Nothing says Christmas quite like 12 tassels twirling.

Striptease Symposium, founded by award-winning burlesque performers Jewel of Denial and Penny Starr, Jr., recently celebrated the holiday season with an open house that included basic dance tutorials, tables full of burlesque necessities, such as glittering, rhinestone pasties, and performances by former Striptease Symposium students.

Dedicated to celebrating the female form, the Symposium mission is “developing creativity, confidence and positive self-image through the highest quality burlesque instruction.”

According to Starr, the school was originally borne out of necessity.

“I just saw a lot of really bad burlesque out there,” she laughs.

Joining forces with fellow performers, they now offer classes in performance, choreography, hair and makeup techniques, costume design and anything else you might need in order to unleash your inner Gypsy Rose Lee.

Once enrolled, students must study for at least a year before they ever perform a full routine because, as Starr explains, “Getting undressed for bed and getting undressed on stage are not the same thing. And you never want to look like you’re getting undressed for bed onstage. That’s tragic.”

Beginners are taught basics, such as how to prep a glove for removal (Insider tip: They should already be removed about half an inch if you’re planning to take them off with your teeth, so you don’t end up biting your finger.) before moving on to the intermediate level, which culminates with a performance in pasties for your very supportive friends and family.

Next, advanced students learn the fine art of twirling their tassels, something I was dying to try after watching the graduates perform. After a year, budding Dita Von Teeses are invited to create their own solo performance, all under the watchful eye and fine tutelage of some of Los Angeles’ best burlesque performers.

“You don’t have to be anything you aren’t,” Starr promises. “For some, [burlesque] allows you to be the person you always wanted to be, for others it’s just a great outlet.”

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