Before and after: The sexy stars of Russian burlesque (PHOTOS)

Anastasia Lyskowets
You’d never recognize these girls (and boys) without glitter and feathers, which they don whenever they take the stage at Moscow’s ‘Ladies of Burlesque’. These are their stories.

Maria Weinberg, 25

Maria is a journalist and marketing specialist by day, and a seductive burlesque diva by night. She’s been at it since the tender age of 17, and by 25 has already done modeling work of the pin-up variety, as well as becoming a jazz singer on the Ladies of Burlesque show.

“I find glitter on my face, on my clothes, on the floor, in the bathroom, in my bed, on my cat, in my food - it’s everywhere!”, Maria says. “Meanwhile my parents are proud of what I’ve accomplished, they repost my videos and photos. My boyfriend supports me all the way and even takes an active role in my creative endeavors.”

Taisia Reshetnikova, 30

Taisia is the director and co-founder of the Kinky Russia parties. She has been in the world of burlesque dancing since the age of 27.

“I danced for seven years at the Loktev company, doing all sorts of stylistic directions. I’m a graduate of the film faculty at the VGIK. I guess I’ve been searching my entire life for an outlet that would allow me to combine my actor’s skillset with my production and dancing skills - and the art of burlesque is a perfect fit for that,” Taisia says.

The producer-dancer’s mother never got fully on-board with her daughter’s choice. Whereas “my Dad treats all my beginnings in a philosophical manner: ‘as long as you’re happy’,” she adds.

“But I kept reminding my Mom that she was herself a choreographer at a cabaret in the 90s, and was involved in pretty much the same field. Soon she saw that burlesque wasn’t just a joyful experience for me, but also came with recognition and money… this warmed her to the idea.”

Ilya Lisitsa, 34

Ilya has been a fan of transforming and performing since age 16. He’s been on the show for eight months. It started quite accidentally, when he’d approached the show’s director Anna Pavlolva along with Taisia, who introduced them, after one of the shows.

He remembers the conversation, which went along the lines of “Anya, do you remember Ilya? He’s crazy about performing on the show!”, and the quick response from Anna: “Great! I’ve been waiting for a while. Will you be able to set up a little number?” 

Ilya’s parents remain unaware of what he does. It would be difficult to explain the reasoning behind his irregular choice of personas, he believes.

Anja Pavlova, 31

Once upon a time, Anna seriously got into swing and other facets of retro culture. And when she finally came across videos of 1950s pin-up style burlesque dancing, that love was forever cemented and she became “completely immersed”.

“I prepared several numbers inspired by jazz, made a few costumes and sent applications to a number of San Francisco schools, where I traveled to visit friends. Quite unexpectedly for me, I was invited to do a performance, first just the one - and then again and again, in Europe, Russia and even the Middle East,” she recalls.

Tatyana Dmitrieva, 31

“I met Anna Pavlova a while back, and invited her to do a number, then read a lecture for my Sexprosvet 18+ project [on sex education]. This partnership developed into a friendship, and a year from then we’d started producing the show,” Tatyana says. “I had my own debut as host on the show two months ago.”

“Burlesque combines within it a freedom for creative self-expression and an outlet for one’s sexual energy - a mix that is very potent for harnessing a feeling of self-love, a sense of your female energy - not one that’s geared towards ‘getting a guy’, but one that affords you unlimited possibilities, power and a sense of wholeness,” Tatyana adds. 

Sabina Karpenko, 27

Sabina is a former nail artist, and has been with the show for a year already. 

“My mom has only a surface familiarity with the art of burlesque dancing. She’s much too conservative. I hope to one day reach new heights with it, and that she might see me in my stage role and understand what an amazing experience it is, and support me,” Sabina says.

Yana, 26 and Ekaterina, 31

Both girls ended up in the show out of sheer love for jazz dancing. Yana actually teaches it, while Ekaterina performs with the first ever jazz dancing company in Moscow. Today both of them perform on the show together.

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