Health & Fitness

By Stephanie Nolasco

Waltzing on a dimly lit stage with tulip pink chiffon following every strut, Jo Weldon or “Jo Boobs” glides on her Polly mules, slowly peeling off the glittering layers of her evening gown that dare conceal her ivory skin sparkling on flashing camera lights. With each howl of a saxophone and every clap from a whistling viewer, she bats her eyelashes, brushes her fiery red hair, and slowly caresses her never-ending curves. After moments of anticipation, Weldon proudly displays her famous assets. It’s a typical night for one of the reigning leaders of the neo-burlesque movement in New York City. She’s famous for her pinup figure and thankfully, any woman yearning for a fun way to shake things up can look just as fabulous with a new summer must-have. Weldon’s The Burlesque Handbook teaches anyone how the toss of a boa and a bump to your grind can boost confidence and get that body ready for its close up.

“Students often tell me that they’re attracted to burlesque because it provides an opportunity to assume a persona, whether that persona is an escape from their daily life or an extension of it,” explains Weldon, the headmistress and founder of The New York School of Burlesque. Many women in the city may feel tired from the usual routine of hopping on a treadmill or doing crunches. While there are countless workout trends, burlesque, which has entertained the masses for over a hundred years, can be a fun alternative for those wanting to look like a stripper. This theatrical form not only affects one’s mental wellbeing, but it also offers an array of physical benefits that gets hearts pumping and hips swiveling.

While Weldon has learn many of the most titillating burlesque moves from past legendary performers, some those neck turning steps come naturally and all help tone bodies in dire need of a pick me up. The “Showgirl Bounce” will have you shimmying and utilizing movements from the hips to tone legs, especially if you’re wearing your best heels. Weldon notes that good posture “can convey that you are confident, relaxed, and aware of the viewer,” plus, from a workout standpoint, modify your abs, showgirl style. For a flatter tummy, women can try the “Rib Pop,” which is meant to make those tassels in your pasties twirl. It’s also used by several belly dancers for stronger stomach muscles. Even Weldon mentions in The Burlesque Handbook that many top dancers “employed pectoral muscle control, shoulder shimmies, and rib cage popping” for expertise tassel twirling, all useful in getting the upper and lower body moving in a way that’ll make sweating look sexy.

One way to get an audience squealing in delight is a slow glove peel or a tempting fanning of feathers, all aiding in long, soft arms meant for a bombshell. Parading with towering Sally Rand fans in stilettos can be a hassle for a beginner, but fret not, all that heavy lifting will provide enough practice for steps you’ll want to show off, like “The Heartbeat” and “Dramatic Cleavage.” Yes, you should add other routines for a more constructive workout, but learning to manage a fan will keep you looking graceful, as well as provide enough energy to incorporate other movements for a breathtaking number that can be done in front of hundreds or just a party of one.

The Burlesque Handbook isn’t strictly an exercise book, but rather a creative manual on the art of tease. Whether you yearn to become a burlesque performer or just want some quick inspiration for creating an hourglass figure, The Burlesque Handbook is a necessity for your library. This summer, don’t be afraid to take it all off!

The New York School of Burlesque has the following two NYC locations:

440 Studios @ 440 Lafayette Street and Coco de Mer @ 236 Elizabeth Street.

Visit http://www.schoolofburlesque.com to learn more and to find class/workshop schedules.

The Burlesque Handbook is available at all major bookstores (Borders, Barnes & Noble, etc) and is available online at Amazon.com.

Originally published July 2010
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