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  • Photograph: Francine Daveta

    New York School of Burlesque

  • Photograph: Francine Daveta

    New York School of Burlesque

  • Photograph: Francine Daveta

    New York School of Burlesque

  • Photograph: Francine Daveta

    New York School of Burlesque

  • Photograph: Francine Daveta

    New York School of Burlesque

Photograph: Francine Daveta

New York School of Burlesque

Essential Burlesque Dance Series
"Eye contact is the fake orgasm of burlesque!" declares Jo Weldon, the head of the New York School of Burlesque, after stressing the importance of connecting with audience members. A dozen or so ladies are here for the second session of a female-only, four-part workshop covering the basics of burly-Q. Some are dressed in fancy undies and are exploring the art form; others are wearing sporty duds and appear more interested in utilizing the skills in the bedroom. Weldon introduces the Diva in a Hoodie routine, during which we're taught how to saucily remove street clothing. The class went faster than I'd like as a newbie, but much of burlesque is about attitude, and Weldon is a master at coaxing even the most sheepish of students out of her shell—or sweatshirt. 81 White St at Benson St * 440 Studios, 440 Lafayette St between Astor Pl and E 4th St * (schoolofburlesque.com). Next series begins Oct 9; $95.—Sophie Harris

An Introduction to Skydancing Tantra: The Path to Bliss
It's 10pm on a Saturday night, so like many other twentysomething gay guys I'm jumping around with my hands in the air, loudly grunting. The person I'm making eye contact with as I sway back and forth is Cathy, a kindly lady who's got a decade on me. She's been my partner at Lokita and Steve Carter's two-and-a-half-hour workshop—a Tantra 101 that aims to improve communication on sexuality within relationships and teach participants how to create a sacred sexual space.

We're at the climax of a tantric ritual that began by creating a bubble around us through symbolic movement (Skydancing Tantra places great weight on the meaning of gestures) and then articulating our intention to cast out cynicism, judgment and fear, invoking joy, presence and openness. Breathing rhythmically and channeling energy toward our chakras, we focus on each one as we move our hands toward and away from them. The root, or Muladhara, chakra, is apparently located in the taint; Lokita keeps referring to it as the "love muscle." She tells us to flex it.

Cathy and I have made a friendly connection, and the various couples surrounding us have clearly deepened their existing romantic ones: At the ritual's conclusion, many of the coupled women climb atop their partners for some optional heavy breathing.

I attended solo (perhaps not recommended), and, just to give fair warning, this class, hosted by the educational and spiritual Open Center, tilts heavily heterosexual. Because Cathy and I set a boundary proscribing French kissing, I may not have felt the full sexual impact. But while I arrived skeptical, bemused by the concept of ritual sex and not confident in its ability to move me, by the end of the session, as each of the 25 participants (some of whom look like Open Center virgins like me and others who seem to live there) says a word to describe how they feel, I find myself nodding along. "Fabulous," says one. "Fire," says another. "Inspired," says a third. When it's my turn, I say—and feel—"unlocked." New York Open Center, 22 E 30th St at Madison Ave (212-219-2527, opencenter.org). Next class Dec 2 at 7:30pm; $30, Open Center members $25.—Dave Hughes

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Ayanna Rushlow
Ayanna Rushlow

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