How to Go From a Divorce to Burlesque Dancer
First of all, let me tell you there are many places in this
world where being a burlesque dancer is perfectly
acceptable. Chicago, New York, Paris, London… You
expect to hear that a burlesque dancer is from one of
those glamorous locations. When you picture giant stages
full of lights, captivating dancers gyrating to sensual
music, you do not think of Iowa…
Cedar Rapids, Iowa was the subject of a 2011 Hollywood
film, of the same name, about an insurance convention.
That’s one of the things we are famous for, insurance…
Racy stuff, I told you. We are also famous for corn and
Captain Crunch cereal. On a good day, the entire place
smells like sugary marshmallows.
Oh yeah, that movie… Cedar Rapids…? It was not even
filmed in Cedar Rapids…
So what does all this have to do with Burlesque?
Stick with me honey, I got you.
First, a quick intro…
My name is Cat Cantrill and I own Vitality Fitness & Dance
Studio in, you guessed it, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
I started the joint over three years ago. At the time I was
(HOLD YOUR BREATH) an insurance executive…
But I was sick of it. I was sick of sitting in a cubicle and
making cold calls. I was sick of not having the life I
wanted. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.
I know you girl…
But I am getting ahead of myself…
I am actually from Arizona. I followed my ex-husband
around the country. He was an engineer and we moved
where he worked. I lived in Detroit for ten years, then we
moved to Iowa. Our relationship was troubled from the
start. I went along with it, doing was what was expected of
me. We met in college and got married soon after. I had
two beautiful babies (one who is now a freshman in
college) and settled into a dramatic series of events,
featuring his alcoholism, disregard for me as a person,
and a lack of interest in his children.
Eventually I had enough of the late night drama, the lies,
the cheating, the abuse, and the devastation. I packed up
the kids and moved out before he got home from his daily
bender. I divorced him and entered another traumatic time,
scratching and fighting to keep my babies fed, keeping the
wolves at bay, and retaining my sanity.
Now… Some of you have been through this. You know
what I mean when I say it was the best and worst thing…
I traveled through fighting for my kids, dating of all manner
of scumbag, dealing with my crazy ex, and treading
serious water financially.
But we find a way through, don’t we ladies?
We persist. We fight. And maybe someday, we even
So after my divorce I spent years at various, superexciting insurance companies. Galactic behemoths whose
only mission was to bet on wether you lived or died, if you
got cancer, or survived a car crash. Grim stuff, believe me.
Until you have to tell a widow that she isn’t getting paid on
her husband’s life insurance due to some technicality, you
As I got my act together, I looked out on the world and
wondered what I wanted to do with myself. What mark
would I leave? Who would I be, to my kids, to myself? Did
I just want to be Cubicle Cat? Did I just want to make
some big, faceless corporation money?
I wanted to be MORE ME, not less.
I wanted to dream and dance, not drown in debt.
I wanted to be free, even if that meant killing my old self in
So I started exploring. I was a dancer when I was a
younger (I’m 43 now) and that passion never died. I put it
away when everyone told me it was impossible. I put it
away when my mother told me that dancing for a living
was unrealistic and that I should forget it.
(Yeah, thanks Mom… that ‘get married’ idea you pushed
on me worked out awesome…)
So I gave up on all the ‘should do’s’ that society tells you
are crucial and I went to a pole dancing class. I didn’t want
to be a stripper, but I wanted to dance and the only thing I
could find was ball room and other festivals of SNORE…
I wanted to like pole dancing. But it seems as though it
only works for women who are 110lbs. I am grown-ass
adult and while I am fit and strong, I was not into hauling
my ass UP a fireman’s pole…
So I said, “Fuck It. I’m gonna start my own thing.”
(Yes, there are moments when the F-word is totally
appropriate… If you are offended, you are probably in the
I got my shit together, wrote a business plan and went to
the bank and got a loan to start a burlesque studio.
Now, almost four years later, I own multiple businesses,
help THOUSANDS of women every month, wrote my own
book, and put on sold out shows IN IOWA!
That’s how I went from Divorced to Burlesque… Here are
some tips for you to do the same.
• Dump the Bum: Whoever he/she is, you know if they
aren’t right for you. I give you permission. How will you
feel in 2 years if you don’t?
• Find something you love. Does it have to be burlesque?
NO! It could be car racing, traveling, wine-making,
whatever. But don’t pick crochet because Sally at work
thinks it’s the neatest thing ever… Pick something that
reflects your true style. My style is a little bit gangster…
find your own.
• Micro-Invest: Baby steps over time lead to massive
• Find out what’s real, to you: I get this all the time. Is
burlesque about stripping? Not for me. My troupe of
women who dance burlesque don’t think of themselves
as strippers. We are about female empowerment. Make
up your own mind.
• Create an atmosphere for yourself that allows you to
hang out with the right type of people. Do you want to
hang out with me and my gals at my beautiful historic
studio or do you want to hang with the Debbie Downer,
criticism hags that infest the corporate environment? We
allow NO MEAN GIRLS.
• Do something for you: Just one thing, to let you know
you care. I used to go to the dollar store and buy a dollar
pair of earrings or lipstick. Do it now, don’t worry so
much about what you ‘should do’.
The important thing to note is that we all have an inner
burlesque dancer, an inner heroine. I know you, because I
used to be you…
I want you to dare to dream. I want you to join me in
dance, even if you never set foot in my studio.
I love you.
That’s the first step. Knowing you are capable and worthy
of love. My studio is all about self-love. I want you to close
your eyes, smile a little and dream of dancing….
Much love, Cat
How to Go From a Divorce to Burlesque Dancer