Burlesque classes with a twist 

New dance program combines meditation, reflection with dance

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - The B Burlesque dance program in Whistler includes meditation and “mirror work” on top of lessons.
  • Photo submitted
  • The B Burlesque dance program in Whistler includes meditation and “mirror work” on top of lessons.

When Hope Devaney first started offering burlesque classes in Whistler, she focused solely on dance.

But it didn't take long before she realized there was something missing. "I just noticed the girls come into class from work or from their day—it's hard to shake yourself out of where you've come from and get into the headspace of being in the class," Devaney says. "One night I could see they were all exhausted. I said, 'How would you feel about laying down and I'll talk to you?'"

That kicked off a new ritual of meditation before dancing. "A few girls were coming to me to confide in me," she adds. "I thought, 'Let's do some mirror work here.' The girls inspired me to change the class up a bit."

"Mirror work" involves Devaney asking the students a series of questions about their dreams and goals and they write the responses on a mirror.

"Everything unfolded naturally," she says. "The mirror work changes their perspective; if I get out of my head and recognize fear isn't real and doesn't actually exist, I can try this. As well, they're inspiring other women."

Most of the eight to nine students don't have any dance experience, and burlesque-style dance can be particularly intimidating. While students in this class remained covered up, the moves are rooted in jazz, tap and contemporary dance—with a provocative twist.

To that end, it can be challenging for some people to cast off inhibitions in the beginning. "It's fun," Devaney says. "It helps crack women open, even from learning how to walk—and not just walk normally into a room, but with your shoulders back, having confidence in your body. It's about loving your body because that's what you're showing off."

Devaney first started offering the class back in September and eventually hopes they'll culminate in a performance this summer. "Ideally, the end result is to have dinner and a show here in Whistler," she says. "That's the kind of thing I'd love to create here."

With a background studying musical theatre and acting in her native Australia, she first moved to Vancouver to pursue acting, eventually landing in Whistler in November 2017.

When she realized she was tired of waiting for roles to fall into her lap, she decided to create her own opportunity and launch the classes—dubbed B Burlesque Whistler—at the Maury Young Arts Centre every Wednesday evening.

"I believe if you want something, you have to make it happen," she says. "I have all my training and qualifications; it's about being proactive. I love helping people and being there to support people ... I got tired of waiting in the game, so I decided to take hold of the reins and make it happen myself."

Since then, there's been a group of four women who have come to all the sessions with students dropping in throughout.

"We have women who are 19, 20 to women in their 60s coming into class," Devaney says. "That's empowering for an audience to see a bunch of women who have never done this before."

B Burlesque accepts new dancers throughout the year. Classes run on Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Maury Young Arts Centre. For more information, visit hopedevaney.com/the-playroom-whislter.

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