Tiffany Diamond is a recent graduate of the Academy of Burlesque with a dance background. She had been looking for a fun creative outlet that would let her express herself, and feel joy.
Tell us a little about how you’d describe yourself before you started burlesque.
I was a performer and dancer. I’ve always had a performance background, but I had taken a step away from performing. I was doing a lot of admin work behind the scenes. After college before I moved to Seattle, I danced professionally for a bit but I felt like I wasn’t going to be as great as I wanted to be, and was unsure of what I wanted to do with dance and performing. I was teaching dance and my mom passed away and I was really sad and realized I needed a change in my life. I missed being on stage and being a performer, and I wasn’t as fulfilled being behind the scenes anymore. I was trying to figure out what my next step was in getting back to a scene in which I wasn’t feeling as confident and successful as I wanted to be.
How did you hear about The Academy of Burlesque?
I had known about it from being in the Seattle performing arts community. I knew some burlesque performers that did a lot of contemporary dance performance too. I had gone to some burlesque shows. I liked it and thought it would be something to pursue, but I didn’t know how to start before I discovered the academy. It was a little research and a little happenstance.
With your dance background, what was it about burlesque specifically that you found intriguing?
Growing up I had done a lot of jazz and tap and more theatrical dance. By the time I was in high school I was focused on ballet and more contemporary work. It became very academic – no more sequins and no more rhinestones. It was all very pulled back and distilled. College was more contemporary dance driven. I love it but it’s also depressing. Sometimes I’m a sensitive person and the subject matter is often more serious. When I watched burlesque I wanted to express myself that way again. It’s fun and enjoyable and you put a smile on someone’s face. There’s still an academic side, but with burlesque, I can create and do art and move my body in a way that people enjoy. It was a refreshing way to go back to something I knew but in a different form.
Was there anything you were afraid of? Did you have any hesitations when you were considering burlesque?
I was scared to tell my dad. It’s more provocative, and I was also nervous about doing it in front of my friends and people I know. It was scary. It’s very different than anything I’ve done.
Also, I was used to having a serious, focused face when I performed. I was scared to put myself out there and be big and over the top and silly and crazy, and show aspects of my personality I usually reserve for my close friends. I wondered if I’d have any success with it.
What made you decide to do it anyway?
It was always something I wanted to try, and there was finally room in my schedule to try it. I had taken some of the booty dance classes and I really liked the community. It was a now or never moment. If I didn’t suck it up and try it, I might have never done it and I would have always wondered if it would have been something I could have enjoyed.
I thought about it for three or four years before I actually did it.
In retrospect would you have waited that long?
I wish I had done it sooner because I love it so much. It takes time to go through the process of learning and performing. But I’m also older and more mature now, so maybe when I was younger I wouldn’t have liked it as much or found it as valuable.
What was it like learning burlesque and performing in your first recital?
I was really nervous. I went to one of the meetings but I got married over the summer and my wedding date fell during the program. I did two of the sessions virtually. When I got back and finally got to join the classes, it was exciting and nerve-wracking to be sexy in front of people, learning how to remove my clothes. It was new and it was intimate, but everyone was so supportive of each other. The women were warm and welcoming and no one judged anyone. It was a fun community of people to meet up with every week, spending time together learning something new, asking questions, and going through the journey together working toward a final performance.
I’ve been to a lot of workshops where you learn something but have no way to apply it. It makes a having a recital where you can apply all these things you’re learning, invite your family or friends to come see what you learned, and have everyone there to encourage you. It’s such a welcoming and warm group of individuals. You’re all behind each other 100% and only wish the best performance for everyone.
Other forms of art and performance can be critical and competitive. But the way everyone was approaching this was so encouraging, which is something I didn’t always feel in contemporary performance. I felt like I could flower and grow as a performer.
How did your experience of your body, sexuality, and femininity shift throughout the process?
I’ve always had body image issues from growing up with my dance background. The way all the material is taught is celebrating our bodies and the things we don’t love YET. It was really awesome for me to watch the other women I was with be so confident, and to be around other women who were experiencing the same thing at the same time. It’s okay to love your body and it’s okay to have curves, to not have curves, to have muscles, whatever. Your body is beautiful if you embrace it. It helped me to have a community of people. It helped me feel more confident about how I look, knowing I got to choose how and when I presented it.
My character is a little silly and she’s a little crazy. She doesn’t know she’s being sexy. Choosing how to do it was really empowering. I’m going to let you see my body, and I’m going to be really silly while I’m doing it.
You mentioned the word “empowering” and that’s a word we hear a lot in burlesque. How did that empowerment affect other areas of your life?
I definitely feel more decisive about things. I’ve always been nervous to state an opinion or to be the person who says, “We’re going to go here and we’re going to do this. I don’t want people to not enjoy it. Now I’m going “This is what we’re doing”. This is what I want to do, so let’s do it. I’m vocalizing my needs and desires and knowing that what I want to do or say is valuable. I’m more assertive.
If you had a friend who was considering burlesque but was on the fence, what would you say?
Anyone on the fence should just do it, even if you don’t want to pursue performing afterward or have never performed. Just the experience of working with this group of people, going through a process and building something with an end goal is powerful. The feeling of accomplishment at the end is really rewarding, and knowing you spent time and effort and you gave 110% to do something is really valuable. You may discover things about yourself you didn’t know, or find talents you didn’t know you had. You might find out you’re funnier than you thought you were, or sexier, or more glamorous.
I love that the group of people I was with still text each other and support each other. Knowing that they’re still there is really awesome, even if you already have a ton of friends.