The legend has inspired many literary and artistic works, most notably the play by Oscar Wilde and the Richard Strauss opera based on that play. Wilde tells it as the tale of a beautiful princess who has an unrequited love for John the Baptist. When John rejects her one last time, she exacts her revenge against him. She performs a seductive dance for her lecherous stepfather, King Herod, that involves removing seven veils, showing more and more of her body with the removal of each one. The king offers to give her anything she desires if she will perform the dance for him and his guests. After the performance, the king is pleased and repeats his offer. She tells him that she desires the beheading of John the Baptist. The king is reluctant but bound by his word. He accedes to her demand and orders the evil deed done.
There are many nobler reasons to perform a striptease these days than to have someone’s head served on a platter. But what is most important for us here is the use of layers in the striptease. Many scholars believe that the seven veils represent the seven deadly sins. Oh seven sins be damned! There is nothing sinful about the female body. The striptease is a celebration of the human body.
The whole idea of a striptease is to keep an audience entertained as each article of clothing is peeled off.
So instead of the seven deadly sins, let’s suppose that Salome’s veils represent the seven seductive layers of the great revealing by which we create the master striptease:
- Let go.
- Create, always.
- Be who you are, with a vengeance.
- Move and dance—disciplined and freestyle.
- Make use of the element of surprise in your dance and in your life.
- Focus on someone or something you are passionate about.
- NEVER REVEAL ALL.
Lift the first veil in the striptease by just letting go—let your mind and body go. Allow for wild, unbridled, outrageous fantasies and ideas. It’s not important to live in reality right now. That will come later. Just get up in the privacy of your living room and dance to your favorite song. Pretend that you’re dancing for your favorite person, who at this moment absolutely adores you. Allowing for this kind of mind adventure releases all kinds of creative energy that you can put to use later in creating your striptease. Letting go allows for artistic vision and insight. But you have to be willing to do it first. Lift this veil and see what happens.
Once you have let go, it is time to start creating. Always be creating if possible. Creating can come in many forms. It can even mean just creating new energy around your apartment or living space. Perhaps it means creating a collage of your favorite photographs. Perhaps it means creating a new hairstyle or a new makeup look for the day. Maybe it means coming up with a new recipe for supper or inventing a new cocktail. It could mean getting some new songs on your iPod or creating a CD of some favorite tunes. Creative ideas trigger more creative ideas. That is why this veil is such an important one to dance with in life, not only in your striptease. When in doubt what to create, at least go buy some candles and some pink lightbulbs for your home, to create fantastic mood lighting. This veil can become important in the bedroom as well. Trying out a new fantasy with your partner can be fun and add plenty of spark to your relationship. This veil can be an unending well of inspiration in all aspects of your life.
Be who you are, with a vengeance
The next beautiful veil to lift is to know and own who you are, and adorn yourself accordingly. Be who you are, with a vengeance. Release any negative thoughts about what you think other people think you should be. No life coach, no celebrity, no fashion designer—no matter how charismatic or famous—should have the power to restrict an individual’s style and personality. Beauty is not defined by the perfect face or figure. Beauty does not come in any age range. Even if you study catwalk models, you may see gorgeous couture but not see warmth or passion or interest in their eyes. They are only sticks with clothes. This becomes boring and dull after a while. Beauty comes alive with energy, passion, and spirit. The most memorable individuals, such as Maria Callas, Marilyn Monroe, and Sophia Loren, don’t have perfect faces or figures; but they are memorable because they are unafraid to use what they have. They light up any room with their own unique energy and style. The striptease celebrates each individual as she is. Be who you are at this moment, and celebrate the traits that were given to you. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to be a better version of yourself; but in the end that comes with reflection, self-awareness, and study. It doesn’t come from allowing anyone (even your loved ones or parents) to have too much influence on your individual style. Instead of hiding your true nature, celebrate yourself!
Move and dance—disciplined and freestyle
A master burlesque goddess must move to seduce. All kinds of movement are required in the striptease. The study of dance and movement helps a master striptease artist become completely comfortable in her body. It is not important to have or to strive for the perfect body to perform a striptease. In fact, most audience members find an artist with flaws much more interesting than one with an absolutely perfect body. Energy and style are most important in the art of burlesque.
Releasing this veil does mean being comfortable enough in your body so that your audience doesn’t feel uncomfortable because you are uncomfortable.
In order to successfully lift this veil, an artist must study all forms of movement, including dance, yoga, and aerobics. It is important to study many forms of dance, including ballet, jazz, and even hip-hop. Most striptease artists regularly study some form of dance. One very famous neo-burlesque dancer I know takes a modern dance class three times a week.
If you have never taken a dance class in your life, don’t let that stop you! Take a beginning dance class and make this your most unique adventure. You are not alone in trying something new, no matter what your age may be. Many people take their first dance class in their 80s or 90s. Don’t worry about how “good” you are in comparison to the other students. That is never important anyway. Keep in mind that you are doing something positive for your body and your brain, as well as working to become a master ecdysiast. While beginning this exploration, think also of the other art forms to take inspiration from: the theater, film, or the fine arts. Art informs other art. It is important to gain insight from as many places as possible. Keep an open mind and try something new. Exploration is good for the soul as well as for the striptease!
Make use of the element of surprise
If you continue to explore untapped possibilities in movement, you may find you will surprise yourself and your audience. This is the next veil to release in your seductive dance. Remember, the whole idea of a great striptease is to keep your audience entertained while you remove each article of clothing. It is important for an artist to use everything in her creative arsenal to her advantage. Maybe the fact that you are even performing a striptease is a surprise. But don’t stop there. It is important to reveal a side of yourself that no one has ever seen before. The best example of surprise in a striptease is to lead the audience to think that one article of clothing is coming off and then to remove another one altogether. Surprises in a striptease can be anything and everything.
The best way to keep an arsenal of surprises in the striptease is to surprise yourself in everyday life. Never have an ordinary day. Surprise yourself. Do something impulsive. Hug your doorman or your neighbor’s tot. Take off from work in the middle of the day and see a movie. Treat yourself to a facial or a spa pedicure. Not everything has to be planned. That includes certain aspects of the strip.
Focus on someone or something you are passionate about
This leads us to the next lovely veil in the striptease. Focus your mind on someone or something you are passionate about—someone or something that flames your heart like Salome’s passion for John the Baptist. This energizes the spirit and the body like nothing else. It can be a person you have never even met. It can be a movie actor on whom you have a crush. Unrequited love is a gift. It inspires and invigorates your soul and mind to push your individual limits. Think of all the works of art and music that have been created by unattainable love. Passion triggers excitement. Excitement induces creativity. It is wonderful to watch an excited performer on stage. A dancer with this kind of vitality is always exciting to watch in any medium, but it is an essential element in the striptease.
NEVER REVEAL ALL
Power is the last veil of a seductive striptease. In order to have this kind of power and hold on to your audience, a burlesque dancer never reveals all—never removes that last veil. She always leaves something to the imagination. This final veil is important to maintain in your everyday life if it is to be done in the strip. It is best to keep your own council in your everyday affairs. No one should know, or needs to know, everything about you. A burlesque dancer doesn’t even reveal all to her lovers or spouse. You don’t owe anyone an explanation just because they asked. The last veil is about being your own best friend in the end.