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Is Highland burlesque group the answer to female empowerment?

Could burlesque be the way forward for body positivity?
Could burlesque be the way forward for body positivity?

When Evelyn Adore takes to the stage, she no longer battles chronic health problems.

She is not processing the trauma from the hands of her abuser, or attempting to help her daughter navigate life.

She is free to be exactly who she wants to be, an identity which she has fought hard for in the face of adversity.

Evelyn is joined by an incredible group of women who are unapologetically themselves,  proof that this is a celebration of becoming who you are meant to be – as opposed to what society may dictate.

 

Welcome to The Adorettes, the first and only burlesque and cabaret group in the Highlands.

Evelyn, whose everyday name is Caroline Adkins, originally launched the group in 2018, having moved to Inverness.

Caroline embraces her on-stage presence, where she goes by the name of Evelyn Adore. Picture by David Edes, Ross-shire Images.

She believes that in the face of violence against women, what the group stands for is now more important than ever.

She told Your Life what burlesque is all about, and why it has enabled members to become empowered like never before.

“I am a survivor of rape and domestic abuse,” said Caroline.

“It is something I am quite open about.

“The last few years have been really polarising, there has been this pandemic of unkindness and trolling within every community. There has also been polarising views of women.

“I think for us as a group, it has been incredibly important to become a unit for each other.”

Amanda Davidson, 34, Caroline Aidkins, 37, and Sue Stone, 57. David Edes, Ross-shire Images.

With members moving away, followed by the pandemic, Caroline decided to rejuvenate the group during the second lockdown.

This meant rehearsals on Zoom, and even in the park when people were allowed to meet up outdoors.

“I wanted to keep the social aspect of it going, the comradeship and the support,” said Caroline.

“Now we meet up every week to rehearse.

“It’s not just about the dancing. It’s about asking how are you? How was your week?

Caroline took to performing as a means of embracing her true identity. David Edes, Ross-shire Images

“It’s an opportunity for everyone to take a big deep breath. The dancing obviously helps you physically, but this group is also about helping people mentally.

“I was previously a teacher before I was medically retired. I have genetic conditions which mean I face chronic pain and fatigue every day.

“I think it’s so important that burlesque should be as accessible as possible.

It’s no exaggeration to say that at some points, we have saved each other’s life.

“We have evolved and become a sisterhood.

“We still have three original members. I think people gravitate towards burlesque when they need it the most.”

It’s powerful stuff, but what is burlesque, and how does it differ from not so family-friendly routines?

The Adorettes perform both burlesque and cabaret. David Edes, Ross-shire Images.

Originally based on parody and genius comic timing, burlesque can take many different forms.

“I’ve been performing for a decade,” said Caroline.

“I’ve always done singing and dancing.

It was a way of escaping the abuse I had suffered as a child, a way of becoming someone else.

“When you are performing, you can take yourself out of any situation which you are currently in.

“For however many minutes you are on the stage, it is a life-affirming experience and it has helped me so much.

“I think for a lot of people, performing is a therapy. It’s a massive form of escapism.”

Caroline produced her very first burlesque show in memory of her mother, who passed away from lung cancer in 2016.

The fun number, which Caroline performed for a charity talent show called The Ness Factor in 2018, was a huge success, and she took to social media to find like-minded women.

Burlesque can be traced back hundreds of years.

“The event was held to raise money for The Highland Hospice, who had really helped my mum,” said Caroline.

“It was a raging success, and absolutely terrifying at the same time.

“How would I describe burlesque? It is a group of like-minded people, all ages, all sizes, all dance backgrounds, coming together to empower each other. To have a form of exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise, and most importantly to learn who you are on the inside.

It’s about your alter-ego, who you really are in your deepest soul.

 

“Burlesque strips you of everything negative, leaving only the very best version of yourself.

“You have no body hang-ups, you no longer care what people think.

“You even ignore the voice inside your own head. The voice which says you are too old, too fat or too ugly.

“Burlesque enables you to say no to that voice, for this is who you truly are.”

Routines vary and can be everything from family-friendly, such as the show which will be performed at Belladrum this year, to a complete striptease.

Caroline believes that burlesque has enabled her to overcome mental health challenges.

It, of course, depends on the audience, but also what the person is comfortable with.

“We are all different shapes and sizes, from a size four to a size 18,” said Caroline.

“I think is even harder for women these days. You are supposed to have it all.

“You are supposed to be career driven, have children, keep a tidy house.

“Burlesque is an epiphany, enabling women to be themselves.”

For more information, you can find Evelyn Adore on Facebook. 

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