Level Up! Starting Your Burlesque Journey with Vaudezilla Studios

Hello burlesque enthusiasts and burly-curious kittens! 


I sincerely hope you have all been staying warm and safe this week in Chicago. Can you believe this snow?! Personally, I can’t believe it’s taken this long to get to us. 


Follow us on FaceBook and Instagram and see EXCLUSIVE backstage photos & videos

Follow us on FaceBook and Instagram and see EXCLUSIVE backstage photos & videos – pictured from left to right: Heidi Seek, Fawn Fury, Colette Coquette, and Raven Gemini

Should you find yourself pining for something hotter (and naughtier) than a hot cocoa, give Vaudezilla a follow on Instagram or like us on FaceBook for exclusive content from your favorite Chicago burlesque artists. 😉 


How are those New Year’s Resolutions coming along? Great? No so great? Some resolutions take A LOT of work, discipline, starts/stops, and time. Which is why I, personally, like to make my New Year’s Resolutions a little…less specific. Perhaps as a society we could change New Year’s “Resolutions” to New Year’s Affirmations


I’ll work on getting the world to change that. 


I do sincerely believe that the beginning of any new year is a great time to try new things. We have a collective motivation to breathe life anew into ourselves for the better.


I’ve started teaching an introductory class at Vaudezilla for students with limited exposure to burlesque called Level 1/2 Burlesque. On the first day of class I usually ask my students what they are hoping to get out of their experience in Level 1/2. I’ve noticed a few themes and common goals between students:


  • They want to try something different.
  • They want to have fun while working out.
  • They want to feel sexy and use their bodies in ways they haven’t before.
  • They’ve admired burlesque from afar and want to dive deeper into the art form. 
  • They want to practice self-love. 


One answer to this question struck me in this current class session. One of my students said that she wanted to practice something that would bring her joy.


Vaudezilla students discovering their divine power Photo by Erica McKeehen

Vaudezilla students discovering their divine power
Photo by Erica McKeehen


I LOVED this answer, and I started to reflect on my own burlesque journey. When I finished my first Level 1/2 class and performed on stage at the student showcase, that is precisely how I felt – Joyful


I had the opportunity to talk with some Vaudezilla-affiliates about their experiences taking a Burlesque Level 1/2 Class at Vaudezilla, and am so excited to share them with you!


Perhaps you can find some inspiration to give the art of burlesque a go. We’d love to meet you! <3 


Beef Erikson

Vaudezilla Student & Chicago Burlesque Performer 

(Catch him perform at Vaudezilla! Burlesque Spectacular – Truly, Madly, Sweetly on Feb 14th!)

Beef Erickson sweeping the audience off their feet! Photo by Singing Raven Photography

Beef Erikson sweeping the audience off their feet!
Photo by Singing Raven Photography

Honestly, my favorite thing about my 1/2 class was my classmates.  I was so nervous going in as a guy, and even though “All genders accepted” was listed, I was still unsure as to how folx would feel about someone who looks like me being in the class.  But I was greeted with open arms by my teacher and my classmates, and they helped to make the environment so supportive and enjoyable. Many of them are still folx that I’m friends with, and we support each other on our burlesque journeys. 


I took a lot away from that first class.  I always wondered whether I could really perform burlesque.  I always found it interesting, but didn’t see a lot of guys like me doing it.  But Annie was so supportive, and the choreography was easy enough to pick up, but still just challenging enough that it was outside of my comfort zone…it was the perfect balance.  My confidence in myself as a performer grew quite a bit, and continues to grow with each subsequent class I’ve taken with Vaudezilla.  


On top of the personal growth was a lot of terminology and basic understanding of the burlesque art form.  Getting to actually do a performance at the end of the class was so cool, as it was a confidence builder but also gave me a first hand experience with what it takes to prep and run a burlesque show.  Seeing the backstage prep, talking through ideas with my classmates, and ultimately seeing all of the various class ideas come to fruition in unique ways really piqued my interest and left me wanting more burlesque in my life.


Ramona Romance (Hey, that’s me!)

Vaudezilla Company Member & Instructor at Vaudezilla Studios

Ramona Romance knows what the audience wants to see Photo by Erica McKeehen

Ramona Romance makin’ the audience wait for it!
Photo by Erica McKeehen

My burlesque journey began in Red Hot Annie’s Burlesque Level 1/2 class at Vaudezilla. My best friend and I signed up using a Groupon that she had found, and we had no idea what to expect. I had always admired the burlesque aesthetic, but wasn’t certain if doing burlesque was attainable for me. I was fighting a lot of insecurities at the time and wasn’t sure if I really had the guts to strip down to my underwear in front of an audience, but I decided to say F@$& it and give burlesque a real go. 


In addition to learning burlesque and dance techniques, Annie had us do a few exercises that focused on stage presence. It was here that I realized that there were so many parallels between burlesque and my everyday life. Annie had us experiment with holding “big” postures and “taking up space”. 


My biggest takeaway from my Level 1/2 class was that I was WORTHY. Worthy of being in class. Worthy of taking up space. Worthy of attention. Worthy of being unapologetically ME.


As for the physical aspects of burlesque classes, my body has become so much stronger and I’m able to do things that I never thought I’d be able to do. Would you believe that I couldn’t even touch my toes when I started burlesque?? The teaching staff at Vaudezilla all provide invaluable insights into body mechanics, dance technique, and realizing your true self-worth. 


Shirley Blazen

Chicago Burlesque Performer & Vaudezilla Studios Instructor

(Check out her slapstick burlesque troupe, The Screwbelles!) 

Shirley Blazen servin' up smiles! Photo by Jenna Braunstein

Shirley Blazen servin’ up smiles!
Photo by Jenna Braunstein

My favorite thing about Level 1/2 Burlesque is building a community with the people in class. It is such an uplifting environment where we become so invested in one another’s success and happiness. It’s not easy to find a safe space where people encourage one another to open up and let their light shine and this is where it begins!


This class empowered me to explore and celebrate how my body feels and moves, which may never have happened if it wasn’t for Vaudezilla! The greatest takeaway was discovering that I am worthy and don’t need anyone’s “permission” to feel confident and love my body!

Preview Vaudezilla’s next class session HERE and see if anything strikes your fancy. 😉 We can’t wait to dance the new roarin’ ’20s away with you! 

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