Our World: Under the layers

As light filters in to the room through large windows, her hips are cocked to one side. Legs slightly apart. One foot teeters on the edge of a clear high-heeled stiletto.

Photo with no caption

Photo by LEXEY SWALL, Daily News

Her hand runs down her face, grazes past her lips until her fingertips barely tickle her neck. She closes her eyes, head up toward the light. Her hand continues following the outline of her body, as if teasing it into life.

A giggle comes from the left.

“I don’t think I can do that,” a woman in an oversized man’s dress shirt, used as a prop for stripping, says.

“Sure you can, or if this isn’t your style, you can find something that works for you,” says Laurie Carty, a 25-year veteran in the world of exotic dance.

Ten women listen on a recent evening at Sway Lounge in East Naples as Carty, 50, explains that if they have the confidence to do it, the man they are doing it for will buy right in. She was teaching a free two-hour class called Exotic Dancing 101: Find Your Inner Beauty and Grace.

She begins the class very slowly. The women are laughing like girls at a middle school dance, a little embarrassed to be on the dance floor. They make jokes under their breath, reassuring their own insecurities, until Carty forces them out of their cluster.

“Every woman is a wonderful gift to the world,” Carty tells them, trying to ease some of the tension. “But everyone has something to say about who you should be and what you should be.”

It’s a statement that has been true in her life dancing in go-go bars, but she feels it also encompasses the entire female population.

A seemingly simple eye contact exercise puts one half of the women across from the other half. “I will walk toward you, and I will be thinking ‘hello,’” she says as she demonstrates on her mother, Sheila Schoeninger, who decided to participate in the class.

“You stand still, keep eye contact with me, and you think ‘welcome.’”

The women stand looking at each other until Carty retreats backward about 20 feet away, keeping eye contact the entire time.

The class was supposed to be about lap dances and sexy moves, but it’s quickly shifted to the idea of creating a safe place for another person — about self-confidence and self-exploration.

“When you are thinking ‘hello,’ you are really asking to come into that person's space,” Carty says. “You are coming with no mask, no armor.”

“Wow, that was powerful,” says Michelle Trivette, 37, a married mother of two who came to the class with friends.

“We’re not used to somebody creating a safe space for us,” says Carty. “And we don’t make eye contact with other women very often. We judge each other because what we see perfect in them, we see as imperfect in ourselves.”

After the ice-breaker, the walls each woman came in with have been let down, at least a little, and the technical instruction begins.

Hip rolls. Pretend there is a pencil coming down from you and draw a circle with it on the ground. That’s the idea, anyway.

“Ladies, when you’re in the middle of this, don’t ask your man if he thinks this looks sexy,” Carty says jokingly. “It blows the whole thing.”

Registered nurse Rose Taylor, 41, tall and blonde with a model figure, laughs as she and others spin their hips in a circle. She has worked with Carty before, but at private lessons in her own home.

“I think it is empowering for women,” says Taylor. “I’m not doing this so much for a man, but for my own self-condfidence.”

That is one of Carty’s main goals in teaching the class.

“I hope to introduce them to the other woman inside of them. If you’re interested in taking this class there is a piece of you inside that feels disconnected from itself,” she says.

“My main mission is to give women what they think they need to be happy, and that is something that only they know.”

© 2007 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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