Last Saturday night approximately fifty women, all shapes and sizes and ranging in age from early twenties to mid sixties, took to the stage to perform in the first ever Burlesque Jems student showcase, at the Triangle Club in Chelmsford, Essex.
The event was organised to raise funds for Chelmsford Women’s Aid but it was also an opportunity for the women who attend the four classes across Hertfordshire and Essex to perform together for the first time.
The evening was expertly compered by the lovely Sonia Cakebread and the dancing kicked off with a wonderful solo performance by Jem Ayres, or ‘Mama Burlesque’ as she is known to her ladies. Following on from this, there were performances from each of the different classes as well as from the strip club, who meet once a month, and some of the ladies who attended a weekend residential earlier in the year. A duet was performed by Faye Wade and Lindsey Barrell Dixon and there was a wonderfully entertaining solo by Jo Lawrence.
Each performance was very different to the last. The opening number was Good Girl, a feel good dance that some of the women had only learned the previous week, in a special one-off workshop. This was followed by Harlow’s Lola, which changed the mood to sultry and sexy. Candyman, performed by Bishops Stortford, was sassy and fun and Big Spender, by the Ware ladies, was bold and brassy. The Chelmsford ladies performed Wanna Make Love to You with their usual confidence and the residential class had the audience spellbound with a powerful performance of Feeling Good. Some ladies just performed one number, others were in almost every one, depending on how many classes they are involved with.
As a performer myself last night, I thought the evening was spectacular. I have got to know women from all the classes over the nine months I have been attending my local class, some just online via the Facebook page but others by going along to support various performances at local events. Saturday night was the first time we had all been together and the atmosphere was amazing.
Women who never dreamed they would be on stage dancing in front of an audience (me included!), were strutting their stuff with confidence and shimmying as if they were professional dancers. Everyone supported each other with hugs and kisses and words of encouragement and congratulations. It was a beautiful sight, all these women, dressed in their corsets and bustles, sparkles and feathers, both on stage and off, mingling with the audience and dancing to the disco in between performances. The emphasis was not on technique, it was all about fun. And fun it was!
The Burlesque Jems is a unique community of women, brought together by Jem over the last year or so and held together by each other. Most of the women have never performed before and many have felt uncomfortable about their bodies for all sorts of reasons. Burlesque Jems enables women to confront their demons and to overcome their inhibitions to allow them to feel confident and self assured. Some women attend just because they love the whole vibe that goes with burlesque but, whatever the motivation to come, everyone loves our burlesque community!
The evening was a resounding success and raised over £900 for Women’s Aid, selling 130 tickets in all. However, as well as the success of the show as a fundraising event, the evening was hailed as a major achievement for the organiser, Jem Ayres. Little over a year ago, Jem started the first burlesque class in Chelmsford. Shortly after, the second class in Bishops Stortford started running, followed by a class in Harlow and one in Ware. There has been a very successful Glamourpuss residential weekend, with another planned next year, and regular boudoir photo shoots and vintage hair and make up sessions, as well as nipple tassel workshops.
Last night’s cabaret was the first of what will hopefully become an annual event. I certainly hope so!
For more information or if you want to get involved contact Jem on 07903 188 404 or firstname.lastname@example.org
I think the expression on my face says it all!!! Such fun!