness. In the quiet people would move towards what drew them by affinity. These decisions often demanded trust, faith, patience and balls. It was through listening to these stories that I slowly gathered enough courage and boldness to put myself out there by at first going to burlesque shows then learning how do perform. What moved me? What were my allurements? Burlesque drew me with its fierce ingenuity, intelligent discourses, gorgeous glittering beauty and titty-shaking-bum-wiggling FUN. It was quite a leap for a painfully shy girl who had grown up in a traditional Catholic family.
More importantly, I found that performing and the burlesque community were an important means for me to keep balanced in my demanding field of work. Burlesque connected me to an amazing community of inspiring artists, audience, photographers, costumers and make-up artists. At once I had a large, beautiful, sparkling, international family who continue to challenge and enrich my creative life through their dynamic evolution and passion.
Dancing dorky orange at Screaming Chicken Theatrical
Society's Taboo Revuve, photo by Greg McKinnon (2011)
Performing burlesque also became an honouring ritual for me over time. I would think of people who I had been fortunate enough to work with and allow my emotions to flow through my performance. This helped me transform any grief and heaviness I carried into joy, love and wonderment as a tribute to their unique lives. It may sound grandiose, especially since I often danced as plush fruit, but for me, it was sincere and profoundly helpful as part of my self-care.
I highly encourage you to go and enjoy an evening of burlesque as this will be some of the finest onstage all year. There's nothing like watching some amazing burlesque to make you come alive in more ways than one :)
In effervescent cheeky delight,
I love sharing. I would like to share an awesome infographic and article which prompted me to compose these words.
Next I'd like to introduce you to Jes, The Militant Baker: