Gulf & Main
The Burlesque Dancer Next Door
Reviving old-school glamour
Nettie Bennett and Rose Burstein are working mothers and wives by day who dash from one responsibility to the next dressed in yoga pants and minimal makeup. Bennett works in accounting for a car dealership, and Burstein splits her time between a salon and a dance studio. And then once or twice a week, they become Nettie Boom and Rosie Luxure, dance instructors in sparkling heels and bedazzled corsets who lead a diverse group of women learning the art of burlesque. “It’s the art of tease,” Bennett says.
There’s history to it. “It goes back even to biblical times with the seven veils,” Burstein chimes in. “It wasn’t about her stripping for the king. It was about her wanting something and knowing how to get it.”
It’s with that power in mind that you can see how burlesque can influence daily fashion. No, that doesn’t mean donning a corset in the office. But there are facets of the time period and the aur a that seep into everyday clothing choices and even the way these women carry themselves. “I love the old-school glamour of it,” Bennett says. “I know that’s what turned me onto it—Jayne Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe. The way you dress and even your posture.”
“The sophistication has been lost,” Burstein laments. “Like men who used to hold doors open for you, women who used to cross their legs. It’s acting like a lady.” “With class,” Bennett adds. The pair started the Women's Adult Dance group in November 2015, teaching female dancers of all skill levels how to dance to everything from hip-hop to jazz. From that dance class spun the idea for a dedicated troupe of about 10 girls learning routines to be performed in front of an audience. The GLAM! BAM! Burlesque! girls had their first show in February 2016 at the Colosseum in Naples. “Our show has a wide range of looks: women aged 24 to 37, of different heights and dress sizes,” Burstein says. “Everyone can relate to a girl in our show.”
Since then, they have had a handful of encores in Bonita Springs and Fort Myers, and performed at everything from fundraisers to private birthday parties.
If you look past all that bare skin, what you’ll soon learn about burlesque is that it’s sexy but not sexual. Dancers peel their gloves off to the beat of a song, and slink out of a dr ess, but the lingerie stays on. And that’s a fine line these women can expertly toe, about as well as they can tap out an eight count. “Some people question it,” Burstein says. “They say, ‘What will your kids think of this?’ But I’m also very proud of what I do, and I do it tastefully.”
The costumes worn in the shows are a combination of purchased items with added flair and pieces made entirely from scratch. Burstein grew up sewing and did one year of fashion studies in college. As a classically trained ballerina, who “threw the point shoes out the window” when she was introduced to hip-hop as a teen, she has made costumes her whole life. Bennett is self-taught both in dance and costume making. When their kids go to bed, these two get out the glue guns and spend hours crafting. Picture lots of rhinestones, feathers and tulle. They’ll buy a bra and high-waisted panty set from Victoria’s Secret, then painstakingly affix rhinestones all over the cups, adding tassels to the waistband. Burstein once made a white corset, start to finish. Another time she re-created a $1,000 Catherine D’Lish red robe using $150 in supplies from a Minnesota craft store and JoAnn Fabrics. The result was a floor-length chiffon piece with feathery red fringe. (D’Lish is an artist specializing in burlesque.) What the two women have learned from dancing and costume making has been less tangible than either of those two skills: “Confidence,” Bennett says simply. They have learned to embrace their bodies, their curves. On a daily basis, that self-assuredness is obvious. “I like to feel good in what I’m wearing,” says Bennett, who wears the old Hollywood makeup regularly: a bold red lip, winged eyeliner and even that classic Marilyn Monroe “dot.” Just not at work. Kristine Gill is a freelance writer living in Naples and originally from Ohio.
If you look past all that bare skin, what you’ll soon learn about burlesque is that it’s sexy but not sexual.