I’m lucky to be able to call some incredibly inspirational women friends.
From my besties who are the most incredibly supportive birds I know, and who I never feel worthy of, to women in science, hospitality, and the arts. I love hearing about their lives, whether it’s a parental Facebook update, or a chat over a glass of wine and hearing about their day kicking ass behind a microscope, or in the studio.
But it’s incredibly rare that I get to interview them. And the opportunity to interview Bella Besame, burlesque performer, teacher and mum of two, couldn’t be ignored. Burlesque has enjoyed a resurgence over recent years, allowing women to rediscover their sexiness, and love their bodies – and it’s all done with humour, fun and a little tongue in cheek.
So I cornered Bella after a night of naff all sleep (yay, motherhood) to ask some questions.
After all, how do you get involved in burlesque?
I had always been interested in burlesque; I love the ability to express your individuality, be sexy, glam, creative and to be completely in charge of your stage, it’s unlike many other performance forms I’ve tried in that respect. It’s the most incredible feeling knowing you’ve made every single detail about your act, from the very conception of the idea, to costume design, picking the music, choreography and, of course, the execution!
But it all really started when I was at university and had a part time job in a bar.
There was a private party booking who were looking for a ‘surprise 5 minute performance’, the idea being to get people talking at the start of the party so people would mingle and chat. I was tasked with finding someone, as they knew I had a theatre and dance background. It turned out to be a tougher task than I thought and nobody wanted to perform for such a short period of time, so I proposed that, if the couple hosting the party were happy with it, I’d love to do a burlesque act and they could keep the fee if they weren’t happy. They thought it was a great idea, I was petrified when they actually agreed! After that first performance I was totally hooked and, 18 years later I’m still at it!
Oh and I got to keep the fee…
What are your influences?
I’m influenced by glamour, strong women and sparkly stuff. I love Marlene Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe and Beyonce to name but a few. Old MGM movies help with getting my creativity fired up and I always have music on which can be anything from rock n roll to rap
Who are your favourite performers?
I absolutely love Dirty Martini and was lucky enough to fly her over from New York to perform in a few of my shows last year. She’s a legend on the Burlesque scene and performance scene in general plus she’s lovely! I have a lot of love for Heidi Bitz, Titsalina Bumsquash, Didi Derriere and Vicky Butterfly always leaves me mesmerised.
(It’s here I admit to following Dirty Martini on Instagram and being a massive fan of Titsalina Bumsquash – any woman who can strip to Ghostbuster pasties a Hallowe’en is awesome in my book)
So if someone wants to learn, what’s involved in a class with Bella Besame?
It all depends on what level; I do beginner, intermediate and advanced. My beginner’s course (which is currently taking on students and starts next month) involves a lot of the basics of burlesque. It’s teaching students how to move on stage, how to master various walks, glove striptease and of course creating your very own burlesque stage name – as well as squeezing in a bit of burlesque history, demonstrations and a lot of laughs….mainly at my expense! There is no pressure to perform but if that’s what a student decides they want to do, I can make that happen too as have been producing burlesque&cabaret shows for over a decade and have newbie slots at most of my shows!
If you’re intrigued, and want to know more, or have a go yourself (go on, you know you want to), Bella’s new classes are launching next month. The Beginner’s Guide to Burlesque involves 5 x 1 hour classes, involves NO nudity and is suitable for all ages, shapes and sizes. It covers the basic moves of burlesque, how to move on stage, glove striptease, posing and most importantly, how to create your unique burlesque stage name.
The classes are being held at the Ape and Apple on John Dalton Street, Manchester, from 6-7pm every Tuesday from 3 to 31 October. Each class costs £7.50 with a £20 deposit to secure your place on the 5-week course.