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Isaiah Esquire talks about his role in new burlesque documentary
by Molly Sprayregen

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Isaiah Esquire, an award-winning international burlesque dancer, discusses the empowering nature of burlesque and the significance of the new documentary in which he appears.

Windy City Times: You said in the film that burlesque celebrates the body in a way nothing else really does. How so?

Isaiah Esquire: Besides the many different body types that are doing burlesque and being celebrated for that—being big and round, being very very thin, being really athletic with tons of muscle, having stretch marks and blemishes and moles and wrinkles and all those things, someone is going to look at you and think that you are perfect as you are and just want to clap and cheer with you—burlesque celebrates the body in many different ways like nothing else to me.

When you can spend 10 minutes just taking off your glove to expose your forearm or your hand—and that's what people are just waiting for—you can expose the beauty to these parts of the body that don't get as much attention.

WCT: Describe the relationship with the audience and how that differs from other kinds of performance.

IE: It's kind of like when you see someone doing anything for the first time and just want to surround them in a lot of love and support and encouragement. They are all there knowing that someone is going to expose that part of themselves, literally, emotionally, artistically, that someone is going to express themselves and you want to be your best self and encourage them to do so, so it's a much more engaged, active audience than most shows.

It's not about sitting back and receiving what someone is giving you on stage. It's about actively doing that for them and letting them know how much you support that.

WCT: What are the misconceptions about burlesque that you wish people understood?

IE: That it's all about sex and that the people in it are all rejects and unintelligent, weak, promiscuous people. I have spent a lot of time fighting that, and I know way more women that have been fighting that battle forever.

I know so many intelligent, strong, powerful, fearless women who do burlesque as an outlet or this way of reclaiming their bodies and celebrating that women can be a force to be reckoned with in the business world and also be a special being and that's ok, and the women should be holding that power of their body and how they are perceived and the work they are allowed to do, and I wish that more people understood that.

I have a friend who is a survivor of rape, and her way of being able to reclaim her body and feel sexy and powerful and strong again was burlesque. It provided something to her that nothing else has because she is able to own her body and be visible when she wants to by her own rules and regulations.

WCT: Why is this movie so important?

IE: I think this film is important just like any true burlesque film is in just being able to show the work of a lot of women that have been fighting the good fight in a different kind of feminism. I think it's really powerful, it's important. I think it's time for Americans especially to get a little less uptight about the human body. We all have one. Some just look different, but its just skin, and the focus should be on intention much more than skin shown.

It's one of the few things that everyone shares, so its really important to make that not such a taboo, and I think this film is nice because you're able to get an idea and some insight into the people doing the work versus just seeing what happens on stage. You're able to see how much work actually goes into it for one and how thoughtful and intelligent and evolved the people that are putting it on are.

WCT: What are your dreams for your future?

IE: My dream is to continue performing with my husband. I want to continue performing with him and carving a niche that is uniquely ours and being two very large androgynous male identifying beings in this artistic world and being able to still be gentle and be thoughtful and be kind and still be successful.

I want to inspire as many people as possible to love their bodies. I want to help people that look like me or feel like me to celebrate who they are and for other brown people to finally see someone in a film that looks closer to them I think is a really really important and to continue to express an alternative kind of masculinity. I think my ultimate goal is just to continue doing what I'm already doing.

Burlesque: Heart of the Glitter Tribe is open in select theaters, and is available on VOD / iTunes.

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