The former World Poker Tour (WPT) Ones to Watch has been playing poker for over a decade now, and in that time has managed to successfully juggle her time on the felt with stints in the modeling world, television presenting and also as a full time Mom.
But the reason that I have asked Ebony onto the show is to talk about her rather interesting hobby of burlesque dancing.
For the uneducated amongst us, please explain to the listeners what burlesque dancing is?
“Wow…I am about to completely botch this up for all the burlesque purists out there. For me, it’s a form of dancing that is sexual and aggressive. It’s a sexually charged performance.”
How did you get involved in it?
“Before I played poker I used to dance for a football team and one of the girls I used to dance with was an amazing ballroom dancer. We hadn’t seen each other for 8-9 years, and then one day I was working out and one of the people there suggested I check out this burlesque class. So I showed up and when I got there my old friend was teaching it. I started going to her class and then she asked me to do a performance with her, and another girl, and I just fell in love with it.”
What’s the appeal for you?
“The majority of the people who take a class are not performers, don’t have a performance background and have no desire to even do anything like this in front of other people. The majority of people who do the class just want to feel good about themselves, escape reality and get to act in a role. It’s a judgment free zone and they get to smile and feel sexy even if they don’t feel sexy. It’s a great bonding experience and does wonders for self esteem.
“For example, we have someone in our class who is very insecure and has a hard time with life in general – just making eye contact with people is difficult for her. Since she has done the class you can see her change. It’s therapeutic. If you can get comfortable with who you are as a person you are fine bringing that to other people. If you believe in who you are, with more conviction, it makes it harder for other people to tear you down.”
Do you have insecurities about your body?
“Growing up I was never comfortable with who I was. Nobody told me I was pretty and I was very insecure. Over the past 3-4 years I have become extremely comfortable with my own skin. Now I am more about what you see is what you get. I still struggle with these issues and I think everyone does to some degree. As far as how confident I am, I definitely have my moments, but I just look at myself in the mirror and tell myself that I am worthy and I am as great as I think I am.”
What does your burlesque schedule look like?
“I practice once per week, subject to my schedule, and if we have a performance I practice 3 or 4 times per week. Tracey has really come up with a great program. We get there at 7pm, on Tuesday’s, and everyone is sitting there drinking wine, getting comfortable and having girl talk. You are going into a room with a lot of women you might never have met before, and you are going to be touching your private parts and trying to be sexy in front of a mirror where everyone can see you, so it’s very vulnerable, and so she makes sure everyone relaxes first. Then we work out for 30-mins, dance for 3 hrs and it’s amazing.”
It sounds like the practice sessions are very challenging, how on earth do you feel when you are performing in front of a crowd?
“I was extremely nervous in the last show we did. I had done cheerleading before, but nothing since I was 21-22. Now a decade later I have two kids and my body shows that I have two kids. It’s tougher mentally for me, and I am a lot harder on myself than I should be. We had three performances scheduled, in one night, and I was scared shitless for the first performance, but then afterwards I couldn’t wait to get back out there. It was such an intimate moment. The stage was so small. It was very close. In one performance I was sitting on someone’s lap in the audience. You just have to go with it. It’s crazy. It’s intense, and it’s every bit as nerve-racking as you would think it is, but that’s what makes it so great.”
Is the performance full nudity?
“It’s not nude. We are minimally clothed. The smallest outfit could be considered a bikini, but we are in heels, fishnets and props. Tracey Schultz – who teaches the class – makes everything so artistic. There are levels to every performance. There is a moment where you hold your breath, then a moment where you let it go. Whether you are watching, or performing, you feel those moments. The amount of clothing we wear in the show goes hand in hand with the performance.”
What is the most challenging thing about Burlesque?
“Looking at the audience and not being afraid of making eye contact with them, because if I am afraid of making eye contact with them I feel they are going to be uncomfortable with the show. It was hard to accept this, and it will continue to be hard, but it’s something beautiful, and if I can share that with people who appreciate it, then going through those few seconds of butterflies is always worth it.”
What have you learned?
“I think for me, understanding there is no shame. I have gotten completely comfortable with who I am physically. I enjoy it, so if it makes you uncomfortable then look away…that’s it.”
Is the sexiness just an illusion – how do you feel when dancing?
“There are some moves where I don’t feel sexy and some that I do. I can get up there and do the same moves with the same conviction, but if my face doesn’t convince you then you aren’t going to feel it. The passion that I feel – that exudes from me – that’s the energy you will get. So if I don’t feel sexy then you will feel that. It’s all perception.”
A lot of men would associate Burlesque purely with sex, are you aware of this when dancing, and does this bother you?
“It doesn’t bother me. Nobody is going to get the same feeling. You could get 100 people in a room and 100 will go away with different emotions. You get what you get from it. I don’t care what you get from it as long as you leave feeling good.”
Should everyone learn some sort of sexy dancing?
“I think every person, male or female, should learn to dance to make themselves feel good. They should learn some sort of dance that make them feel free and sexy because they are powerful emotions.”
You are a mother of two children; does this cross your mind when choosing to do burlesque dancing?
“I have a 13-year old daughter and 10-year old boy, but it’s easier for me because I have done some music videos, where there has been the illusion of me being topless, and I have done some sexy pictures and spreads in magazines. So it’s not a blindside for my kids. When I started taking the class I would show the kids the footage and they would think it was awesome. We are a performing family. They know I am comfortable with being sexy, and they have seen pictures before so it’s not like I am the Brady Bunch Mum who suddenly shows up in a Burlesque outfit. It’s not that blind siding for them.”
It can also teach your daughter some important values, right?
“I think one of the biggest challenges being a mother – when you have a daughter – is you don’t want to shame them away from being female. My daughter will tell you I am a conservative Mum who yells at her about her make up and what she wears, but I try to set the right example of not being ashamed, being comfortable and being confident. It’s a fine balance, but it’s something I enjoy. I am just performing…so what’s the big deal? It’s the human body, and the human body is beautiful.”