Burlesque, Belly Dance & Pole Dance in Bangkok: 3 Sensual Ways to Love Your Body
Updated: Mar 8, 2021
Last year, I took an introductory burlesque class. A collaboration between Madame Rouge, Bangkok Rising and Fly Me to the Moon Pole and Aerial Studio, “Burlesque Rising” was a special beginner’s burlesque class that covered modern and vintage burlesque techniques. We learned how to be seductive and command attention while strutting and moving in heels, the art of the tease, and a short dance routine. The class was a lot of fun and helped raise money for charity, but I also left the class feeling empowered, with a renewed sense of sexuality, confidence and femininity.
Performance arts such as burlesque, belly dance and pole dance, which focus on the sensuality of the female body, help cultivate self-love in a uniquely feminine way. They not only require you to physically move your body, but to embrace it; developing a healthy body image, releasing feel-good endorphins and providing a safe space to express creativity, among many other benefits.
Here are three sensual and feminine performance arts that help cultivate self-love, and where you can practice them in Bangkok.
When people hear the word burlesque, they might think of Dita von Teese bathing in a large martini glass, Moulin Rouge dancers, or vintage-style striptease. However, originating in the 17th century, burlesque started as a performance art focusing mostly on parody - poking fun at anything from politics and famous people, to cultural norms and gender roles, including women cross-dressing as men. Striptease was only introduced to burlesque performances towards the end of the 19th century, adding a seductive allure that fascinated audiences; largely women at first, then later men as well.
Lydia Thompson’s burlesque troupe, The British Blondes, is credited for the first onstage tease with their American debut in the 1860s. Noted for risqué jokes, comedy, satire, variety acts and saucy costumes, The British Blondes were the first to combine cabaret with provocative attire.
Skipping forward a couple of centuries, contemporary burlesque also includes this variety; comedy routines, chorus girls, singing and dancing. The art is often divided into three categories: striptease, cabaret and traditional burlesque, all of which encompass humour and wit, celebration of the female body and self-confidence.
“Burlesque is all about confidence,” says Madame Rouge, leader of the Bangkok burlesque troupe of the same name. “It's not about how well you can dance or how flexible you are. It is about telling a story and it is about the tease.”
These days, women can sign up for burlesque classes with no intention of performing for anyone other than themselves. With or without an audience, burlesque encourages women to feel sexy, intelligent, funny and confident in their individuality.
Those looking to learn more about burlesque in Bangkok should follow Maison Rouge, not only home to Madame Rouge’s Burlesque Theatre, but also host to a variety of events that aim to empower women. Past events have included self-defence classes, pelvic floor workshops, women-only speed dating and burlesque classes.
While many people think of pole dancing in a setting such as a strip club, this performance art originally had nothing to do with sex. In fact, the use of poles has been part of acrobatic entertainment since the 12th century and did not involve any stripping or erotic movements until the 1960s, with the first exotic pole dance routine recorded in 1968.
In 1994, Fawnia Mondey held the first pole dancing class for non-performers, starting the world’s first pole dancing school and providing instructional videos that brought pole dancing into a new era. Nowadays, pole dancing is available in dance and fitness studios, combining traditional pole dancing techniques with circus skills, acrobatic skills and more.
Pole dancing combines physical strength with feminine sensuality. Even though there remains a strong stigma surrounding pole dancing and stripping, it is gradually becoming recognized as an art form and a sport. Cirque du Soleil has featured acrobatic pole in some performances, and competitions for pole dancing amateurs and professionals now take place around the world.
What’s more, continuous pole dancing training increases strength and agility, but there are also proven mental benefits to pole dance, including increased self-confidence, as well as stress and anxiety relief.
Pole dancing instruction has even reached Bangkok; classes available at Fly Me to The Moon make it accessible to students no matter their experience:
“When I do pole dance, either a simple spin or a badass trick, I get a chance to really embrace my true self, I learn to trust myself. I allow myself to explore every flaw when I fail and cherish the joy when I accomplish. I love and respect myself for not giving up. Most importantly, it teaches me how to love my body for what it can do, not for what it looks like.” - Kamolthip Tangtheintong, Co-founder of Fly Me to The Moon Pole & Aerial Studio.
A pioneer of pole dancing in Bangkok, Fly Me to the Moon Pole & Aerial Studio offers classes in pole pre-introduction, pole introduction, pole inter-advanced, exotic pole and pole sports, as well as other disciplines, such as aerial hoop, aerial hammock and contemporary dance.
“Belly dance” is a Westernized term that refers to traditional Middle Eastern dancing. The original belly dancers were the Egyptian ghawaziee, a group of travelling dancers who performed in the 18th century. These travellers were banished from Cairo in the 1830s and moved to Upper Egypt, later migrating to the Middle East and Europe.
The Arabic raqs sharqi form of belly dancing developed from the ghawazee troupe, adding an urban twist to the traditional dance form. As popularity grew, belly dancing started to incorporate various other styles of dance including ballet, folk dance styles and Latin dance. Belly dancing became popular in the United States in the 1960s and 70s as a symbol of femininity and female empowerment.
Believed to have been originally performed by women for women, the gyration of the abdomen is said to resemble childbirth. The dance not only strengthens stomach muscles but acts as a form of self-hypnosis as well. To this day, belly dancing is considered an excellent form of prenatal exercise and continues to be used in birthing rituals.
“Belly dance helps reconnect your mind to your body. It teaches how to take ownership of yourself and how to control mind and body. You will improve body awareness and appreciate the body’s beauty.” – Busakorn Chantaravorameth (Apple), Director of rumPUREE dance studio, which was the first in Bangkok to teach belly dance professionally.
For those looking to try belly dance in Bangkok, rumPUREE offers classes in Classical Belly Dance, Tribal Fusion and FCBD Belly Dance. The studio also organises the annual sacred Saturday belly dance recital, as well as the Raks Siam International Belly Dance Festival every two years.
Using Performing Arts to Curate Self-Love
Burlesque, pole dance and belly dance are confidence-boosting body languages. Movement helps us embrace our femininity, sensuality and individuality in ways that we might otherwise not be able to. These art forms teach you to move with confidence, honour your body’s natural abilities and become intimately acquainted with yourself.
By Jantra Jacobs
Jantra Jacobs is a content creator who specializes in blog posts and guides. In her free time, she enjoys writing poetry, reading, and doing yoga. See more of her writing on her website: www.jantrasmantras.com or on Instagram at @jantramantras