Burlesque helps students feel sexy at this Bangor dance studio

After her very first burlesque dance lesson around four years ago, Brewer resident Taunya Cook found herself basking in the afterglow once she got home.

“I could literally feel my confidence skyrocketing. I feel it in my walk. The way I walk, how sexy I feel. I feel like a ray of femininity and sunshine,” Cook said. “It’s an inside vibe, and I love it.”

It’s a big reason why, earlier this year, she and her business partner, Searsport resident Megan Crochere, decided to strike out on their own and set up Eye Candy Dance Studio in Bangor, specializing in burlesque. , belly dancing, fitness dancing and, soon, pole fitness.

Ashley Raye White hugs her dance partners from Eye Candy Dance Studio after their belly dancing routine at Brewer’s Next Generation Theater on Friday night. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN

In a colorful third-floor studio on Central Street in downtown Bangor, amid fishnets and feathers, Crochere and Cook are creating a body-positive place where everyone can learn the basics of the more sensual side. dance – exercising and having fun in a supportive environment while doing it.

Crochere and Cook met while taking burlesque lessons through Red Hot & Ladylike, a Portland-based dance studio that offers lessons and performances statewide. When the pandemic hit, in-person classes were canceled, of course, and during that year the couple felt the absence of dance in their lives. They decided to start their own dance studio in Bangor and started by renting studios in the area before opening their permanent location in downtown Bangor in March this year.

Although Eye Candy offers more traditional dance, yoga, and weight training classes, its most popular offerings are burlesque dancing and belly dancing. For burlesque in particular, students learn, at first, a few simple dance steps and movements using chairs and other props – no nudity, but lots of innuendo and sexy costumes, although yoga pants and sports bras are also welcome. The studio had its first public showcase performance this month and plans to hold similar showcases in the coming months as they develop new routines with students.

Burlesque dancer Kinky Slippers, from Portland, performs with Bangor’s Eye Candy Dance Studio during their first public performance titled Hot Summer Nights at Brewer’s Next Generation Theater on Friday night. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN

Modern burlesque, such as that popularized by the movie “Burlesque” starring Cher and Christina Aguilera or famous performers like Dita Von Teese, combines the campy, vintage aesthetic of the early 20th century with contemporary performance elements.

The only rule is that everyone – literally everyone – is welcome. The wave of body-positive celebrities and images like Lizzo, Ashley Graham and Demi Lovato has certainly helped create a culture where people of a certain size can feel comfortable in their own skin.

“Every body – any shape, any size, any age – is beautiful and welcome here,” Crochere said. “It’s a safe space, above all, to get in touch with yourself. No matter what type of class you come to, you will feel this vibe.

Ashley Raye White waits for her dance routine at Brewer’s Next Generation Theater where Bangor’s Eye Candy Dance Studio held its first public showcase titled Hot Summer Nights on Friday. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN

Eye Candy also offers line dancing and hip hop dancing lessons, and recently started offering pole dancing conditioning to help people get in shape for the pole dancing fitness classes the studio has. intend to begin offering in July. Eye Candy will be one of the few studios offering this style of class – a combination of dance and weight training – in Maine.

“We’re really excited to expand these offerings here in the Bangor area because there are so many in Portland, but there are just as many people here who want to do it,” Cook said.

Just as Crochere and Cook felt the lack of dance in their lives when in-person classes couldn’t take place, they both feel that after the long, mentally draining pandemic, many people need to add a little extra. little spice to their lives.

Taunya Cook, co-owner of Eye Candy Dance Studio in Bangor, which specializes in burlesque, belly dancing and dance fitness, dances in a number called Vintage Vixen Burlesque during the studio’s Friday night performance of Hot Summer Nights at Next Generation Brewer’s Theatre. The studio plans to hold similar showcases in the coming months as they develop new routines with students. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN

“Our classes are in the evening, so maybe if your kids are sleeping or you have some free time, that’s something you can do on your own,” Crochere said. “When you love yourself more, everything in your life improves.”

Eye Candy Dance Studio is located on the third floor of 9 Central St. in downtown Bangor. The full course schedule is available at eyecandybangor.com.

Colleen D. Ervin