The Opulent and Voluptuous Rosie Bourgeoisie
By Mélyna Gilbert
The ambience is dark but alive as the lights dim to center stage and the music begins. Rosie Bourgeoisie is just barely visible behind the feather fans they are holding. They move gracefully around their space, pink taking up the audience’s view. Their robe comes off, and the crowd goes wild - and the atmosphere only gets wilder from there. Rosie Bourgeoisie has been in the burlesque industry for almost six years now. After starting out as a model in a plus-size store, Bourgeoisie later joined the store's plus-size burlesque troupe. They were attracted to the vintage style of burlesque, the costuming, and expression of self in a performance. They were also fascinated by the idea of creating their own story in their own universe, and by the fact that, to them, everyone looked beautiful. While performing at Dawson for Women’s Week, Bourgeoisie talked about how burlesque became empowering to them. As a plus-size performer, they believe one of the most empowering parts of the job is taking up space and being seen. It allows them to feel powerful and tell their story on a stage to an audience. And, to Bourgeoisie, burlesque has become a form of activism. They want to promote body positivity; by being on stage, they’re representing what is not always seen. They want to talk about sexuality and how the body moves, and to show that a body you might not have thought of as beautiful can still be so. “Everybody is able to be sensual,” says Bourgeoisie, who aims to express this sentiment through their work. Burlesque is also important to Bourgeoisie as it is their main form of expression. They like being feminine, being fancy, putting on their face; the designing, making, and rhinestoning of their wardrobe; the intricacies of their choreographies and makeup; the full experience of being a burlesque performer. “It’s the details of the costume that make it really special. It’s all the details you put into your choreography and your costume and your makeup,” emphasizes Bourgeoisie. Burlesque is often misunderstood. Even when performing at Dawson, Bourgeoisie received some criticism from staff members who were uncomfortable with a burlesque performance at the school. “[Burlesque] is an art. It’s really a story. It’s not just taking your clothes off," they explain in response. It’s being able to tell a story, it’s about the way your costume moves and how you make an audience feel. Being plus-size, Bourgeoisie often makes their own wardrobe from scratch. Though they’ve stopped counting, they did give a general idea of how long an outfit could take: rhinestoning their shoes can take up to ten hours, while an entire ensemble can take anywhere between a week and a few months. The work Bourgeoisie puts into each five-minute performance is intensive. Not only do they have to work on their costuming, they have to select music to portray the right emotions and create the right choreography. For those interested in going into burlesque, Bourgeoisie suggests starting out small. You can learn from seeing: see a show, go to classes, and learn from performers themselves. It is important to have an idea of what you want your persona to be and what you want to portray in your performances, so do some research. Make sure you are able to feel confident, and that you are able to put yourself into a vulnerable position. Practice! Play with props, do photoshoots, find some lingerie. Start where you’re most comfortable and go from there. “It’s a persona, but it’s still you in a certain way," says Bourgeoisie. "It’s still your body."