Why you should know about: Lisa Darling
For Lisa Darling, burlesque is not about nudity, discovers Julia Molony, but it is about feeling sexy. Photograph by David Conachy
She's using burlesque to beguile the women, and men, of Ireland. The former showgirl has undertaken the task of teaching her seduction skills to Irish women, at her school of burlesque.
"It's always really personal for everybody and definitely it's sensual; it's flirty," she says of the appeal of burlesque. At the heart of it, she explains, "is being comfortable with your body, no matter what shape or size you are".
In her other incarnation as showgirl Kitty Darling, Lisa has entertained the crowds at the world famous Cafe de Paris in London, and in various Parisian night spots. She started dancing in a troupe and then moved on to a solo act, in which she drew on old-style Hollywood glamour to tell the story of a "starlet who is held in a certain way; she can't break out. It's almost like letting loose -- a woman coming into her own." Burlesque, she explains, is a theatrical performance, not just a striptease. "Nudity isn't the punchline of the act," Lisa explains. "It gives you so much freedom to just do whatever you want, really."
At the age of 17, she packed her bags and moved to London to follow her dreams of being a dancer. She won a full-time scholarship to study dance in London, eventually finding her way on to the West End stage. "I was growing up in Covent Garden as a young Irish girl," she recalls. "Being around Shoreditch and Hoxton Square and hanging out with these crazy performance artists." This setting, she says, provided, "all the right ingredients to bring somebody into their own."
Her courses change the lives of many who take part in them. "I've had students saying, 'I did that for my boyfriend last weekend,'" she says. "People take it home, and I really do see a transformation in the girls." The key, she thinks, is the potential dance holds to reinforce the idea that, "it's OK to feel sexy. I think a lot of women have this perception about sex and feeling sexy -- it's just a bad word. People don't talk about it; it's not right. The class is such a safe environment, so women can allow themselves to feel that way. It does change a person. It is revolutionary."
Her years as a dancer and actor have given Lisa the necessary confidence to celebrate her body onstage. "I'm certainly not stick thin -- and a lot of my students are curvaceous. I think it's good for women to have a healthy view of what beautiful is. It is about women embracing themselves and finding that confidence in themselves," she says.
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