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CHICAGO — It’s hard to blame Ali Lawrence for being a little nervous before taking part in either of her pastimes: stepping onto the ice as a hockey goaltender or getting on stage as a burlesque dancer.
The 31-year-old has been a burlesque dancer for five years. Over the last two, when she began playing ice hockey goalie after never playing before, she’s incorporated her work as a netminder into her Lady Ali Mode burlesque routine.
“There’s a lot of fear in both of them,” said Lawrence, who works as a graphic designer in the West Loop. “In burlesque, you’re literally exposing yourself to the world and also creating a story and art, and demanding that an audience look at you.
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“In hockey, it’s, ‘Am I going to mess up? Am I going to hurt myself? Am I going to let too many goals in?’ … When you’re a goalie, there’s nowhere to hide.”
Lawrence, an American Academy of Art graduate, said she’s always had a flare for the dramatic. She enjoys the dressing up — and taking off — of burlesque, where she’s a member of Dirty Bird Burlesque and The Better Boobie Bureau. She rotates 10 different costume acts at Stage 773, Uptown Underground, The Call and Lincoln Tap Room.
Lawrence had never played a sport until trying ice hockey two years ago. A big Blackhawks fan, she wanted to try something completely out of her realm. Goalie was the perfect fit. She wears jersey No. 30 because she began the craft at that age — and she’s a supporter of legendary goalies who wore that number: Eddie Belfour and Martin Brodeur.
“It’s a reminder that I’m an adult trying something new at 30, and not a lot of people do that often,” Lawrence said. “I’m real proud of that.”
Lawrence is the only goalie for the Chicago Maroons women’s hockey team, a University of Chicago-based club squad (although she did not attend the U. of C.), as well as goaltender for a coed team that competes at Johnny’s IceHouse on the Near West Side and for another team that plays in the Chicago Outdoor Hockey League.
She’s 11-0-1 with five shutouts for the Maroons, who just beat the club squad at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The Maroons next play Friday vs. the Cougars at the Centennial Ice Rink in Wilmette.
She combined both burlesque and hockey into a routine featuring a Blackhawks costume and a blow-up Stanley Cup with unofficial Hawks anthem Chelsea Dagger playing in the background. Lawrence even adds an Andrew Shaw-like scar and a missing tooth with makeup to the getup.
Lawrence also organized the Puck and Grind tournament at Johnny’s in November, which had several three-on-three hockey games followed by a burlesque party. Lawrence plans to have another Puck and Grind, which raised $3,000 for You Can Play, this July.
There is one similarity between burlesque and hockey, Lawrence said. Both disciplines require clothes to secure high socks.
“But the ones I use on stage are lace and pretty,” Lawrence said, laughing. “With being a goalie, there’s nothing sexy about the sound of Velcro coming off.”
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