My name is Valentina Silk, and I am an amateur burlesque artist. That is a sentence that would never have been true without the Sass & Tease collective.
I have always loved to dance. Even as a little girl I adored dancing through the house, much to my family’s amusement. I did jazz classes when I was in primary school, and they were my favourite time of week. But even then I was told that I didn’t have the body of a dancer. I was too short, too chubby, I didn’t have the grace of a ballerina or the rhythm of a hip hop dancer. By the time I got to high school, I had resigned myself to the fact that dance performance wasn’t realistic for someone of my body type.
I heard about Sass & Tease courses from a friend, at a time when I was really trying to be more positive about my body. I thought I’d give the beginners course a try, and was incredibly nervous before the first class. Sass & Tease could not have made me more welcome. Here there was no body shaming, no side comments about my movements. Everyone was friendly, and I had an amazing time. I came away from class each week smiling, and with new respect for anyone who could dance in heels. I felt more confident in myself than I ever had. When class ended and talk of an Act Development course began, I was reluctant to continue. Classes were a safe space, but could I really perform for an audience after all this time?
As it turned out, I could. I did the Act Development course, gradually putting together a burlesque identity and choreographing my own routine. I received a huge amount of support and encouragement from the S&T teachers, who were more than happy to share their knowledge and experiences as well as get me through the “Wait, what am I doing?” moments. The week before the show was possibly the most nerve wracking week of my life. I’d spent all my life thinking I couldn’t dance, and I was about to do so in my own way, with very few clothes on. When I did that routine at the Graduation Showcase, and came off stage, I was on top of the world. Nobody laughed, nobody made comments about my thighs or my stomach. Instead I was cheered, applauded, and had many people approach me afterwards to compliment me on my act.
Since then, I’ve started developing new routines, and have other performances on the cards. But I don’t think there’s anything in the world that can compare to all your perceptions about what you can and can’t do being shattered in just a few months. If you’ve always wanted to dance, but think that you can’t for whatever reason, go and see Sass & Tease. I guarantee it’s worth it.