Growing up, Nicole LaBonde was obsessed with her looks. She was a ballet and contemporary dancer, and although she was skinny, she kept trying to lose weight.
"It wasn't enough that I was skinny. I had to be the skinniest one," says LaBonde, 32. "It was like a competition, but no one else was in it."
In an attempt to overcome her anorexia, LaBonde began exploring other dance styles and fitness regimens. She found success with Pilates and burlesque.
"For me, burlesque is really a reclaiming of my body for myself," she says.
LaBonde, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, will teach some of her burlesque techniques on Sunday, Dec. 14, at the Goddess Store and Studio in Hollywood. She's calling the class Burlesque Holiday Workshop.
"Burlesque is definitely about the message and the story," she says. "It's really about women being able to use their bodies to express themselves in the way that they choose. They are owning their bodies."
In her burlesque classes, LaBonde often encounters women who are looking for a new way to explore their bodies and sexuality. But stepping into a class where you'll learn how to take off your clothes in a classy way sometimes requires courage.
"That's why I make sure that wherever I'm teaching is a really safe space," she says. "I try to have a sense of humor about it. I try to keep it very light and humorous so people feel comfortable."
LaBonde says a good burlesque show is not all about disrobing.
"If I am just sitting there waiting for them to take their clothes off so we can get to the next number, then it's not a great act," LaBonde says. "But if I'm sitting there and watching them dance, and hearing them singing, or watching the spectacle of whatever assets they are putting on, that's a good burlesque act, where I almost don't need to notice that there's a striptease of any type."
Nicole LaBonde will teach the Burlesque Holiday Workshop 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 14, at the Goddess Store & Studio, 2017 Harrison St., in Hollywood. Admission is $25 in advance and $30 at the door. Call 954-929-2369, go to GoddessStore.com or CabarretFit.com.