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St. Louis studio offers cardio burlesque

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Their clients wear feather boas and high heels instead of sports bras and tennis shoes, but a St. Louis studio is helping women get in shape in a new way.

It’s called Cardio Tease, offered at Lola Van Ella’s studio. Most of her classes focus on the art of burlesque, but Cardio Tease also includes the goal of improving fitness.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the classes seek to foster a healthy body image as much as they do a healthy body. For nearly an hour, Van Ella leads the women through a mix of traditional toning exercises with burlesque flourishes.

“Circles, girls,” Van Ella said during a recent class with a half-dozen women who were prancing in heels. They stood with their backs to a mirror.

“Release your boas,” Van Ella said. “Hand on your hip, now look over your shoulder and give ‘em a ‘Hello, sailor!”’

Van Ella said women are increasingly feeling a need to “express their feminity and sexuality in a way that feels comfortable and safe. This class does a lot of that, and it allows them to leave sore.”

Sarah Davis, 27, of St. Louis, was interested in getting fit and studying the art form of burlesque.

“It works out a whole different group of muscles. I didn’t realize that until after the first class, but you get used to it,” Davis said.

She was surprised that she didn’t feel self-conscious.

“It feels very safe, like there’s nothing to be embarrassed about,” she said. “There are all the different shapes and sizes and experience levels, and you’re a little more outgoing than you would be otherwise.”

Bevin Blake, 28, lost 30 pounds in her first year the class. She also felt burlesque would help her work other parts of her personality while getting fit.

It was awkward at first, she said, but others in the class helped. She recently performed in public with a group of other burlesque dancers and is preparing her own solo performance, under the name Viv Vacious.

During a recent class, they sashayed and strutted through grapevines and other cross steps. They did bumps, grinds, and shimmies. Music ranged from 1940s big band to rhythm and blues.

The class began with warm-up exercises and ended with core-strengthening — with a burlesque flourish, the women seated on the floor in a come-hither pose that also worked their abdominal muscles.

“There are taboos about feeling like you can be sexy and do all these things,” Van Ella said. “That’s what Van Ella Studios is about. It’s a place to be safe and comfortable and have permission to feel sexy.”

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com.

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