Imagine yourself on stage, bathed in the warm glow of the spotlight. You’re feeling confident, sensual, and alive – teasing and tempting the audience. This captivating confidence, this art of seduction – is the power of burlesque.
Burlesque is more than just an erotic performance art. It’s a way to embrace your sensuality, connect with community, and tap into your desires – both on and off stage.
In this episode, Lorrae chats with Evana De Lune, Australian burlesque performer and workshop host, on the history of burlesque, the allure of the taboo, and the power of performance art to feel fully embodied and confident in our erotic selves.
The History of Burlesque and A Collection of Grandma’s Nudes
Lorrae: I am so inspired by your work – it’s so playful, adventurous, and fun, and [burlesque is] such a beautiful way to express ourselves, our sensuality, and eroticism. What got you into burlesque and inspired to play with these erotic, sensual themes through your art and your work?
Evana: I think I first really, really started to delve into at least the really erotic side of Burlesque through finding Dita Von Teese and finding her other side of her work.
I also was really, really inspired by Bettie Page growing up. I used to see all of her girl next door photos, seeing how she looked and seeing how she presented herself and also how highly society regarded these women, even though historically you could look into all of the naughty things that they got up to on the side, and they still were seen as very high-class beautiful women.
That was something that, when I got into burlesque, wasn’t necessarily always shown or that wasn’t always the thing that we focused on in class. We were focusing on doing big bumps and grinds and doing very, very vulgar movements.
But then to see how women throughout history were able to market and present themselves and show off this other side of them and still be regarded as people who deserved respect, deserved adoration was exciting for me because it was something that I was really interested in.
I was really interested in erotic art and I was someone who loved to consume erotic art. I loved to look around and see these beautiful people expressing themselves and I just wanted to be a part of the fun really.
Lorrae: I love that you mentioned Dita Von Teese and Bettie Page because back when they were coming up, it was still in the fringes and taboo and these pieces of society were hidden.
And even I think about Marilyn Monroe now, we look back and we say, oh, these powerful erotic icons that were this embodiment of sensuality and femininity. But at the time, they were both highly regarded and while still kind of shameful and stigmatized. It was as if living on the edges of these taboos is both part of the appeal and also ends up being a source of shame for women.
Evana: Well, that’s taboo in general. It’s so exciting and yet so scary in a way. You’re not supposed to touch it, but the people that do are just so exciting.
So, I always loved looking at them. I always loved looking at their art, and there were so many books.
I think the first book that I got of Dita’s was “Burlesque and The Art of the Teese” and on the other side it was the “Fetish and the Art of the Teese” and I would always proudly show that other side. I always had that fetish side up and I wanted to look at all of those images and look at all of those fringe photos. I loved the idea as well; not just about Dita but watching and seeing all of these erotic histories and going through these archives of all of these really old photos of nude women and lewd women and people just expressing themselves.
I love the idea of being a grandma one day and having the biggest most vulgar collection of photos of myself throughout every stage of my life.
Lorrae: I love that. I say that to myself now. I’m in my 30s and I’m like, “I should have taken more nudes when I was in my 20s.” So I’m just going to take them all now because when I’m 40, I’m going to look back and be like, “I want the titties from when I was 30.”
And there is something really culturally powerful about getting to embody that self-expression and share it through your art.
Inclusivity in Burlesque and The Sexiness In Everyone
Lorrae: How have you found that burlesque has helped you to step into your own erotic embodiment and feel free to express yourself in life or in partnerships or just going around the world and feeling more authentic and embodied?
Evana: I think it’s one of the most powerful forms of expressions that there is. I think anytime I meet anyone in life that’s feeling self-conscious or self-doubt or lacks a little bit of confidence, I just say do a burlesque class. Honestly, it’s going to change your entire mindset of what is right and what is wrong and how you should feel about yourself.
I remember the first time I got into burlesque and actually did a class. I was so astounded by how supportive the environment was. And I think it’s more about the support rather than the actual work, because you can do sexy dance moves anywhere. But to actually be amongst people who are like-minded or going through similar things, people from all walks of earth just really embracing themselves.
I remember seeing women of every shape and size, every age dancing in the same routine as women who are 65 and you know aren’t stereotypically what society thinks is sexy but thinking they were the sexiest people alive and thinking, “Oh my god, how can I be more like these incredibly empowered women?”
And to have those same people also look up to you and say “Wow, you’re amazing as well,” it’s just a big positive fest where we all just create love for each other and movement. Through nice words and we all help each other get ready before, it’s just this big coven, a real community.
It’s all about the community for me. I think being able to get into that and see these people be a part of it, and fearlessly be a part of it and not worry about repercussions, that’s just what it’s all about really.
Lorrae: Yeah, it’s really this source of empowerment and community.
And I love the word coven. I think that that’s such a powerful word because our sensuality is sometimes this witchy magic where we get to play with it and flirt and tease. And when you think about burlesque, it’s like the art of seduction and that playfulness kind of taking over.
Was there like a pivotal moment in your journey that really helped you to tap into that energy?
Evana: I’ve done a lot of workshops with as many people as I could. It was the first workshop that I ever did and found out how easy it was to get into. I think it was a barrier for me at least. I’m someone who can be quite shy at times or who doesn’t really like to take steps to get into the action step.
And I think once my girlfriend at the time had taken me to that class and I realized how easy it was to book, how easy it was to get there, how easy it was to walk through the door and how nice everyone was when I got there, it was just no holding back at that point.
So I decided that I was going to learn from as many people as I could because I think when you are learning anything you probably should learn from as many people as you can because everybody has different teaching styles and everyone has different aspects that they bring to the table. Burlesque itself is so individual so it’s important to not just have a secular view of what something is because you need to expand those horizons.
There’s a few key people who really pushed me and made me feel really excited about it and one of them is my mentor, Velma Vuillois, who also has a really good podcast about sex and sexuality, you would love it.
She really pushed me into getting into the more sensual side of it and listening to her talk and move and watching her really express her sensuality on stage made me so excited about it as well and so just the more I watched and the more I participated and the more I got into it, the more I just soaked up this energy and I feel like it was this energy that I had been denying in myself for a really long time.
I feel like that’s a really big part of it is all of that’s within everyone. We are inherently very sexual people, we are just a sexual species we need it to survive, we need it to thrive and a lot of us deny it for many reasons and we push it away and we say, okay, that’s not for me.
I don’t need to access that part of myself, but freeing yourself and giving yourself permission to really, really express yourself is so powerful. So for me, it was all about voyeurism and being able to actually express pleasure so that people could see that and give themselves the permission to do it as well.
My favorite thing about performing is getting off stage and hearing how people took that or how people were inspired by that. I get a lot of feedback saying, “Oh I saw you do that and I feel like maybe I could also do that.” That’s exactly what I want to hear. I want to hear people excited about it. I want to hear people wanting to get into it because they want to express themselves too, and I think that’s just the power of burlesque is its inspiration.
Lorrae: It so resonates with me when you say that it’s this energy that we deny in ourselves for such a long time, and we deserve to be free and give ourselves permission because I grew up with so much shame around my sexuality. I heard that it needed to be hidden or ashamed of.
Even just like dancing in front of the mirror alone would feel uncomfortable in my own skin, but then learning to just embrace that and then even going further to be able to share that, talk about it, whether it’s with a partner or like a private strip tease or whether you’re performing on stage and expressing your eroticism is just so empowering to be able to fully step into that.
And then once you do, now I feel like I can walk around the supermarket in sweatpants and a t-shirt and I still feel hot because I’m just like glowing on that energy, you know?
Magic Wand Vibrators and Props in Burlesque
Lorrae: I know that there’s so many different props that are included in performances. It’s not just the lingerie, but there’s like the BDSM gear, maybe like whips and floggers.
And we’ve actually been chatting a lot about the cultural impact and history of the Magic Wand, and how it’s this cultural icon for pleasure. I’ve seen art that has Bettie Page-esque pinup girls riding a Magic Wand rocket. And I’m curious what types of props you love to incorporate when you’re kind of doing these more kinky, fringe performances.
Evana: I have seen the Magic Wand used on stage many, many times, like pulled out of a lovely little sex toy box. I know people pick it up at the end and they use it as a little microphone. I’ve seen it and it’s a good time.
I personally do use sex toys on stage. Not the way that you would expect, but I do have an act that uses a lovely 9.5 inch dildo, but I also love using canes, floggers, what else, paddles, more of the BDSM side. I like the idea that you know my performances make an impact.
Lorrae: For a while over COVID, I was hosting virtual sex parties and I would do little performances where I would take a flogger and trace it all over or even a Magic Wand, and you’re not actually using it as you said in the way that people would expect.
Maybe you’re kind of hidden with your legs up and you’re just like, oh, where’s it gonna go? Like, is it gonna go on my nips? Is it going on my back? I don’t know. And it’s this playful game because as soon as they see that iconic imagery or that toy or a flogger, it’s already lighting up those excited parts of the brain, even if you never end up using it in a sexual context.
Evana: Yeah, I think it’s those associated feelings that make it so exciting as well. People know how that feels. People know how these toys or these things should or do feel.
So when you do use them on performances or in performances, you can have that audience’s associated feelings with whatever you’re using.
If in your case with that Magic Wand and to see your audience member to be like, “Oh, I know that vibration,” And then to use it on yourself gives them that associated feeling, so they can have those little shivers for themselves. It’s appealing to the senses is what it’s all about.
Mantras for Confidence on Stage
Lorrae: What really gets you in the zone before you step on stage to do a performance?
Evana: It’s a mantra for me. I have backgrounds in a lot of holistic spirituality things, especially in my family and growing up.
So for me, it’s all about taking really, really big, meaningful breaths before I step out on stage or even if I’m on stage and my music has started, that’s when I start taking those really full breaths and it’s all about telling yourself whatever you need to tell yourself to get yourself in the zone.
For me it’s like, “I’m a goddess, I’m incredible, I’m the best person alive, I can do anything, you are so sexy, you can absolutely do this, you’ve trained your whole life for this, you’ll be fine.” Just like repeating those things in your head even just right before you go out, even if you don’t believe them.
And I definitely don’t believe all of them all of the time, but it’s about changing that mindset right away because if you’ve got that nervousness or you’ve got that self-doubt, which can creep in at any point.
If you’re going to step out and dance in front of a hundred people, I’m sure you’re going to have some level of nervousness, so for me it’s all about “Okay, stop, reset, take those breaths.”
Join us in this episode as we explore how iconic figures like Bettie Page and Dita Von Teese paved the way for future femme fatales to go on an artistic journey of erotic reclamation. Today, inclusivity and empowerment are at the heart of burlesque, with thriving communities that build each other up, regardless of body type, race, nationality, disability, or age.
Burlesque gives everyone a voice – a chance to stand center stage and revel in the applause.
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