The Illawarra’s only burlesque school is set to hold its first student showcase this Saturday at the Heritage Hotel in Bulli.

More than 15 students from the Muse School of Burlesque will take to the stage to perform solo and group performances in a celebration of all things positivity, acceptance and burlesque.

For student Beth Cunningham, the showcase is an opportunity to raise awareness for an under-supported art form.

“Unless you’re in the dance community and you are aware of it, there’s just no exposure or support for things like this,” she said.

“Burlesque is such a body-positivity focused dance style, and anyone of any gender, size or ability can partake.

“There’s no rules or restrictions in Burlesque, unlike other dancing such as ballet, where you have to look a certain way and be a certain weight.”

Burlesque originated in the 17th century in Italy, where it was considered a form of comic interlude through theatre.

In more recent times, it has gained traction for its strip-tease style of dance, made famous by the stars such as Dita von Teese.

But owner and head choreographer of the Wollongong school, Mae de la Rue wants people to know of the inclusive sport that goes beyond the removal of clothing.

“A lot of people get nervous about burlesque because of the strip-tease element, but it’s so much more than that,” she said.

“Burlesque is an attitude, more than anything.

“It’s about embracing yourself and discovering what you can do, celebrating your abilities and body.”

Ms Rue has been performing burlesque for over a decade, and she said it has been instrumental in improving her mental health.

“I entered the burlesque world as a means to improve my social circumstances after a horrible break up with my then-fiancé,” Ms Rue said.

“Burlesque taught me to embrace and love myself, and it has amazing mental health benefits.”

While burlesque has an occasional appearance in the art scene of Wollongong, with the Burlesque Basement running shows twice a year, Ms Rue said supporting local talent helps to encourage others to participate.

“The Burlesque Basement is great at delivering high calibre performers and entertainment, but it doesn’t always focus or highlight the local flavour,” she said.

“Having a showcase of local talent shows people that they can also be a star on the stage.”

The Muse showcase will raise funds for “burlesque legend” Judith Stein to attend the Golden Legend Champion Challenge in Florida in August, where Ms Rue will compete.

Ms Stein is recognised as one of the “living legends” of the dance, which is a title given to burlesque performers from the 1950s, 60s and ‘70s that were instrumental in creating and popularising the style of burlesque seen today.

Now in her 70s, Ms Stein still performs, and has mentored Ms Rue for six months in preparation for the competition.

Listen below to hear Ms Rue explain a brief history of burlesque and how mentors play an instrumental part in the Golden Legend Champion Challenge.

The Muse School of Burlesque offers dance classes their studio in Wollongong every Thursday evening, where all ages, body types and genders are welcome.

Tickets for the Muse Showcase, Saturday, 8 June, at the Heritage Hotel in Bulli, are available here.

Image courtesy of the Muse School of Burlesque.