Words by Bolly Golightly | Photography by Mia Maraschino & Katia Schwartz
The beautiful Bolly Golightly, now a Lyra, Burlesque and Bollywood Instructor at Sky Sirens started her journey as a student here a few years ago. Bolly is one of many Sky Siren babes who started classes in their late 30’s, and this week she decided to interview some Siren students who started their Pole, Burlesque or Aerial journey later in life.
Starting lyra a few weeks before my 40th birthday was terrifying. I was experiencing major melt down at the milestone that was about to occur so I decided to meet my anxiety head on by flying into my 40s.
Not having done so much as a push up for over 10 years, I embraced the fact that I might be terrible. I’m in a profession predicated on mastery and expertise, so I wanted a place where I could be vulnerable. Sky Sirens was perfect for that, and I focussed on the successes, even though they seemed to take me that little bit longer to achieve.
I’ve since met people of all ages enjoying the joy and challenge of aerials and burlesque. I was specifically interested to know what motivated people around my age to start, so I chatted to 10 Sirens aged 31-67 doing pole, lyra, sling and burlesque who, in our conversation, adopted the term ‘Vintage Sirens’.
I was immediately struck by their independence, resilience and tenacity. Some started with a sample session, others came to Bring-a-Babe and some just enrolled. Regardless, we all either came alone, or signed up individually. No safety in numbers required, it seems. In fact, being in control of our destiny is a big reason we were all able to find the courage to begin.
For many, Sky Sirens was part of pathway to recovery from the perils of life. Some had sustained traumas from past relationships or toxic workplaces, fought depression, been scarred by PhDs or lived with chronic illness. Tori (41) said “I felt disembodied as a result. But through lyra I reclaimed my flow. I realised I had missed the creativity of dance and found more sensuality. It’s been so liberating.”
Hannah adds that the safety of Sky Sirens, along with the wisdom of her age, made taking the plunge easier.
“This wasn’t accessible to me in my 20s. I love that what we have is structured in a different way to other studios. It makes me forget there are people of other ages alongside me.”
There are certainly challenges. Our Vintage Sirens took a deep breath discussing the physical demands of starting older. As much as we all embrace the philosophy we’re all capable of amazing things, the reality is that bodies change as they get older. Frustrations include having less flexibility than in our 20s, longer recovery times, lower metabolism, fear levels can be higher and women who’ve had children or surgery can struggle with swaying and spinning. There’s also general exhaustion from work and life responsibilities. “My energy is just different to when I was younger. I’ve always been a very fit and active person, but now I find need a break more often” says Serena (42).
Along with this, bodies just become…looser. This is not a universal experience, but there’s no polite way to say that at 42, I fart more. Learning to invert with the added challenge of desperately trying not to fart in Maddie’s face was possibly the biggest challenge of all.
Despite this our Vintage Sirens said they feel stronger, both inside and out. This is a source of much pride and each Siren glows when they talk about their achievements. Shelly (42) is proud to have recently graduated to a Pearls class. Nicole (34) is sticking it to a doctor who once said she was too old for aerials! Those proud moments live inside of us and we don’t look for external validation. Even though our family and friends think what we do is incredible, most of us don’t do a lot of social media or are not hugely into insta-culture. As Shelley (42) says, “This is just for us”.
We all agree that as we get older we care less and less what people think. Alana (35) calls it the ‘Fuck it Fairy’, which appears some time in your 30s. It matters not what anyone thinks of our aerials or burlesque journey, how we look in lingerie, that we’re taking a while to invert, or what the babe next to us can do. “We think ‘fuck it’, and do it anyway”. Rua (36) adds “There’s always going to be ebb and flow. Life’s too short to care.”
That said, some days, just turning up is a success. Most of us have leadership roles at work, some have caring responsibilities for children, family members or parents. Lots of us carry the mental load at home and it’s desperately hard to carve out a space for something we love. With so many competing responsibilities, Sky Sirens is time devoted to ourselves, our own health and happiness where we get to be a fun, sexy version of ourselves.
“This is an hour where I don’t think about work” – Dash (31).
When asked if they had any advice for someone their age or older who is considering starting classes, the Vintage Sirens universally said “DO IT! DO IT! DO IT” adding, “If I can do it, you can do it. You will make it a priority if you try” – Beth (42). More of their advice included not comparing yourself to others and being kind to yourself. But most of all, we know this is an investment in our own health and happiness. At any age, but particularly our age, there are few things more precious.
Perhaps the greatest encouragement is that age is no barrier. There are no pre-requisites to start and the Sky Sirens instructors are so supportive that you will experience a sense of achievement very quickly, regardless of strength, ability or body type. You will emerge surprised at what you cando, literally flying in the face of societal expectations, and having a ton of fun along the way.
“We all stared from nothing. Now look at us.” – Alana (35).
It’s only been a few weeks, but already Prue, aged 67, has adopted a new showgirl name and has fallen in love with the glamour, cheek and sass of burlesque. Having never danced before, Prue came to a sample session at Sky Sirens and was inspired immediately.
“It’s such a beautiful place. It’s a haven of community.”
When asked if there were any reservations she said “Oh, of course. If it was all 22 year old aerobercise bodies I wouldn’t have stayed. But it was people of every age and body shape. I thought it was fantastic!”
Prue is loving the history, the humour and playfulness of Burlesque. But, I was shocked when this force of nature told me “I don’t have a lot of self-confidence. You lose confidence and feel invisible when you’re older. Now, I have to make more of an effort.”
This invisibility is a familiar experience to many older women, which is why Prue is thrilled to be reclaiming her space through this feminist act. She likes that it shocks people a little bit, makes people reappraise her, puts her in touch with her womanhood, and confirms that “Life doesn’t end at 65. It’s about time we acknowledged that.”
Prue could not be more convincing when asked what advice she’d give to anyone her age considering burlesque. “Absolutely do it do it. It will improve your confidence, flexibility and it’s not hard! It’s something you do for you.”
With a laugh she adds “And something you can show your partner! That’s important at my age.”
“The classes are small at Sky Sirens. You’re not self-conscious and no one cares or is judging you. And if you believe it, they’ll believe it!”
Prue has bonded with her fellow Babydoll Burlesque babes, finding solidarity with their journey regardless of age. “We all walk out with a little more sashay in our step.”
Prue looks like she was born to burlesque and she’s already putting together ideas for her first solo act. It’s clear she’s going to be a daring, inspiring icon of our community. “Plus, I have the haircut for it” she adds.
She certainly does, and so much more!
With heartfelt thanks to the Sirens who agreed to be interviewed for this piece: Dash, Nicole, Beth, Tori, Shelley, Serena, Rua, Alana, Hannah and Prue.