The Big Tease

Giving saucy, glamorous burlesque a go-go.

Illustration by Kirsten Ulve.

Illustration by Kirsten Ulve.

Visions of Dita Von Teese splashing around in a giant martini glass fill my mind as I walk toward the tucked-away Boston Academy of Burlesque Education (ahem, BABE) in Allston. I muster all my courage and enter the studio for the first of four “Introduction to Burlesque” sessions. Run by the Boston Babydolls, the series covers the brass tacks of striptease: bumps, shimmies, disrobing, and, finally, pasties and tassel twirling.

The neo-burlesque movement first hit New York and Los Angeles in the mid-’90s, and Boston caught on to the artful, less-is-more striptease trend a few years later: The Babydolls have been titillating audiences since 2005, and other local troupes include Rogue Burlesque (look for their classes at the Boston Center for Adult Education) and Babes in Boinkland, who produce The Slutcracker holiday show.

Do I have what it takes to join their ribald ranks? Though I know this initial 90-minute class will be centered on tame basics like struts and glove removal, I can’t help feeling awkward as I stand with four other women in front of the mirror.

“It’s about the tease, not the strip,” BABE and Boston Babydolls cofounder Mina Murray (a.k.a. Miss Mina) told me before class. “The important part is not that the clothes are off. It’s how they come off.”

Miss Mina puts on jazz tunes and shows us the “bump,” a sharp hip check—“what you do when your arms are full of groceries and you need to close the car door,” she says. We try three variations, and after 15 minutes of fiendish hip thumping among strangers, I’m feeling a bit uncomfortable. But when we start to peel off our elbow-length gloves, I remember Mina’s advice: “The class is all about you. Don’t worry about what [anyone else is] doing.” It works — by ignoring the other students in the room, I can channel my inner sex kitten without feeling self-conscious. Shedding my gloves is PG fun, and I’m enjoying my newfound nerve. Could pasties be in my future? Anything’s possible.

$30 per class ($25 in advance); Boston Academy of Burlesque Education, 119 Braintree St., Allston, 617-869-2000, bostonbabydolls.net

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