Highlands & Islands

'Burlesque helps us fight life's challenges'

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Media captionThe group are using burlesque to increase confidence and improve mental health.

A group of women in the Highlands say forming a burlesque dance troupe has helped them to overcome mental and physical challenges in their lives.

"Troupe mamma", or leader, Caroline Adkins suffers from health problems including arthritis and osteoporosis.

She says performing improves her well-being, while other troupe members say it boosts their self-esteem.

The group, Bump N Grind, plans to become a social enterprise, a business that reinvests or donates its profits.

Image copyright Bump N Grind
Image caption Caroline Adkins suffers health problems that include osteoporosis

They describe themselves as the Highlands' first burlesque troupe.

At present the group has five members. They are Caroline, who is known on stage as Evelyn Adore, also Emma MacKenzie aka Candy Kitten, Rowan Drever who performs as Lady Ivy, Cody Ross aka Moonstone Cherry and Rhianna Bain who performs as Miss Rhi Von Bee.

Burlesque is a genre of variety show and features music, song and dance routines.

BBC Scotland's The Nine caught up with Bump N Grind during one of their rehearsals.

Image copyright Bump N Grind
Image caption The Inverness-based troupe Bump N Grind first started performing shows in December

Many of the Inverness-based troupe's shows raise funds for charity, including Highlands-based suicide prevention group Mikeysline. A show this month is raising funds for the Scottish Association for Mental Health.

Caroline says mental health was an issue "close to the dancers' hearts".

"All members of the troupe face challenges daily due to needs concerning mental and physical health," she says.

"Becoming part of Bump N Grind has helped them with their anxiety and depression and general mental health.

"It has built their confidence and self-esteem and helped them to be comfortable in their own bodies, and realise how much they are capable of, and indeed how talented they are - as I tell them daily."

Caroline adds: "I myself also suffer with 'invisible illness' and have arthritis, ataxia, osteoporosis and severe joint and tissue pain and fatigue."

Image caption Rhianna says being part of the troupe has boosted her confidence

Rhianna Bain says joining the troupe had boosted her confidence.

"I have actually found I have been able to love myself for who I am, and the shape I am as well," she says.

"I do suffer from anxiety and depression and I have found doing the troupe and burlesque has brought me so much out of my shell."

Image copyright Bump N Grind
Image caption Cody Ross aka Moonstone Cherry and the rest of the troupe hope to recruit new members

Rowan Drever has also drawn new confidence from being part of the group.

She says: "It's like I am a kid again and enjoying myself and dancing around no matter who is there.

"I couldn't have done that before."

Emma MacKenzie says: "There is nothing like this in the Highlands. There is no cabaret or burlesque up here so it would be really nice to have a scene.

Image caption Emma describes the dance and song performances as "empowering"

"There are lots of people interested at it. When we did our first show people were saying 'Oh my God this is great'.

"It also changed perceptions about what people think it is. It's empowering."

Bump N Grind was started in December last year.

Its formation followed a solo performance by Ms Adkins a few months earlier at Ness Factor, a talent competition held in aid of the Highland Hospice.

Image caption Rehearsals ahead of a show in Inverness

Caroline says: "I hope that when we begin classes we will be able to offer our students the opportunity to give performing a go with a view to becoming part of the troupe and our shows.

"There are no limits to burlesque. Anybody is a burlesque body, no matter what size, shape or age."

She adds: "I believe it is this inclusivity that is part of the reason burlesque is so life-affirming and why it can bring about such changes for people.

"And that is the reason I fell in love with the art form years ago because it truly has the power to be life-changing, which is what we hope to bring to the wider community in the months to come."