A Crash Course In Burlesque Dancing

Sofia is a Malaysian third culture kid who is back in Kuala Lumpur on a month break and has set herself a mission to learn about the city she’s from yet knows so little about. She joined Zafigo as an intern and began exploring the KL arts scene, dipping her toes into volunteering stints as well. Through her assignments for Zafigo, she hopes to find her roots, understand her hometown and help others open up to a city full of soul. This is one of her many adventures.


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Talent Hub is an multi-arts centre in Kuala Lumpur that was founded by two best friends, Fiona-Jane Gomez and Sanjeev Palar, who met at a ballroom dancing class many years ago. Designed to offer a multitude of the most popular art forms under one roof, Talent Hub offers classes in dance, drama, music and martial arts. The selection runs the gamut from the more popular art forms to the less common, such as burlesque.

Aside from the Christina Aguilera movie of the same title, I knew next to nothing about this style of dance but I was intrigued, so when a friend asked if I was interested to give it a try, I didn’t hesitate. Burlesque dancing dates back to the cabarets and clubs that were de rigueur in the 1800s-1900s. It is known for being risqué and for the performers’ glittery, skin-baring costumes as well as sky-high heels.

Apart from circling their hips and sauntering, the ladies displayed their flexibility through moves like bending from their waist, flicking their head up and rising, twirling and kicking their legs in the air

I, on the other hand, showed up for class in a baggy tie-dyed t-shirt and yoga pants and joined a group of women who had been attending the classes regularly. In fact, this was the last class of the month and was about learning the final segment of the intended routine. It also meant that rather than learning the basics, my friend and I were thrown into the deep end and have to master the moves that our classmates had been practising for about a month!

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Students going through the routine

The class was held in a well-lit studio with smooth wooden floors and large mirrors that let us observe our forms. We started with warm-up exercises that consisted of hip movement: Sauntering, circling and moving exaggeratedly from side to side. It was relatively easy to get the hang of those moves.

The group then launched into their routine. Our instructor, Rebecca, told me to try and follow as much as I could – which turned out to be not much, as the choreography was fast-paced and featured many advanced moves. Apart from circling their hips and sauntering, the ladies displayed their flexibility through moves like bending from their waist, flicking their head up and rising, twirling and kicking their legs in the air while seated on the floor. It’s hard to believe that they had only been learning burlesque dance for a few weeks.

What I like most about burlesque dancing is that it encourages us to embrace the woman within

Despite not knowing what was going on half the time, I did have a lot of fun. The other girls were friendly and Rebecca was a bundle of energy, dishing out tips along the way to help us execute the moves correctly. Each time we did, she would encourage us with a cheerful “Yessss, ladies!” and I felt a sense of pride wash over me.

I’m sure the others felt the same. As they filmed their routine after the one-hour class had ended, I could tell from the way they moved how much confidence they had in every step. I watched in awe as they performed the entire routine flawlessly, and made a promise to myself to sign up for classes and learn the choreography from the beginning.

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Circling the hips

I may not have been able to follow through most of the moves, but I had a lot of fun and a great workout. Fitness wise, I had let myself go throughout summer but for the first time, during the burlesque class, I felt my body confidence returning – even in my baggy t-shirt!

What I like most about burlesque dancing is that it encourages us to embrace the woman within.


Talent Hub is located at 19-2 Prisma Ville, Jalan 19/70A, Desa Sri Hartamas, Kuala Lumpur, Tel +6016 285 8353 | Email: [email protected] | Classes Every Monday, 9-10pm and Thursday, 8-9pm | Fees RM35 per class or RM100 per month | www.talenthub.com.my

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Read more from Sofia

More from Zafigo:

Volunteer Travel: Is it for you?

6 reasons why travelling is the best education you can get

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SofiaShamsunahar_100x100
Sofia is a Malaysian third culture kid that has grown up overseas and is now trying to find her roots. She thinks the world is like a jungle to hike and swim in and will forever keep exploring, with her happy-go-lucky attitude.

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