Burlesque a confidence boost for cancer survivors
A prescription of stilettos, red lipstick and a double dose of confidence might be just what the doctor ordered for women diagnosed with breast cancer.
Palmerston North teacher Lisa Laney is living with breast cancer, which has spread to her bones. She is determined not to let her terminal prognosis clash with her plans to live her life to the full.
Instead she is getting a boost from Red Delicious Burlesque Academy in Palmerston North, which is offering free burlesque classes to women who have survived or are currently living with breast cancer.
Red Delicious owner Kerry Rodda, who goes by the stage name MisRed, has imported Pink Light Burlesque, a special concept for breast cancer survivors, from New York.
Ms Laney is one of her first recruits, and says she is itching to don her first feather boa.
"After surgery you feel very different, you feel like hiding away and you don't necessarily want people to see you. Burlesque is all about loving your body and being proud of who you are, even if you've got breast cancer - whether you've got one, two or none."
Mrs Rodda's scars from her own brush with breast cancer, when she was aged just 19, are still visible. An operation found her lump was benign but that experience, along with those of other breast cancer survivors in her family, has steeled her resolve to give women living with the illness a boost.
"I still remember the shock of the way my mum and dad reacted, it was pretty full on at the time having that change to your body, it just knocks your confidence."
She got in touch with Pink Light Burlesque's New York founder and asked her if she could possibly "franchise" the concept.
Now in New York, Seattle and Palmerston North, there is talk of making the idea globally accessible.
"It has been pretty phenomenal - the response of the burlesque community has been wonderful."
"It's not about sexuality, it's about sensuality," Mrs Rodda explained. She has hopes of one day spreading the concept nationwide.
Classes will range from classical to neo-burlesque, spanning the traditional style associated with celebrated American performer Dita von Teese, to a cheekier, vaudeville inspired style. Her proteges will learn feather boa burlesque routines, be schooled on posture and the art of removing a corset. The Burlesque Academy will offer New Zealand's first Pink Light classes for six weeks from February.
Boutique school Circo Acrofit founder Douglas Jarrett has donated the venue for the classes and also plans to offer free "blue pole" and "pink pole" fitness classes to both men and women living with cancer.