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 Award-winning business author and broadcaster

Leadership trainer and coach

Keynote speaker

  • Writer's pictureAudrey Tang

Recreational burlesque and the power of strutting your stuff!

Wow it's been a long time since by last blog post. That's because since August last year I've been:

A return to my roots: harnessing the power of the arts

While I love psychology, I write about it, I teach it, I coach using it, the arts have always held a very special place in what I do - and I would say are fundamental to my doing it well. Host an event - no problem, theatre taught me projection and presence; live event gone wrong - ever seen us backstage in a show?; media interview - confidence and poise, even under pressure...and as a director my understanding of behaviour and how to portray it has helped me immeasurably as a coach.

Yet - as a psychology and drama teacher, now over 20 years ago at the start of my career, I was seeing the arts squeezed further and further out of budget...however, when other teachers wanted to put a student who couldn't sit still somewhere - guess whose door they knocked on...and ultimately - I even picked up some of the most dedicated and talented tech teams from that and saw them go from being someone that a staff member found challenging, to lighting the staff panto...even explaining to the same staff how they were doing it!

Through the years, I continued to produce community theatre - making the arts as accessible as possible - never charging a playing fee and funding productions from ticket sales, and not only were we able to raise thousands for various charities, but to see the growth in confidence and self belief in every single cast and tech team member was utterly brilliant.

Unfortunately, as with most things, time gets in the way, and our last regular show was performed in 2015, and since then I've only popped up to produce something with a message - Gaslight in 2017; and Steel Magnolias in 2022. ...and I missed the stage.

...and the camaraderie, the laugher, and most notably the opportunity to engage in informal personal development.

Personal Development sometimes happens most effectively informally

While I would never advocate a friendly chat as a substitute for professional intervention, it is the informal setting where we are most likely to find out that someone isn't "fine"!

Sitting in a car, or chatting over a coffee can feel a much safer place to share than the formal therapy setting - which in itself is not necessarily accessible anyway. And while that is just the start and the next step is getting that formal help - that moment can make it far less overwhelming.

Psychologists too are learning from this approach with Eco-psychology also advocating the "walk and talk" session - which in turn has become the "wellness walk", or even "the silent walk" - because it's ok not to talk at that moment too!

It is also why hairdressers and taxi drivers or hospitality teams such as bar staff are offered mental health first aid training because they are often the "informal therapist".

The many benefits of dance

Of course there is the formal profession of "Dance and Movement Therapist", but notably many within the dance industry and recognising that dancing - especially within the community - not only offers this informal but safe space to share, but brings other benefits too:

  • Through dance you become far more aware of how amazing you body is as a vessel to create and move and express - rather than an object to be looked at

  • Dance offers an opportunity for self expression when words are not enough or don't come easily

  • Dance and music can elevate mood

For me, since starting burlesque, because of the dance style, it has enabled us to open conversations about mental, emotional and sexual wellbeing on a broader scale. Sexual Health Therapist and TED Speaker Madina Demirbash reminds us that "Just because we can 'survive without sex' doesn't mean it's not a fundamental part to our wellbeing."

Why Burlesque

I joked that as I'm nearing 50, I need to teach a style of dance where I can sit down; but the reality is, Burlesque picks up where my theatre directing left off. There's theatre, choreography, teamwork, as well as of course a sassy dance style which insists we strut our stuff whether we planned to or not. AND if you feel like it you can even dress up! (But if you don't - that's ok too - just come prepared for a yoga or exercise class...but I would suggest that you do have something comfortable and non slip on your feet such as yoga shoes).

My class has been running for 6 months now, and we've performed in two events - growing in confidence each time - and because we encourage the audience to join in, they too find it's a fun, low impact form of exercise - that "...isn't actually sleazy at all!"

Recreational burlesque

I notice now, that beyond the hen parties and the professional cabaret clubs more and more people are engaging with burlesque as a a workout - and one which, I believe, brings with it empowerment, body and self confidence, and that safe space to share. Plus there are the additional benefits of keeping our bodies active which is essential as we get older and lose bone density and flexibility, and it reminds us we are sexual beings.

While I still coach and train, for me it is Burlesque that brings me the greatest enjoyment - I love to dance myself, but I also see the growth in my dance squad...confidence is not a KPI, it's not a target, but it has one of the biggest impacts on performance and how we engage day-to-day, and it's fun.

If you're in the Northampton area, we dance Wednesdays 7.30-8.30 at the St Crispin's Community Centre, on a termly basis, drop me a line if you'd like to know more

Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and award-winning business author. She hosts Mental Health Matters on e360tv, and produces Skits and Quibbles: the arts and wellness show on the same network. She delivers training and keynotes in the area of wellbeing in leadership and organisations, and shimmies her stuff on the dance floor every Wednesday at Burlesque.


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