IT MIGHT sound sleazy, but deep down inside, what woman doesn't
wish she could move like those women at Delilah's Den?
On an impulse, I decided to check a class on "The Art of Exotic
Dancing" at the Society Hill Dance Studio.
When I showed up Monday night, I was relieved to see that the
instructor looked perfectly normal. No triple D-cup silicone boobs.
No glittery Fredericks of Hollywood getup. In fact, Leah Stauffer
looked more like a kindergarten teacher than an exotic-dance
After a warm handshake, she led me into a room where a small
group of women, dressed in fitness clothes, was huddled.
"Did you want to change?" Leah asked.
What I wanted to say was, "I ain't takin' off nothin'." But I
decided to join in and made it back just as everyone was gathering
to sit in a circle on the floor.
"This whole experience is about you finding your innner body
rhythm," Leah said. "We're all as individual as our fingerprints.
You're not going to dance like me or like your neighbor."
Now I'm the type that hangs back from going down the Soul Train
line at a party. So, how was I going to get up in front of everyone
and pretend to be a stripper?
Each woman took turns saying why she'd decided to take the class.
One had been having self-doubt after her husband left her for "the
other woman." A recent college graduate said she wanted to learn to
dance like the women she'd seen at strip clubs. And another said
this was her way of getting in touch with her feminity.
Then Leah performed. No longer the kindergarten teacher, she
moved with such grace and confidence that she looked like some
exotic creature. I was impressed.
Before I knew it, Leah had us all standing, facing a
floor-to-ceiling mirror and doing a step-drag-step movement across
the floor. I was moving like the rusty Tin Man from "The Wizard of
Then, I remembered Leah's pep talk about being positive and not
focusing on your negative attributes. Forget your hips and find
something you do like to concentrate on, she said. I liked the fact
that I looked athletic, so I tried to concentrate on that. Step.
Drag. Step. Drag. After a bit, I was putting my hip into it. I even
looked a little sexy.
But as soon as I'd gotten that move down, Leah added hand
movements. She demonstrated a few, hugging her shoulders, running
her hands seductively up and down her sides. I tried holding my
hands above my head Diana Ross-style like Leah, but felt
So, I settled on this hula-type gesture where you alternate
receiving "energy" and sending it away. You slowly stick one arm
out, then pull it back. And then you do the same thing with the
other arm. Then you repeat the whole thing. It's send energy.
Receive energy. Send. Receive. And step. Drag. Step. Send. Receive.
I was getting better, but the girls at Delilah's still had
nothing to fear from me.
Then, Leah lined us up facing each other and explained the
importance of eye contact. She instructed us to do our
step-drag-walk and our hand movements while maintaining eye contact
with the woman across from us. The girl-on-girl thing had some of us
shifting nervously, but Leah made us chill.
"That's where all the power is," Leah said. "It's saying, I'm not
afraid to express to you who I am... That's the kind of energy that
attracts people to you."
I watched as a fiftysomething woman started moving stiffly toward
me, moving even more awkwardly than I had. My own discomfort turned
to support after she finally made it over, smiling like Miss
America. I wanted to yell, "Go ahead, girlfriend."
Then it was my turn. Deep breath. Step. Drag. Step. Drag. Don't
forget your hand movements, I reminded myself.
The next thing I remember is everyone pulling out their 6-inch
platform, "bad girl" shoes. Leah's were clear with rhinestones
across the toes. One woman had white, patent-leather pumps with huge
platforms. I felt so lame when I pulled out my 2 ‡-inch heels.
The rest of the evening went by in a blur of hip rolls - you put
one foot forward and make circles - and crawling around on the
floor. By the time the evening was over, we had learned an entire
stripper routine. We even learned how to strip out of a man's
over-sized button-down shirt - my favorite was the part where you
kick it across the floor - and how to work a feather boa. (Never
hide behind it. But do use it as a prop.)
Even though we basically were following the routine, we each
added our own special flava. Charmaine Ensinger, a tattoo-covered
35-year-old Web designer, had this hard-edged Mick Jagger thing
going on, and 26-year-old Deandra Witt, a married "quintessential
good girl," moved like she was born to dance.
Chat about body rhythm, fitness and help with
Jenice Armstrong and other Girlfriends in the Girlfriends'
Locker Room, our Daily News weblog.
Afterward, it was back to the circle where the women spoke
glowingly of the experience.
"It's our birthright," said Tia Braxton, a 35-year-old
entrepreneur who was back for a second time. "It comes naturally.
It's within us."
Sue Ricci, 57, who's been caring for her brain-injured husband,
said it was her way of doing something just for herself. "It makes
you feel on top of the world."
As for me, exotic dancing didn't come naturally. But I had taken
a walk out of my normal routine. And that made it worthwhile. *
The next class at the Society Hill Dance Studio will be 6-9 p.m.
April 19. Cost is $79. For information on other classes and
locations, log on to http://www.artofexoticdancing.com/.
Hey, fashionistas, club kids and other hip about-town types: Have
you peeped a hot trend that hasn't been reported? Or maybe you've
noticed that the "in" crowd has moved onto a different spot. E-mail
heyjen@ phillynews.com and let me know what you know.