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After I got divorced, I was looking for a way to reclaim my body, my femininity, my sexuality.
My ex-husband accused me of being frigid. Uninterested in sex. Selfish. Career-centered. He wasn’t altogether wrong. I had found work I loved and threw myself into it, full force. But he certainly wasn’t right.
But I believed him anyway.
There is something deeply painful about words about your own essence, being less than, leveled at you from the person who knew you best. Who knew you at your most vulnerable. Those words lasted in my mind. He knew exactly what to say to have me doubt myself and more worth. For about a year, I was divorced, not just from him, but from myself.
Even though I was a dancer and fitness instructor, I now saw my body as an enemy. It had betrayed me. I didn’t understand it. It wasn’t capable of being a woman. My femininity, while it existed in my dress and personality, didn’t exist in my soul. As someone who advocated the mind/body connection, I had none of my own.
And sensuality was certainly no where to be found. My first attempts at dating quickly showed that. Each successive date and/or brief relationship simply seemed to prove my ex’s words. I began to more deeply believe the story they created.
Until I rediscovered burlesque.
I had first experienced burlesque years ago in Philadelphia. I was doing a lot of performing as a dance and performance artist. I was also a choreographer and actor for musical theatre. Many pieces crossed genres into burlesque. It was fun. It felt sexy. The style of dance fit me well. I loved being able to create a character as well. But, I had never really pursued it.
When I choreographed “Gypsy” in 2013, I remembered how much I was interested in the art form of burlesque. I began to explore it, research it, and create my own character and dances. Beyond anything I’d ever done before.
And I discovered something. Myself.
I wasn’t frigid. My sensuality was still there. My work, in dance and fitness, that I loved, had brought me here. It was a part of me that had a place. Plus, there was an entire new layer of myself, just waiting to be expressed.
I thrived on subtlety. On tease. On vintage. On quirky, over-the-top character work. On class and elegance, with smoldering undercurrents.
When I was CoCo, I was fun and flirty. I was powerful. When I danced, my body was my tool. I could decide what to create, to express, to show. I was more in charge of myself, body and soul, than I had ever been.
Burlesque showed me that I was still a woman. I was even more of a woman than I thought I was. I was just looking for the right way to express myself.
And a safe place to express myself. I reclaimed myself. I was truly embodied.