How burlesque and pole dancing helped me get my body confidence back

How burlesque and pole dancing helped Anne Sophie Cornelius discover her body confidence.

Girl pole dancing

Last year, I experienced some health issues that included, but were not restricted to, being in pain and bleeding up to 21 days a month, if I didn’t bleed for 2 months straight. Doctors offered (half-heartedly) solutions, including a legendary “just get pregnant” which did not work, before telling me to deal with it and “come back in six months if it hasn’t gotten better”, which, as you can imagine, was about as helpful as suggesting positive thinking as a cure for any illness.

Needless to say, my mental health soon became affected; I felt angry at everything and everyone, kept lashing out, couldn’t keep up with my classes, had zero motivation for anything, and just spent my days in bed comfort-eating and feeling sad and helpless.

I was furious at my body and myself. While I had had depression before and had overcome it, this time was different. Where my former depressions had been about external factors, such as breakups (hello, emotional co-dependency) or not being interested in my studies, those were things I could change or distract myself from by hanging out with friends, picking up a hobby or fancying someone new. This battle was internal and raging against my own body, which seemed very determined to make my life a mess (or at least my sheets and underwear). I hated my body for seemingly turning against me, and inflicting me pain. I felt excluded and isolated because every social plan became uncertain as I never knew whether the next day would be a good day or a “bloody hell” day. Feeling desirable? Ha! That feeling disappears fast when intimacy becomes painful or just plain impossible because there’s just. Too. Much. Blood. And you have to wear granny underwear. My uterus won every single battle against my delicates’ during that time.

During induction days at university, I happened to pass the Give It A Go stall from the Burlesque Society and Pole Fitness Society. I had dabbled in pole fitness before, but nothing serious, despite enjoying it. Burlesque had been a faraway dream due to my admiration of the vintage/boudoir aesthetic. Looking at the two representatives from the society, who were dressed in a corset, lace and heels and were absolutely dashing, I was in awe. Most importantly, they were confident and owning it, unapologetic for who they were. I thought, I want that.

So, I went to the taster sessions. And loved every second of it. My first pole sessions left me aching for days and so sore that breathing hurt. My first moves in burlesque were clumsy and had the grace of ‘Bambi on ice’. But I kept going, and slowly built up stamina and confidence. Pole moves became easier, and after a month I could already see changes. My legs were more toned, and my back had the slightest sign of coming muscles (never had that before). I even managed to climb up the pole and write my name on the ceiling of the studio. Burlesque was so much fun, and I performed in the Christmas show, and did my first solo in May. There is something exhilarating in standing on a stage, in front of over fifty people who are cheering for you, and taking off your bra as the final “heck yes I own this stage” statement. Also, lace things for the win!

Most importantly, I learned to take pride in my body, knowing that it could be strong, fierce, sensual, and accomplish things even with pain and blood.

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