The Atlanta School of Burlesque creates inclusive space to dance

The Atlanta School of Burlesque wants to highlight the art’s true nature and make it accessible to the community. Photo Submitted by The Atlanta School of Burlesque

Black chairs, intricate choreography, feather fans and fishnet tights are all iconic parts of the art of burlesque. Performers and instructors of the Atlanta School of Burlesque want to highlight the art’s true nature and make it accessible to the community. 

The school’s establishment was in 2013 and is home to the award-winning troupe, The Candybox Revue

Roula Roulette, Ursula Undress and Talloolah Love are all burlesque performers, instructors and equal owners of the Atlanta School of Burlesque. 

In 2016, the school found permanent residence in a community space called Metropolitan Studios, Inc. It is the only burlesque school and studio owned and operated by real burlesque performers and professionals in Atlanta.

Burlesque is a genre of variety show that is both provocative and theatrical. It can feature solo dances, intricate group choreography, slapstick skits and songs.

The school is an inclusive and safe space for people where self-expression is accepted. The owners grew tired of seeing a lack of representation of all body types and people in burlesque. They decided to be the change in the burlesque community. 

“You can be plus-size and proud to get up on stage and just own your body, own your sexuality, own yourself and be just as hot and as accepted as anyone else that were to get up on that stage,” Undress said. 

The classes focus on getting comfortable with one’s body and sensuality. They incorporate cognitive-behavioral techniques such as positive affirmations and re-addressing negative thought patterns. 

“I first just started teaching fundamentals, and my class slowly started to evolve because of the kind of people that came into our space, people who had forgotten the kind of power that lives within them because society has broken them down,” Roulette said. 

Many of the school’s students have experiences that have led them to struggle with their self-worth and confidence. 

“It made them feel like they’re not enough, or that they should apologize for the space that they take up or that if they look [a certain way], they would be beautiful,” Roulette said. 

Roulette, Love and Undress want their students to learn to be themselves and not think they need to find permission to be sexy. 

Some misconceptions about burlesque include the idea of ownership with performers. Many people think burlesque performers need to be a certain age or size to get jobs or that they aren’t allowed to pick their names under someone’s management. 

“Anyone thinking that they can own a performer and their art needs to go away. Burlesque is an individual’s piece of art about their authentic story,” Love said. 

The classes are currently virtual and in-person with limited occupancy. The studio offers various courses outside of burlesque, including yoga, Wicca studies, fitness and many other programs showcasing Atlanta’s diversity.

On Sundays, the school has an introductory burlesque course where attendees learn the art form’s history and practice different short choreographies every week.

The school also offers a discount for Georgia State students, giving them a 15% discount for classes. The owners want their classes to be accessible and have a program for people to work for the studio in exchange for time in class. Metropolitan Studios, Inc. also accepts donations that help keep the studio alive during the pandemic. The owners hope those within the Atlanta area will help preserve this fresh and unique space to fuel the city’s artistic vibe.