It gives me so much pleasure to introduce this month’s blog written by Anna Rosa Paladino AKA Viola Panik. Viola first wrote to me early in 2013 asking to book onto the September Spotlight course. I was surprised by her eagerness to book so far in advance and curious to meet this mysterious woman from Venezuela. I could never have imagined the gift that she would be. Anna brought true magic, love and generosity to the class and to watch her perform is the meaning of Spellbound! I am so proud that she has taken The Cheek of It! With her to Florence and is now busy inspiring 100’s of women to find their magic and share it with the world. Here is her story.
How to write a story
How do you write a story about someone who lived in a place where life didn’t belong to her, but instead belonged to someone else who could have decided to put an end to it by the sound of a bullet?
How do you summarise the feelings of someone who is so depressed that she doesn’t want her life anymore because there is no meaning in it?
That was me, in two different times of my life, in two different places of the world…before Burlesque.
This story is about the fear of the end of life, the desire of this end and and how spiritual death brings rebirth in the most unexpected and shiny ways.
My name is Anna Rosa Paladino, I’m a Venezuelan woman who until 2009 was trying to survive in one of the most dangerous places in the world: Caracas. Not only was I living in a hell of a city, full of murders, blood and oppression, but I was also living within my own socio-personal jail, trying to fill the checkmarks of what I was supposed to be to fit in the idea of social acceptance and happiness. A degree, a partner, a job were steps to social status. We all know about that, we all feel at some point in our lives that if we don’t get that ‘something’ that everyone else has achieved then you’re considered no-one, and the worst of it is that we actually believe that.
And there I was, scrolling up and down facebook’s newsfeed, looking at the lives of those who “made it”.
One day, something dangerous happened, it was a matter of time before someone threatened me with death, this is the way it is in Caracas, you leave home in the morning and you never know whether you’re coming back.
Maybe that was what I needed to leave my comfort zone. We, humans, are able to create comfort zones even in the most hostile places, we are always afraid of the unknown.
The unknown to me was my own self and the first step to discover it was to leave. I said “enough”, I took the little money I had, I confronted my partner, Rony, to the possibility of trying, I used my credit card to buy to tickets to Italy and we did it, with no means other than the desire to prove there is another way, that freedom exists.
I got to Florence in September in 2009, and it was beautiful and hard…they say your own daemons travel with you and it’s true. Do you know which are the most dangerous demons we travel with? Those checkmarks we talked about before.
I left Venezuela longing for a new life…the idea of a new life…a new successful life, meaning a career, a job, a house, all those things we learn we have to do and to be to consider ourselves worthy of respect and I was trying hard, too hard…I was telling myself have to do this…I have to that…
I have to…
I have to…
I can do it…
It was the end of 2012. A few weeks had passed since I found myself paralysed by panic attacks, stroke by a dreadful depression.
I wasn’t able to go out, I was afraid of life, of people, of the world I felt was against me. I remember myself spending 20 minutes in front of the closet staring off into space instead of choosing the pair of trousers I needed to wear. I was lucky I wasn’t alone, if it wouldn’t have been for Rony, my beloved one, maybe I wouldn’t be telling this story.
Life led the way
I needed help and life led me to an amazing therapist, Giulia, who didn’t ask for money, because i didn’t have any. When you ask for help from the deepest of your soul, it comes to you.
Giulia told me lots of things, but the words I remember most are: you are a creative soul and you must allow yourself to build a space to express your own essence, accept it, you are an artist.
I am an artist.
I’ve always been an artist.
Actually, I am a Diva.
A was afraid to accept it, I even criticised artist’s behaviours, maybe because I wasn’t brave enough to give myself the chance to be free of the limitations that are socially imposed on me, but the truth is that since I was a child I’ve been on stage, taking theatre classes, in school and Uni.
The stage was my place and I gave up to it, of course, I got depressed!
Happiness comes when you follow the path you’re made for, otherwise, a sense of death takes over you.
One day, walking around the streets of Florence a saw a poster advertising Burlesque Classes. When a saw the woman on the poster I felt something in my guts.
What is Burlesque?
As soon as I got home I did some research and something was revealed to me. I saw women of different ages, sizes, colours and styles having FUN. Rony pushed me to give it a shot, he insisted that lack of money shouldn’t stop me, we would find the way to pay it and we did. We crowdfunded my first Burlesque course as a birthday gift. This was the first door to a world that awakened the desire for more. From the first lesson I started to feel better, I felt I’d found a place where I could express and explore all the hidden sides of myself. Burlesque revealed itself as the perfect channel through which I could simply be.
After one year of Italian Burlesque, I was definitively feeling much better, panic attacks were less frequent, I quit the job that was killing me and I started posing naked for art classes. It was all about giving myself the chance to see myself from a much more relaxed and genuine point of view.
Suddenly I felt I needed more, I started a research online and I bumped into The Cheek of It! Burlesque School website. It was a blast. I immediately wrote to Lady Cheek, I wanted to book my spotlight course six months in advance to force myself to do it, to put all my energy to move, to leave again the safe place Florence had become to me and to push new boundaries.
September 2013, London received me with a shocking panic attack, the first after months without.
London felt so big, so unreachable, so challenging, but this grey, massive and organised monster that I saw became a Wonderland as soon as Zoe, Lady Cheek, hugged me before my first class, welcoming me to this new adventure. I’m realising now that this is one of the most beautiful memories of my life.
Now I can say depression was the best thing that could have happened to me. It was a call, an awakening, and I found my way through burlesque. London and The Cheek of It! were the ultimate test. Again, I risked, without money, without certainties, without a clue of what was going to happen.
I followed my path, and life responded and gave me what was meant to me.
The Cheek of it! gave me a sisterhood, there I found women that have the mission to teach other women to find their inner goddesses. I found myself reflected in the desires, the dreams the insecurities and the madness of my classmates. I found myself smiling, dancing, enjoying alone. I found myself creating a sketch, sewing a costume, working on a choreography.
I found myself.
Burlesque is a realm open to every woman, without any kind of discrimination. It is a space for acknowledgement and recognition, joy and making fun of myself. It is the perfect means to channel our forgotten dreams, to be children again, to play, dress up, and recognise ourselves as women worth of admiration. Burlesque gives us the chance to undress yourself from your old self and put on the new skin you’ve chosen.
What started as a game, now has become a job. I kept investing in myself. Lady Cheek allowed me to take the teacher’s course to teach under the name of The Cheek of It! in Florence. I’m currently running three courses in one of the most beautiful places in this city, a magic school called The White Circus, created and cared by Ottavia, my dancing teacher in Florence, a woman who has always believed in me, that every day pushes me to do more, to create more, to dance more, to Burlesque more.
It is my responsibility to always honour all the experiences that have brought me to this point. It’s not a coincidence that my stage name, Viola Panìk, is an homage to my panic attacks: something terrible has become something beautiful, maybe that’s the meaning of resurrection, to strip off your old self. As my motto says, learn to be naked and to then get dressed.
And now, the big question is: how do you end and article about something that definitely is not reaching to an end?
I’ll end it with the simplest words…