Celebrating 10 years of the cheek of it! With graduate stories

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Dear Cheekettes

Can you believe we are in our 10th year…… over 6000 of you have walked through our doors; not only have you emerged more glittery, glamourous and glorious than before but you have also left your own trail of sparkle dust, lighting the way for future cheekettes and women everywhere.

In celebration of you and our 10th year we will be sharing some of your stories. There is nothing more rewarding for us than hearing what called you to The Cheek of It! And how your experience has transformed how you feel about yourself. It is truly such a privilege to be part of your journey, thank you for being the fabulous woman that you are and choosing to come on an adventure with us.

Today’s story is brought to you by Primal Donna

Primal Donna graduated last June and this is what she has to say about Burlesque, Feminism and taking to the stage……

Since Primal Donna wrote this blog she went on to wow crowds with not one but two solo acts, most recently graduating from the Mini Spotlight course with her second act showcased at the Christmas Not-Ivity Show

Primal Donna is Born

It’s just under two weeks until my solo debut in The Super Heroine Burlesque and Cabaret Review. A few months ago I told my Auntie I’d been learning strip tease, who responded with ‘well if you enjoy it darling…’ and my dad still thinks I’m doing a cabaret class – which is partly true. My mum, however, loves that I’m embracing my femininity and sexuality in public, and I’ve started ‘coming out’ more brazenly and broadly to friends, family, colleagues and even new acquaintances who might be amused by the idea of me peeling my clothes off on stage. Reactions range from scandalised shock, disbelief, grins, giggles, and guffaws to one rather deadening response: ‘Oh really, are people still doing burlesque? How does that square with being a feminist?’ Well, yes they – women, and men on the boylesque scene – are still doing burlesque, and for me, it is absolutely a feminist act. I’ll explain why, by sharing some of my experiences thus far.

Photo of Proto Primal Donna taken at the BGWMC over ten years ago.

Photo of Proto Primal Donna taken at the BGWMC over ten years ago.

Each burlesque journey is different

Each burlesque journey is different, and I can’t pretend to come to it with low body confidence. I love getting in a bikini and jumping into cold water, or walking around naked – my mum calls it ‘air bathing’. More recently I learned to recognise others appreciating my body and feel OK about enjoying that. But I’m a late bloomer, and my twenties were not exactly sexually liberated – I was rather shy and have learned more about love, relationships and enjoyable sex in my thirties. I’ve always been a bit of a show-off though, and feeling more in touch with my body and pleasure has eventually led me to The Cheek of it! School of Burlesque. For a long time I’d thought amateur dramatics should be my outlet but in this exquisite form of performance I’ve found exactly the forum to express my comedy faces and beautiful body.

Picture of Primal Donna feeling resplendent after my showtime graduation

Picture of me feeling resplendent after my showtime graduation

Despite being comfortable with my curves

Despite being comfortable with my curves, I’ve also been disconnected and extremely frustrated with my body. With hyper-mobile joints, since age thirteen I have dislocated my left knee four times, and first noticed arthritis in my late twenties. Going through three surgeries and lengthy rehabilitations to stabilise my kneecap and relieve severe arthritis, I relived a teenage fear of dislocation and was angry at my left knee for not working like my reliable right. Being prevented from dancing the way I felt, or have sex the way I wanted hurt deeply and left me feeling prematurely aged.

Picture of Primal Donna and her troupe at the Showtime graduation - photo by Tigz Rice

Showtime graduation photo by Tigz Rice

At the Christmas 2015 Cheek of it! Show

At the Christmas 2015 Cheek of it! Burlesque Review watching two brave friends dance in their Showtime troupe, I was utterly transported, inspired and a little afraid of what I might be capable of. Despite a nagging voice telling me my knee wouldn’t let me grind as low as I’d like, I signed up. As it turns out, with temerity and lots of practice my thighs are stronger and the debut act I’ve created includes some slamming bumps and low grinds. In ‘Primal Donna does Lady Shave’ I’ll soon be showing off the surgery scar with pride and asking the audience to show appreciation for my glorious lady hair.

Primal Donna at the Cheek of it Not-ivity 2016 End of Year Show

Me at the Cheek of it Not-ivity 2016 End of Year Show

Learning to receive

Learning to receive has been one of the most powerful and poignant lessons of this journey. Halfway through the Spotlight course I’m currently on, each student took it in turn to perform a thirty-second ending, and enjoy almost five minutes of rapturous applause. We discovered that enjoy and endure are rather interchangeable in this case; such adoration – claps, cheers, whoops, smiles – was not easy to accept. When it was my turn I learnt from my classmates and teacher Lady Cheek to just try being still whilst they threw their love at me. Remembering my tactic for overcoming severe nerves when presenting at work meetings, I looked each member of my audience in the eye and simply smiled at them. Something wonderful happened – they smiled back and clapped even more. Sometimes I lost my balance and felt goofy, but it didn’t matter – I was enough. After the exercise we discussed how much women give, when in fact, we should be receiving. These words not only resonated with my experiences of previous relationships but have allowed me to receive graciously in other areas of life, manifesting some pretty amazing things already.

Another pic of Primal Donna at the Cheek of it Not-ivity 2016 End of Year Show

Another pic of me at the Cheek of it Not-ivity 2016 End of Year Show

None of this would be possible

None of this would be possible without the support of the wonderful teachers and host of courageous, creative women and I’ve met through these classes. Full of post-show-glow after our burlesque troupe performance in April, I sent a naked (head and shoulders) selfie to our Whatsapp group captioned ‘Fancy myself so much right now’. I immediately signed up for the Spotlight class and on Monday nights regularly strip to a thong and shake my small but perfectly formed tasselled tits. I’ll miss The Cheek Of It! classes terribly, but Primal Donna will continue to shine because there are many more raucous situations to put her in… I’m terrified and brimming with confidence. If this isn’t a feminist experience, I don’t know what is.

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