Sunday, October 22, 2006

Save your blushes, we’re only striptease dancing


Her back on the wooden floor, Kewalin Sukapiboon drew an imaginary circle with her legs that were pointed to the ceiling. Then the 32-year-old nurse caressed herself, starting from her inner ankle until she touched her chest.

“Don’t try too hard. If not, it won’t be sexy,” instructed Busakorn Vorameth, the 35-year-old owner of Rum Puree Dance Studio in Bangkok.

In the swanky studio, there were lots of nervous laughter, “Oh my God” and “ooh” from the seven female students – among them a 50-something company president, three international students and a 30-something farang (Thai for westerner) – when Busakorn demonstrated moves that would stir even a celibate monk.

For the first time in Thailand, a dance studio was offering striptease lessons. And it wasn’t the Patpong fare but New York-style striptease.

Two years ago, Busakorn ventured into a striptease club in New York, watched a dancer perform a striptease and exclaimed, “Wow!” She observed that the stripper’s moves looked simple but to execute them well wasn’t easy.

“If you want to be a good stripper, you really need a good foundation in dance such as jazz and ballet,” said the dance instructor, who at that time taught salsa and belly dancing in New York.

Inspired, the graduate in design studies from Harvard University learnt the art of stripping in striptease schools in New York. In 2005, she returned to Bangkok and set up a dance studio.

In the name of research, she frequented Bangkok’s red light districts. What she saw in the Patpong go-go bars was “sad” and “disgusting”.

“You didn’t actually see them dancing. They stood on stage, gripping a pole and waiting to be picked up. Even if they moved, it was without any feeling or expression,” she explained.

“In New York, striptease is a performance where you pay to see the dancers move and (they are) not naked.”

Three months ago, Busakorn introduced striptease (RM40 an hour) to add something different to her studio’s usual salsa, belly dance, tango and hip-hop classes. Friends, however, warned her to be “careful” as striptease was very controversial.

The public, she was told, might think her students wanted to be professional strippers. “My students definitely don’t want to be strippers,” stressed Busakorn, whose nickname is Apple.

Her students are motivated to learn to express their feminine self and to appreciate their body. “I tell them they do not need to have a good body for striptease as different women have different sexual points on their body,” said the dancer, who believes a woman should experience stripping at least once in her life.

But surely some of the students take the class for their lover’s pleasure?

“They don’t tell me directly. But I’m pretty sure one reason is to enhance their partner’s life,” she replied with a grin.

Not for Kewalin the nurse, though. Her only intended audience is the image reflected on the mirror – herself.

“I enjoy watching myself dancing,” she said, quickly adding, “with my clothes on.”

She said she takes striptease lessons to unleash the sexy girl inside her. When she performs a striptease, she said, she becomes another person.

“A sexy girl who can do anything she wants. And nobody can take their eyes off her,” she intimated.

Her friends know that Kewalin takes salsa, belly dancing and zouk lessons at Rum Puree, but her striptease class remains a secret. She once told a male colleague and he reacted negatively.

“He thought it was all about me taking off my clothes,” she related.

Though shirts were unbuttoned during the lesson, no one was naked at the end of the one-hour class.

But isn’t that the purpose?

“Eeeeh...not really,” Busakorn said. “But at home, if you are dancing for your boyfriend, then it is up to you.”

Her idea of a good striptease is “when a stripper can arouse a man without touching him”.

Can she? “Yes, some guy told me,” she said, flashing a big smile.

She said she yearns to turn the Patpong go-go dancers into New York-style strippers.

“Stripping is an art. It is not about people looking only at your naked body,” she explained.

If she could get her hands on them, she said, they would possess a dancer’s body and movements.

(Published in The Star on Oct 22, 2006)