Canada’s most coveted burlesque personalities, Rosie Mae and Pastel Supernova, have recently launched the Burlesque University – Toronto’s newest unique space designed for dancers who want to experience the world of showgirls through dance training and the art of burlesque.
Rosie and Pastel join us on Close-up Culture to tell us their vision for the Uni, the benefits of burlesque, the joys of teaching, and much more.
Q: Where did the idea for this Uni come from?
Pastel: The idea for the Uni came from Toronto lacking a studio that not only focused on classic burlesque training, but also prepared students to become working showgirls. The Uni shows that being a showgirl can be a full time job. We provide training in dance, glamorous style and fitness. We offer a brand of showgirls that focuses on excellence in both dance and burlesque.
Q: I like that burlesque is multi-disciplinary and taps into a person’s fitness and their creativity. What type of people do you think this Uni is geared to? Who should be interested?
Rosie: The Uni welcomes absolutely everyone. Fitness, sexy dancing, and having fun really is for everyone. You get to laugh, become stronger, have fun and if you so choose, put on a pair of heels.
Q: The Uni provides a 10-week intensive programme. What are some of the activities students might expect?
Pastel: The intensive course is the ultimate showgirl training program. Students train in various aspects of dance including technique, etiquette, performance, costuming, etc. Throughout the course, students are invited to come experience the Toronto world of burlesque at various shows, gigs, and parties.
We also provide the opportunity to work with us. Some of our students continue on to work frequently in Toronto’s best venues and in film and television. The 10 week session ends with a large showcase where students perform in groups and can audition a solo.
Q: Can you tell us about yourselves and how you fell in love with burlesque?
Rosie: I am a trained dancer who happened to come across the world of burlesque through Pastel. I went to see Love Letters Cabaret a few years back and it was this perfect blend of dance, burlesque, tease, sexiness…I could go on. I had the opportunity to join the cast about a year after and ever since I have been obsessed. I’ve always been drawn towards the silly, over the top aspects of theatre and I have always loved to dress up. Burlesque is the perfect fit.
Pastel: I have only ever wanted to be on stage surrounded by the arts so I trained for it. After theater school I was working as a backup dancer for Nelly Furtado when the first opportunity in burlesque came up. I didn’t hesitate nor did I look back. Burlesque combined a disciplined poise and glamour that is similar to my ballet training with a flirty sense of humor I often get in “trouble” for. I was immediately hooked and determined to share it with as many people as I could.
Q: What has burlesque brought to your to lives?
Rosie: We found each other. It’s our entire lifestyle. It’s provided us with a career where we get to choose when, where, and who we work with. We get to celebrate individuality daily. We make a living being silly, creative, and over the top – exactly what we want to do. Our daily life is often unpredictable but always memorable.
Q: What kind of growth – physically and mentally – can students expect from this Uni course?
A: You will learn to become the best version of yourself. Mentally you will learn to trust your own skill sets and qualities. Physically you will become more graceful, coordinated, and stronger. We build resilience in both aspects. We work very hard and it’s not easy to let go of inhibitions immediately, but with lots of love we try our best to make everyone feel their best.
Q: What is your favourite memory involving burlesque?
Rosie: There are a million memories. We have created so many shows together, we gig together, we literally crack jokes daily with each other. I don’t think I can pick one. Sometimes we get paid to ride around in a rickshaw and say hi to everyone – or get fully body painted – or pour tequila in strangers’ mouths – or dress like a hotdog. For now I’m living in the present, enjoying our daily adventures and writing every experience down. When I’m old and brittle I might be able to find a favourite moment.
Q: How do you find the experience of teaching? How do you approach it?
Rosie: Teaching is both rewarding and challenging. I really try to turn our students into the best they can be. I’m very upfront but it always comes with love. I love to see our students succeed. I love to hear them say how much fun they have, how taking our classes has changed their life. I approach teaching no differently than hanging out with my friends – honest, having fun, and making jokes. I love teaching!
My favourite instructors growing up were completely devoted to the subject they taught and I approach my practice the same way. With love, patience and enthusiasm, I aim to create a studio environment where my students feel comfortable enough to take risks, make mistakes and dare themselves to try new things. It can be an emotional process and other times it’s silly, sexy fun.
Q: What is your dynamic like together?
Pastel: We call each other ‘Wife’. We drink a lot of caffeine, shop too much, have crazy ideas that we could riff on for hours, and we hate to cook. We are both good and bad influences on each other. We laugh a lot and never let the other wear a bad outfit.
Q: What are your hopes for the students who pass through the Uni?
A: To be outgoing, strong, have a great outfit, and to be burlesque rockstars.
Q: Any closing words or ambitions for the Uni to share with us?
A: Yes. Always say “yes”. Also, come to class!