Several years ago, I happened across an MP3 of Adam Ant's little-known '80s anthem, "Strip." While I can't help but giggle at the lyrics' gleeful, bizarre innuendo, the words also puzzle me. "We're just following ancient history / if I strip for you, will you strip for me?"

What exactly does that imply? It seems that many age-old practices such as, say, letter writing or yoga, tend to be viewed as noble or wise by sheer virtue of their venerable histories. If we follow Ant's logic, then stripping must be similarly revered. Then again, we all know how society feels about stripping and another oft-linked gig, "the oldest profession." It's really quite a dilemma. I digress, though; perhaps this is the reason why '80s songs are so rarely used as supporting sources in philosophical arguments.

Anyhow, exotic dancers are rather marginalized in today's American society. Relegated to dingy buildings with painted-over windows, or to fortresses like Exotic World in the lonely California desert, strippers just don't get the credit they deserve. Who else can do hours of aerobic exercise in one evening and still look darn foxy at the end of the night? While the idea of a mere swimsuit strikes fear into the hearts of many people, strippers take it all off without even losing their high heels.

Granted, strippers are not frequently viewed as objects of admiration. In fact, they frequently seem to be viewed as subjects on such illustrious shows as Cops and City Confidential. Still, gals, don't you kind of want to find out what exotic dancing is all about, but without the trashy atmosphere and pesky money-in-the-panties? Yes?

Good news! Local dance instructor Fabiola Lopez wants to spread the art of striptease--and all of its benefits--to the ladies of Tucson.

"With this dance," says Lopez, "it's incredible. Women bring out everything they had inside that they didn't know was there. I use it to teach them how to love themselves."

Lopez, a 12-year dance veteran, has taught striptease classes for two years and describes the practice as extraordinarily beneficial for a woman's self-confidence, grace and sensuality; this is not just a group of wanna-be harlots gathering for Amateur Night. In fact, Lopez reveals that her students are women of all types, with no small percentage of them in middle age. Because of this diversity, she applies several rather unexpected methods in her workshops and classes to ensure the comfort and benefit of her students.

First, the class is held in a supportive, all-female studio environment. Sorry, guys--no audience allowed. She also recommends that dancers wear traditional dance gear beneath their normal clothing. This style avoids flashbacks to the always uncomfortable "changing in the middle school girls' locker room" feeling.

"The women learn how to take all their clothes off, but they are still wearing fitness clothes and still comfortable," she says.

Another interesting method Lopez uses is photography. She photographs the dancers for self-evaluation, to help enhance the women's awareness of their movements, their level of eye contact and the way they would appear to onlookers. While the mere thought of it might sound terrifying, Lopez quickly reassures nervous dancers that the photography is invaluable in the learning process, and often reveals subtle alterations that the women would like to make in their form. Over time, it even helps them to feel more comfortable and secure.

"The change is so deep," says Lopez. "It's really weird how the women change completely after just a few classes."

Women with no striptease experience should not feel intimidated; the class is designed to allow beginning dancers to have fun and find their own comfort levels. Lopez does note, however, that she's had four students who were professional dancers seeking new techniques and practice.

Lopez admits that the idea of striptease may seem distasteful to some folks at first, due to unfortunate stereotypes or personal inhibitions. Some may be intimidated by their own insecurity with their weight or appearance. However, she wants the public to realize that striptease is not just "dancing sexy," but a means of finding one's unique inner beauty, grace and sensuality. She cites increased self-esteem and confidence, as well as good exercise and flexibility, as benefits of exotic dancing. And, she adds, it certainly spices up romantic relationships!

Fabiola Lopez teaches a striptease workshop March 23, 25, 26, 30 and April 1 at 7:30 p.m. All levels are welcome. The studio is located at Fifth Street and Craycroft Road; call for address and directions. The workshop costs $85 for all five classes. Group and private lessons are also offered. Call 808-2258 for details.

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