It's 30 minutes before my second class at the Rose City School of Burlesque, and I'm pacing the aisles of the Lloyd Center "Cross Dress for Less" (as it's called in drag circles), in search of some heels.
Instructors told students on the first day of class to bring a pair, and though common sense told me this isn't mandatoryâespecially for the three men in the groupâI still want to try. Maybe my burlesque persona will look like Yanis Marshall?
I'm pretty sure the shoes I selected aren't right. They're too smallâthe selection of women's heels starts petering out after size 9âbut they seem sensible enough: black, three inches tall and with some elastic across the top for comfort.
I learn later in class how wrong I was. "If you brought heels, you can put them on now," burlesque performer Zora Von Pavonine instructs us, "and anything else you brought." Around the room, yoga pants disappear to reveal hot pink and black fishnets. Von Pavonine tells the class that if dancing in certain attire makes you feel better, then do it. "You have to believe the image that you're putting into the mirror," she says.
One of the other guys in the class is wearing wedge sneakers, green and studdedâa style of shoe that still looks worlds butcher than mine. "It's about to get real," he says, pulling off a tank top to reveal suspenders. He then removes the already tiny yellow shorts heâs wearing to expose an even smaller pair, these ones bright-blue spandex.
"Aw, how you doin'?" says a woman with magenta hair, as she high-fives him.
After a young belly dancer tells me how "brave" I am, I teeter onto the dance floor in jazz pants and my $12.99 heels, which feel like ice skates. I look like a toddler learning to walk, and I wobble for only 15 seconds before giving up and tossing the shoes under a bench by the wall.
I learn later in class that if I seriously want to take on this heel endeavor, I need to start in a dance shoe with a heel thatâs thick and sturdy. I havenât decided if Iâll do that yet. In burlesque, Von Pavonine says, âYou have to find what looks ugly on you, so you can find what looks good on you.â I definitely am not doing it right yet, but so far the heel looks pretty ugly.