The woman on the stage in front of me is wearing a garment that
only loosely fits the dictionary definition of the word "dress".
It's probably more accurate to describe it as ornamental dental
floss, wrapped strategically around the contours of her svelte
body. Wearing killer heels, "Danni" is strolling slowly around a
steel pole. One hand is on her hip, the other grips the phallic
pole. She leans back against it, cocks her head, squats down in
front of my table and passes her left hand between her legs. I'm
not quite sure where to look.
There's something thrillingly disconcerting about my first visit
to Sweet Dreams, London's newest ladies-only burlesque, pole and
table-dancing night. Alongside my two companions I'm here with what
appears to be around 100 women, all seated politely at tables,
quaffing an assortment of alcoholic drinks. A succession of women -
some are slim, some curvy, some athletic - take turns to twirl
languidly around the pole; the darkened room is quiet and
the atmosphere is charged. Like a light bulb, I'm turned on.
But why am I feeling guilty?
At the end of each dance, the room erupts as the audience shows
its appreciation with clapping, cheering and overexcited whooping.
There's something profoundly liberating about being one of a group
of aroused women in a public space. I'm not used to this feeling so
I try to figure out what's making me buzz. There's an illicit
quality to tonight's performance - women, regardless of our
sexuality, are not socially groomed to accept and enjoy our lust
without men present - and damn, some of the women here are sexy. A
conversation with my friend D helps to clarify things. D says
there's an old tradition of women getting together to pass on
sexual tips that has been all but lost in our culture. She thinks
there's a kind of hunger for it. It's the root of belly-dancing,
which is thought to have been originally performed by and for
women, and ritual gatherings like Zanzibar's kidumbak, in which
older women prepared girls for marriage. For her, women-only clubs
that celebrate other women's erotic skill are a modern
representation of this tradition. Well that makes me feel
better about lusting over the performers while they work their
text-book teasing moves.
The first of the burlesque acts, Beatrix Von Bourbon, strides onto
the stage to an esoteric soundtrack. With her 1940s hair-do, furry
cape, strong Nordic cheekbones and a veritable collage of tattoos
on her pale skin, she strikes quite a pose. Not the kind of poses
that would suggest she'd be willing to give it up for us despite
stripping down to an elegant set of vintage bra and panties. I'm
captivated by her ice queen poise, style and presence, but the
volume on my arouse-o-meter has been turned down.
Read the rest of this feature in the September issue of
DIVA on sale 4 August.