Burlesque: A life of glam and interview with Madam

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Glam Squad Burlesque is a dance school and a true squad of girls brought together by the love for the art of burlesque, cabaret and musical theatre since its foundations 5 years ago in Kamnik, where a dancer and teacher of tribal dance started her career. She has been teaching burlesque in both Kamnik and Ljubljana, inspiring girls of all shapes and ages to become more aware of their bodies, voice, visual aesthetics and understanding of femininity through this art rooted in humour and ridicule. 

She has been motivating her sister, her students and colleagues to find their own unique style of presence, to verse themselves in dancing in high heels, using feathered boas, veils and other sensual equipment, dancing from the most erotic to the most comic of choreographies, posing, stripping, learning to use elements of theatre and controlling facial expressions to achieve the affect worthy of comparison to global stars of the classic and neo-burlesque scene, such as Josephine Baker, Gypsy Rose Lee, Blaze Starr, Tempest Storm, Lili St. Cyr, Mae West, Jo Boobs, Dirty Martini, Dita Von Teese, Sally Rand, Dixie Evans, Ann Corio, Satan’s Angel and Catherine D’Iish, to name just a few of the remarkable ones. 

Madam stands proud as the founder of Glam Squad burlesque, the teacher, the businesswoman, the confider, the dancer and the woman from Kamnik, who also happens to be a professional tour guide and a Spanish language professor. But who is she, really? She is Madam Glam, and say “Glam” with a heavy slavic “a”, for we know where we are, after all. Professional, down-to-earth and obviously in love with her job, she is known to use continuous cheek in revealing to her students that come to her school for the first time that she is not a lady. She is Madam Glam, the one and only, the central protagonist of a sexy and a powerful way of life.

While the focus is dance and the most important element of which, as Madam would say, will always be the art of stripping, the squad make their own costumes, make-up and props and with the mentorship of Madam, direct their own performances and marketing activities that offer a most unique artistic production in the country.

Top Slovenia Interview with Madam

  1. Do girls really call you Madam?

Hehe … they do sometimes. It started as a joke actually. I encourage all the girls to choose their stage persona and adopt a burlesque name – it helps with their attitude and it creates a little bit of extra magic. A couple of girls started to call me Madam and it just stuck… No point in choosing a different name now, I think it fits perfectly.

  1. What is burlesque, actually? Can you teach us a move?

Burlesque is an art form, a stage performance that can include many different aspects: dance, singing, striptease, seduction, parody… For me burlesque is a perfect blend of everything that I love. It tells a story and it’s funny! But also sexy, poetic, seductive, ironic, critical and unapologetic. It’s not a specific move, but rather how you do it 😉

  1. How did you come to the idea to form a school of burlesque?

I wanted to attend classes here in Slovenia, but there were none, so I created them myself. Joke aside, I have been drawn to burlesque my whole life, even before I knew that it was called burlesque. I love the glamour, the art, but also the fact that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. I went to workshops and festivals abroad, learned online, read a lot… and figured I am probably not the only one interested in classes like that. My first students were my lab bunnies in a way and with them I learned what my passion is. I don’t just love burlesque, I also love teaching burlesque. There is no better feeling than watching your students killing it on stage!

  1. How many members of the burlesque squad are there, and who are these women? 

Probably around sixty, counting the extended family as well. They are women of different ages and shapes, united by the same passion. But not just women, we have a few men as well! Some of them were my friends before I started and some of them were my students first. They are my tribe.

  1. What type of shows do you perform, what are they like?

Our shows vary from bigger productions with 30+ performers to more intimate cabaret performances. Some of them are about glamour and others are more political. But I daresay they are always fun to watch.

  1. What kind of audience comes to see you, and what are the reactions?

Every kind! I am always surprised by the amount of different people that appear in our shows. There are a lot of other dancers and our friends, who give us support from the start, but also random people that want to see a burlesque show in Slovenia. The reactions are almost always positive! I am happy when the audience is entertained and wants to return. 

  1. We know you jokingly don’t call yourself a lady in the sense of the posh and polished, but we suppose you like to be treated like one. Does burlesque offer any channels for women’s empowerment and other forms of fight against discrimination?

What I want to be treated as is a human being, not necessarily a lady. And burlesque is all about empowerment! Many people are surprised when I call myself a feminist and then get naked on stage, but I don’t see a contradiction here. Feminism is all about equal rights and this also means the right to decide what you want to do with your body. I do burlesque because I can. Many people don’t have a choice. 

Burlesque also helps us with the distorted image that we mostly have of our bodies. It helped me with accepting my body and I think I can pass a little bit of this selflove to my students and audience as well. A Big part of the audience are women and I think it benefits them to watch different bodies on stage. I love observing the change in my students from the first class when they tell me they are interested in burlesque, but don’t really feel comfortable being half naked on stage, to the couple of months afterwards, when they come to the class in lingerie for the first time and then perform like they have been doing it for their whole life! I love observing women in the audience when I strip, especially if they are at a show for the first time – they shake their heads in disbelief, they are shy, but once I take it off, they yell and clap. And they always want to try the nipple tassels! 

Another thing is that it’s a business that is mostly run by women. I get to meet so many amazing and capable women. And I don’t just teach them, I also learn from them. 

  1. What is the burlesque and cabaret scene like in Ljubljana, and in the country? Do you collaborate with any other collective or individual performer?

There are actually a lot of cabaret groups, probably also some that I don’t know of. There is Kabaret Tiffany in club Tiffany, Technoburlesque and the Image snatchers in Gromka, Kabaret pri Anđi in Rog, Katzen kabaret in Kamnik, the Black Studio (ex-Pocket Theatre) has a Vaudeville show now and Slovenian drag scene is blooming… Everybody has their own style and if you have the chance, go see their show. We have collaborated with some of them in the past and this is something I would love to do more. I think Glam Squad is the only one that does this classical burlesque with striptease though.