There are a few movies that I watched before entering university, that helped me learn about campus experience, and have since resonated with me to help me reminisce about my past university days. Some of these movies include Legally Blonde (2001), Snow White (2007) and Pitch Perfect (2012). There’s something that all of these movies have in common. Each includes a powerful female lead, that is challenged to step outside of her comfort zone.
Stepping out of your comfort zone is crucial to challenging yourself and expanding your experiences so that you can become more resilient, creative, strong and confident.
In my first year of university, two of my roommates convinced me to try something new. They sat me down and listed the many reasons why I should join a burlesque class with them. My initial reaction was “NO WAY!” Images that immediately came to mind were of women dancing seductively in elaborate and skimpy costumes while performing a striptease. If I was self-conscious of my own body, how could I perform the most extreme form of dance, in front of a large audience? My only dance experience was a ballet class when I was five years old and ballroom dance classes when I was twelve years old. In my mind, burlesque dancing was far out of my comfort zone. Dancing was also never a serious hobby to me because I believed I was no good and I never felt welcomed into the community.
After a couple of days, I discussed my concerns with my roommates and finally decided to register for the Introduction to Burlesque dance class at Wilfrid Laurier’s recreation center. After all, this was an opportunity to bond with my roommates and make new friends. I felt so intimidated walking into that first burlesque class, back in the winter term of 2019. I was nervous about being surrounded by all of the powerful and confident women. Our first exercise was to strut across the practice room in our heels and perform a mini routine in front of the studio mirror. I was so terrified that I would hide in the back of the class or make up an excuse to leave the room.
Growing up, I was raised in a somewhat conservative home. My family is supportive of whatever I pursue, however, dancing in heels and skin-tight clothing is not what my family had in mind. I wasn’t exactly condoned to express my sexuality, which I believe affected my view of my body image and mental health. I became very self-conscious of my own body. When I was in the seventh grade, a male classmate had pointed out the baby hairs on the side of my face. At that age, I also began to notice my small figure. I was so traumatized for years, that I would keep my hair down and only wear clothing that hid my body figure. It wasn’t until that first burlesque class that I finally put my hair in a ponytail and bought my first pair of leggings.
After the first few weeks, my instructor as well as the female participants offered me so much love and support. I became inspired. The class taught me to be strong and confident. I started to believe in myself and be kinder to my body. I realized that when it comes to a women’s sexuality, society can be restrictive and repressive. Society fears confident women because they pose a threat to the established standards. I became so much more aware of my sexuality and sense of self-worth while developing a new passion. Burlesque had become this powerful form of art that I used for self-empowerment, expression and exercise. It was an outlet of healing, inclusivity and body positivity. For a few minutes, I can imagine myself as having the same confidence as Britney Spears, Beyonce or a member of the Pussycat Dolls.
I was going through a lot that year with relationships, school and mental health. The class was at one point, the only reason why I wanted to stay in school. It was actually what made me stand out on my job applications. This experience taught me the importance of getting involved on campus and pushing myself to try new things. I am so grateful for those Wednesday night classes, the new friends I made and my instructor Deanna. I learned to overcome those things in my life that made me believe I was less than what I was, which gave me a rushing feeling. Unfortunately, the pandemic caused the cancellation of our showcase back in the winter of 2020. However, I now know that I always have this new passion to turn to when I am feeling down, and hopefully, I will be able to get back to the studio in the near future.