it's showtime! the beauty of burlesque fitness

By bringing burlesque-inspired dance moves to the fitness studio, we can help participants let go of inhibitions while working up a sweat and feeling good about themselves, says Alissa Hall.

Picture the scene: you've had a long day filled with clients, meetings and admin. You want to let your hair down, do something completely different and have some fun. You brush your hair, pull on some slinky new pants, smooth on some lip gloss and head out the door. Tonight's the night! As you reach your destination, you hear the music pumping and see the excited crowd swarming around the door. You enter the venue and, feeling the music wash over you, start to move your hips and succumb to the vibe. As images of dancing girls, pearls and strutting stilettos fill your head you feel alive again! You are strong. You are a goddess. You are…. in a gym?!

The desire for different

As someone who has essentially 'grown up' within the fitness industry, I have witnessed countless trends and crazes over the years, watching some with a giggle and some with sheer amazement. Some essentials, such as step, have proved to have real staying power, while other weird and wacky concepts like unicycles, pogo sticks and more have come and gone. Regardless, it has become apparent that there is a market for people who want to step outside the box when it comes to fitness. As a group programs manager it is my mission in life to seek out, create and develop exciting new group exercise classes for instructors to teach and for participants to get buzzed about.

Over the past few years the fitness industry has evolved to focus not only on fit bodies, but also on developing all-encompassing programs that work towards a healthy body and mind. In the group exercise world, classes such as yoga and Pilates, as well as the various types of dance, are enjoying great success due to the ability of instructors to make participants feel good inside as well as out – it's a winning combination!

When creating the programs that my team and I teach, we always ask; what can we do to move and burn energy, while also unwinding and making us feel good? In answering this, among various other formats we have devised, there is one that always stands out: the dance floor! Think about it; the dance floor is one of the best places to let go of inhibitions, whether you dance seriously, with your tongue in cheek or have two left feet! So, why do so few of us bring this element of creative fun into our freestyle classes? Could it be because we fear participants will be scared off due to a lack of confidence in their dancing abilities? As I see it, as long as you are having fun, who says you need the moves of Michael Jackson?

The concept

Taking a good look at what keeps people going back to the nightclub, bar or even their private 'living room' dance floor, we saw a trend emerging. People love nothing more than simply shaking their butts, wiggling their hips, and generally strutting to a sexy tune. Enter burlesque. From the coy sensuality of the early burlesque era, to the empowering confidence of the Pussycat Dolls, burlesque has steadily been making a comeback in recent years. So why not feel empowered, beautiful and strong while working out? An idea emerged: to let people move like they are on a dance floor, strut their stuff and shake off their inhibitions in the privacy of a studio, all while working up a good sweat. From here we developed the 'Burlesque Dolls' concept, and watched the members pile in, often stressed, overworked and tired. After hitting a few simple, sexy poses – with some words of encouragement – the smiles started to spread. Participants began to realise they didn't need to be trained dancers to look good, they just needed to smile, have fun and enjoy owning the dance floor!

Over the past three years this dance concept has really taken shape and helped revolutionise the way we do things in the group exercise studio. To keep our industry moving forward we need to continue pushing the boundaries and widening that box that we keep stepping out of!

Packed with fun, creative and effective moves, the Burlesque Dolls class format can be enjoyed by participants of every level. So, why not add a little pizzazz to the group exercise timetable in your club?

Alissa Hall
An instructor of numerous movement disciplines, from ballet and pole dancing to Pilates and freestyle, Alissa has an enormous passion for all things fitness and dance. A NSW Hip Hop Team Champion (FISAF), she has also been a Sport Aerobics World Championship Finalist for six of the past seven years. Alissa's love of performance and creativity has also seen her appearing in countless live shows, television shows and advertisements as well as the Sydney Olympics Opening Ceremony.