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Meet aerobics instructor turned burlesque dancer: Lady Magnolia

2016-08-08 12:22
Lady Magnolia (Photo: Nardus Engelbrecht )
Lady Magnolia (Photo: Nardus Engelbrecht )

Cape Town – The Rouge Revue Burlesque Company owner and teacher Lady Magnolia gave us unprecedented access to her studio during one of her classes to shoot a photo essay that will make you feel as if you are there.

We then sat down with the somehow sexy and unassuming dancer for a coffee where she told us about how she went from Knysna to Cape Town to be an aerobics instructor and ended up becoming a belly dancer turned burlesque dancer and teacher.

Here are the photos:

Here’s Lady Magnolia’s amazing story in her own words:

I grew up in Knysna and started teaching aerobics when I was 16 as my instructor was injured. When I finished school I moved to Cape Town to study exercise teaching at the Sports Science Institute. The first year I was in Cape Town I met a belly dancer, started taking belly dancing lessons and fell in love with it. I loved everything about it from the saris to the incense burning in the corner. Little by little I started doing undulations and two-step shimmies and grapevines. So, belly dancing ended up creeping into my aerobics and exercise classes (where I worked).

'An artsy nude photo of myself'

It was a really wonderful studio; a women’s health and wellness studio. In fact when I sent my CV to them, my mother saw the ad and told me to apply even though it was past the deadline, I was so young and shy and scared…. I put an artsy nude photo of myself on the cover. I didn’t expect anything to come of it, and then Diane who was the woman in charge called me up for an interview and I got the job. It was such a great environment to get started in, because I knew that when I started (instructing) exercise I didn’t want to be in like a Virgin Active; where everyone is half your size in designer workout wear.

Then in 2003 they closed down and I was bereft didn’t know what to do, I started my own studio teaching belly dancing. It was in my lounge in Tokai.This was just at the beginning point of belly dancing taking Cape Town by storm. And I’m still doing that so it’s been a long time (around 13 years.)

'I just needed something different so I went to pole dancing class'

And then about six or seven years ago I kind of felt like I just needed something different so I went to pole dancing class. Actually, the real reason I went is because I had a crush on a friend and we went pole dancing together (laughs). But I didn’t really like the pole dancing, I didn’t like the bruises and I wasn’t good at it immediately so I didn’t enjoy it. But in that class I met my burlesque teachers and got involved in doing burlesque with them instead of pole dancing.

'I had never heard of burlesque'

I mean, I had never heard of burlesque, especially coming from Knysna. It was love at first sight. Belly dancing has strict rules about sensuality and sexuality and staying on the sensual side of the fence and never breaking through to more risqué movements. But it’s also very body positive so it put me in touch with that side of myself, so when I started burlesque I was ready to explore the more sexual side of myself. I wanted to step over the bar, I wanted to be naughty. So, I started doing burlesque and because I have always been a teacher it was a natural progression into (where I am now being a burlesque teacher); also because I don’t really play well in a team unless I am the leader (laughs). Also because I was still teaching belly dancing and a lot of my belly girls where expressing interest in what I was doing in the burlesque world. I started teaching burlesque in 2010, so it’s 6 years in. We did our first studio show in 2012. It took two years to build up enough students.

Subsequently, since that first show, we do a studio show every three months. I am passionate about burlesque because I love seeing the transformation in my students, from people who walk into the back of class in their baggy tracksuits hoping that no one notices them to being on stage in tiny knickers and a corset with pasties. That feeling of being one with yourself (is why I love burlesque).

(Photos: Nardus Engelbrecht)

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