The original idea for a photo of Rachel Szabo for our story on her upcoming burlesque show was for her to do a routine on a bus stop pole at South Windsor, but our photographer thought it might cause an accident on the busy road.
The former Riverstone High student is a dancer, a burlesque artist and entrepreneur, and she wants you to come and watch her, and 11 other acts, on Saturday, June 3.
Rachel will be strutting and pouting and flouncing her red feather boa on the stage of Richmond School of Arts, in her “cheesecake cheeky” persona of Ana Seethe.
She will be joined by members of her troupe The Darlings, and many other saucy acts – but all with the sense of humour and conspiratorial wink that is the signature of burlesque.
Why does a Rivo High girl become an exotic burlesque dancer?
“I had a really bad 2015,” she said. “My relationship of 16 years ended, my cat died and then my dad died – all in three months.” She said she felt like her whole life had been up-ended and emptied out.
The only girl in a family of boys, she was taken in by her brother who lives at South Windsor. “He said ‘you need a hobby!’.”
She wanted to get dancing again as she’d done ballet and tap for 11 years as a child. Then a pole-dancing friend directed her to the city-based Bobbi’s Pole Studio near where Rachel works.
“I just went crazy!” she said with a twinkle. “You need to do more of that!” her brother commented at the change in her mood and well-being. “It made me focus on my body and switch my brain off. I’d been at a desk for so long and it was really nice to move that way again.”
It gave her a whole social scene as well. “I’ve met so many open-minded men and women – they’re my people! You can express yourself in any way you like. Some are accountants during the day or are trying to get their confidence back.”
She has been in her troupe for 18 months now and has learnt from masters of the craft. “One of my teachers was Diesel Darling who’s a burlesque snake dancer, and BB Bergman who does a 60s music act and fan dance.”
She said it’s a wonderful way for women to feel comfortable with their bodies. “I’m very happy with who I am and making the most of what I’ve got.”
After the Gazette tried one of her beautiful jewelled pasties with tassels for twirling, we asked how ready she thought the Hawkesbury was for saucy burlesque.
“I don’t believe the Hawkesbury is conservative,” she said. “It’s amazing how many people are supporting me.”
She said her Maltese Catholic mother was dubious about it initially. “At my first burlesque performance she was freaked out!,” she said, but now her mother is one of her biggest supporters. “My mum loves it! She’s conservative about some things but with arts and dance she’s very open-minded. My brothers are so supportive too.”
She said taking anything off initially was hugely daunting for some at the pole studio. “So many people are so worried about getting their boobs out and touching them, they would cry,” she said of the classes. “But it’s more than just stripping – there’s thought around it, sometimes comedy. It’s a parody! It’s feminine, it’s light-hearted, it’s all about not taking yourself too seriously. It’s really fun.”
While the audience is encouraged to yell out and encourage performers to get it off, there’s no full nudity, and any breasts have pasties on them, part of the burlesque code.
She said she’s always had it in her, from when she used to do dance routines on her back step to always drawing figures with boas and fishnets and petticoats.
She said burlesque used to be an underground thing, but it’s now 2017. “You can be cheeky, you can be sexy. There are different styles of burlesque too such as traditional or vintage, fetish and neo.”
What’s neo? “I do some neo – I dress in a pretty polka dot dress, and when I take it off there’s PVC underneath.”
She said couples enjoy it immensely. “They go and they have an amazing time,” she said.
She’s performed at Glebe and on Oxford Street, and from the moment she first stepped on the stage she’s loved it. But it’s not just women who do burlesque – there are men as well, some gay, some straight. “One straight bloke dresses as a cop and smears donuts all over himself!” she said with a smile.
She said the whole experience has been so transformative for her that it should be universal.
“I think all women should do a bit of burlesque! I don’t think there’s any partner out there who wouldn’t want their woman to be more confident.”
What can Hawkesbury residents expect on the night? She said she’s booked the artists, but they do their own act. “If someone wants to do a heavily fetish act, that’s fine, or hump the floor or do a very suggestive song, that’s fine too.”
The Darlings will do several acts, the local pole studios will take the stage as well as Sydney artists, with Rachel as MC.
If the night is a success she aims to put on a different show every two months. “I”ve got performers lined up already for the next one,” she said.
Canapes and finger food will be served and a bar will be open.
Tickets for Ana Seethe’s Expose – Burlesque and Variety Night are $35 plus booking fee at Eventbrite, or $40 at the door. There are only 144 seats in the air-conditioned auditorium so book early. Doors open 7pm for 8pm start. Go to anaseethe.com to book or find out more.