Burlesque Slumber Party

Me and my tail from the Bust Out. HAMU by Vivienne Vermuth, Photo by Dee Hill.

Me and my tail. HAMU by Vivienne Vermuth, Photo by Dee Hill.

“Your Bust Out song came on this weekend while we were in the hot tub,” Ophelia told me.  “I stood up, started dancing, and said, ‘Look at my tail!  Look at my tail!’”  She moved her hips in a circle to imitate a move that was part of my Bust Out performance.

I laughed.  Ophelia Wood had invited me and several other ladies over for a slumber party.  I hadn’t been to one in years—well, not one with girlfriends, anyway.  The other kind of slumber party usually involved getting naked and sweaty.

Speaking of which…

What happens when you get several burlesque dancers together, add wine and cosmopolitans, and ask what they want to do next?

I’m not allowed to tell you.  Well, I’m not allowed to tell you what they did.  I can CERTAINLY tell you what I did.

Hee hee hee.

Ophelia consulted the other ladies and chose a song.  They whispered, refusing to tell me which one until it started playing.

The theme from 50 Shades of Grey, “Earned It” by the Weeknd, started playing, and I started dancing.   It’s a slow, sensual song.  I pulled out a few moves from my Bust Out, and used the support beam as a stripped pole.

Impromptu burlesque routines are interesting.  There aren’t any costumes or props.  The performer pulls out her favorite moves and turns up the charisma.  Pretty soon, the audience forgets that she’s wearing old sweatpants and a t-shirt.

“You’re like a young man!  Too fast!” Ophelia told me.

She was right.  I get a nervous energy when I’m up on stage, and I tend to rush.

“The dance should be fast then slow, like sex!” she had said at Monday’s dance class.  We had all laughed, but it was true—a quick hip pop or seated knee opening can really get the audience’s attention.

Arielle cooked dinner, grilled chicken and squash.  It was fabulous!  She also made her Famous Dill Potatoes, but with all my allergies, I politely declined.  The way it disappeared, though, it must’ve been fantastic!

One of the ladies—let’s call her Anastasia, continuing the 50 Shades of Grey theme—announced, “I’m seeing a fireman from Shreveport.”

I smiled.  “I have family in the Shreveport fire station,” I told her.  “What’s his last name?”  Now, Shreveport may be a town in Louisiana, but it is pretty big.  Not as big as Dallas or Fort Worth, but still sizeable.  There was a chance that my kin knew her guy, but just a small chance.

Anastasia voiced my maiden name.

I choked.  Then I laughed.  “What’s his first name?”

“Aaron,” she said.

I laughed harder.  “Aaron Benjamin?!”  I said.

Ok, at this point, I thought, “Aaron is a pretty common name.  So is my maiden name.  So there’s still a chance that we’re talking about two different guys.”

Anastasia frowned and said, “His father is also named Aaron.”

Still smiling, I said, “Uncle Billy’s name isn’t Aaron.”

She pulled out her phone and flipped open Facebook to bring up pictures.  “Here,” she said, thrusting a picture of a young man at me.  “Is this your cousin?”

Embarrassed, I admitted, “I haven’t seen him in about 20 years.  That man could be part of my family, but I couldn’t say for sure.  Hey, how did you meet him, anyway?”

“Shreveport is only 3 hours away, so he comes into town to visit the clubs,” Anastasia told me.

Dallas is pretty awesome, and Shreveport is considerably smaller.  Plenty of people I know go to Shreveport for the weekend to gamble at the casinos, since there aren’t any casinos in Dallas, so it makes sense that people might come the other way for entertainment of a different kind.

“There’s a picture of Aaron with his father when he joined the fire station…let me see…here!” Anastasia said, holding up her phone with another image on it.

I said, “Yep, that’s my uncle.”  The man in the picture didn’t have dark brown hair.  His was all gray, and his face had more lines than the picture in my memory.  But that was definitely my uncle.

“How about this guy?” she said, showing me another picture.

“That looks like Aaron’s brother, and my Uncle Bobby,” I said.

“That’s Aaron, not his brother,” she said.  Then she kissed me.  Just a peck on the lips, but a kiss nonetheless.  “There, now you’ve kissed the same woman that your cousin has.”

I laughed again.  Love this woman!  “Kissing cousins!” I said, which made no sense at all.

See, Mr. Wood was on duty as our bartender and host.  He did an excellent job, which means that my wine glass stayed full.  I couldn’t tell you how many glasses that I drank, since more than one of us drank from the same bottle, but there were at least 4 empty wine bottles by the end of the night.  Correction: there were at least 4 empty red wine bottles.  Since I didn’t drink the white, I didn’t count those.

Later, I ended up in the hot tub.  Sitting still in the warm water, even with excellent company (who may or may not have been in the hot tub with me—remember, I’m allowed to say what they did ; – ) ) made me sleepy.  Amongst cries of, “Let’s play rock band!” and “Karaoke!” I crawled into the tent and went to sleep.

I slept in a tent because Ophelia has fur babies (cats).  And I have a plethora of allergies, including all fur babies (especially cats).  The night was perfect for a camp out.  It wasn’t too hot or cold and there was an occasional soft breeze.

Ophelia is already planning the next sleep over.  If I drink a little less, or more slowly, I should be able to stay up later.  And apparently I need to practice taking things slower.

“Look… at… my…tail!  Look… at… my…tail!” will become my new war cry.

Cheers!

This afternoon I’m attending the wedding reception of Lilly and Lucas.  Look for the blog on that tomorrow.  : – )

Me and my tail. HAMU by Vivienne Vermuth, Photo by Dee Hill.

Me and my tail. HAMU by Vivienne Vermuth, Photo by Dee Hill.

Burlesque Beginnings: Molly Macabre – International Burlesque Sensation!

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Molly Macabre!! HAMU by the talented Vivienne Vermuth. Phenomenal photography by Dee Hill. ❤ these ladies!

“I was working a haunted house in Red Oak and the owner wanted some half-time entertainment.  Cambria Cadavah and I pitched the idea of doing a burlesque show, which we called Gore-lesque.  That was in September 2011 and we performed the show every night through October,” Molly told me.

Molly Macabre, international burlesque sensation, was answering the question, “Why did you start performing burlesque?”

Molly is statuesque, with flowing red hair.  On stage, she exudes confidence and power.  Sitting in a café having dinner, she hesitates to answer my questions, and is almost shy.  I couldn’t believe that I was talking to the same person.  I asked more questions to draw her out.

“You went through the Burlesque Experience soon after that, didn’t you?” I prompted.

“Yes, my Bust Out was in May 2012.  That was hilarious, because I ended up coaching the other students, just because I was more advanced than the other girls, because I’d been doing it for months,” she said with a smile.

I tried to picture someone telling Molly how to perform, and I smiled, too.  This woman knows what she’s doing.

“Wait, May 2012?  When did you start your troupe?” I asked, referring to Plumb Askew, Molly’s burlesque troupe.

“December 2012,” Molly said, with a sly smile.  “The troupe performs about six times a year, so we’ve done about 18 shows.”

She didn’t waste any time!  Just over a year from performing for the first time to starting a troupe—WOW!

She continued, “I performed in my first festival 3 months after my Bust Out.  Festivals are harder to get into than local shows.  You have to apply and be accepted.”

“What’s the furthest that you’ve traveled for a show?  And what was the most fun?” I asked her.

With a wistful, faraway look in her eye, and another sly grin on her lips, she said, “Ireland.  I’ve performed there twice.  People beat each other up—it was great!  There was a paramedic on staff in the lobby.  My room was on the fourth floor, the nightclub was on the first floor, and I could hear loud music in my room.  So I went downstairs about 3 or 4 a.m. to Skype with my husband, and there were people coming out of the club all bloody.  I turned around the laptop to show my husband: see?!  They were regular people, too—men and women.”  Then she stopped to think, her eyes searching the distance.  “Chicago was fun.  I did two acts in one night, wearing heavy makeup for both, so I had to rush to do the wardrobe changes.  I was running on adrenaline.  But really, nothing beats Dublin…”

In answer to another question, she added, “My favorite intro was in Ireland.  It was completely unscripted.  The MC asked me questions and got to know me backstage, then just said lots of nice things about me in the intro.  I loved it!”

“When was your last show?” I asked.

She smiled proudly, though modestly.  “My last act was a tribute to Zombie Land at the Ohio Burlesque Festival in Cleveland on August 1.  I have a prosthetic arm that is all veins and muscles.  I wrap thin deli meat around the fingers and hold it on with thin thread, then eat it on stage.  The audience loves it!” she paused to smile, an enigmatic little smile.  “Travelling with it is fun.  I tape a picture of me performing with it, on the arm, with a note that says, This is a prop!  I use in an act!

I laughed.   The thought of a TSA agent pulling out a prosthetic arm at the airport security line, just cracked me up!

“My next show is October 9th, based on the American Horror Show.  I’m a big fan of the show.  It’s just a giant selection for routines, with all the characters.  The girls in the troupe show out themes and we vote on what we want to do next.  They are the meat and potatoes of the group,” Molly said.  It was obvious that she loved and respected the ladies in her troupe from the way that she spoke about them.  She could have taken credit for the idea, but she made sure to mention her team.

That’s the sign of a good leader: mention your people and give them credit.  My respect for Molly went up a few more notches.

“Has anyone thrown anything interesting up on stage?  Any panties or bras?” I asked, thinking of Tom Jones’ shows.

She laughed, “God no!  Thank goodness!  Although…I did an act as Regan MacNeil—you know, the girl from Exorcist—and did this magic trick where I pulled green tap from my mouth, like vomit.  I played with it, rubbed it on myself, you know.  Then I gave it to someone in the audience.  He posted a picture on Facebook later where he had hung it on the wall.  I thought, Do you know where that’s been?!  It’s been in my MOUTH!

I couldn’t help but laugh.  I wondered what else the man had on his wall!

“Any advice for newbies?” I asked.

“You should always have a storyline.  That’s straight from Dirty Martini, a famous performer,” Molly said.  Later in the conversation, she added, “You can’t just graduate from BE and think that you can teach and do festivals.  No, you gotta walk before you crawl.  I’ve made it a condition of a contract that someone has to work with me on her choreography.  That is, if she has a good costume and otherwise her act is good.  She has to be comfortable with some coaching.  Otherwise, it’s ok, good luck.”  She pause thoughtfully.  “I’m different now.  I used to try to teach performers instead of teaching women to shine.  I have relaxed a bit.   I’m still a perfectionist.  Still, I feel like I’m a better instructor than performer.  I often see an act and say, Why I can’t put together an act like that for me?!  It’s a really good act!!”  She laughed a little self-consciously.  “I may not be well-liked, but I think that I’m well-respected for the caliber of act that I put together.”

EXACTLY!  That’s exactly the feel that I’ve gotten from the community, and the reason that I wanted to interview Molly in particular.  On stage, she’s larger than life.  She owns the stage.  She looks at home.  And her voice!!

“I may just start MC’ing and singing because I don’t want to look like a grandma out there,” she said.

Waaaaaait a minute!  Molly is a year or two younger than me!!  She’s not old!!

Before I could object, Molly’s eyes went thoughtful again.  She said, “You asked me why I perform burlesque.  I do it because of what happens…like performing at ComicCon…Nerdy girls are really reserved, normally.  Fabulous-looking girls are out-going and dress as scantily-clad superheroes.  When not-so-fabulous looking women see me come out at my size and exude sexuality, they come up to me after the show and say that I’ve inspired them to be more feminine, wear makeup again.  They say things like, Thank you for showing the world that it’s not just about the little girls.  I can do shows here, and everyone knows me here, but when I do festivals, I can reach more people and INSPIRE more people.”

Wow.  Now THAT’S a good reason to perform.

Thank you, Molly Macabre, for inspiring and entertaining us.  Whether as an MC, singer, or performer, I hope to see you again soon.

Cheers!

This has been another issue of Burlesque Beginnings: Why perform?  This series started as an answer to a reader’s question.  If you have a question or blog topic, please email me or comment below.  Thanks and have a great day!

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All pictures:  HAMU Vivienne Vermuth.  Photography by Dee Hill.  ❤

Burlesque Experience Finale

In the dressing room, half-dressed, waiting my turn for lipstick and hair.  (We waited on the lipstick so that I could eat.)

In the dressing room, half-dressed, waiting my turn for lipstick and hair.  (We waited on the lipstick so that I could eat.)

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Lipstick, crown, and antennae on – I’m ready to great my public!

I shimmied, stroked, and teased.  I smiled, winked, and pointed.  I rocked that show!

Sure, I was nervous.  But when I looked into the audience and saw my friends cheering me on, I smiled and relaxed a little.  I shook it just a little harder.  Burlesque is fun!

“WHOO-HOO!” Ophelia and Holden Wood shouted.  Andrew was right behind them, then my friend Gabby Gumbo.

I strutted over to the other side of the stage.  I OWNED it!

“SHAKE THAT ASS!” Roxy Reck shouted.  I smiled big and complied, showing off my tail.

Oh yes, I had a tail: purple, sparkly monkey-turned-alien tail.

Behind Roxy, her boyfriend Mr. Hands (he gives great foot rubs), and my friend the Marine sat watching.  I had met him at the Hot and Sweaty show.

And somewhere behind him, another Marine was there cheering for me, too.  I had met him after the Popcorn and Pasties show.

What are the chances that I’d meet two Marines at two different burlesque shows?!  And what are the chances that they’d both come out to see me?!  Most importantly, are either of them going to take me on a date now that they’ve seen me naked?

That’s weird, I usually have the date first.

Shrug.

Andrew had a VIP ticket, but he’s vertically challenged (short), so he still missed a few things.  He told me that his talent was being in the right place at the right time, but missing the good parts.

“I can be watching a beautiful woman bend over, about to show off her panties, and my wife will call my name.  She wanted to make sure that I didn’t miss it, but when I turn back around, the moment had passed.  That’s my talent,” he said.

Well there were enough good moments last night, that I hope he caught some of ‘em!

Lipstick, crown, and antennae on - I'm ready to greet my guests!

Lipstick, crown, and antennae on – I’m ready to greet my guests!

Bust Out

The Burlesque Experience Bust Out was the finale of the class.  My classmates and I had learned to dance, assembled our costumes, and choreographed acts in about 6 weeks.  We had a LOT of help!  The BE community came together to lend support and offer advice: alumni and coaches were with us every step of the way.

Need help blinging a costume piece?  Scarlet Peach, Chordella Smash, and Molly Macabre are happy to help.  Need help with choreography?  Carmen Diablo, Sweet Darla Danger, and Molly Macabre will coach you for a small fee.  Want professional-grade stage makeup?  Vivienne Vermuth is available for hire.  Want the memory to last with sensational photos?  Dee Hill will document your beauty on film and provide professional polish to those pics.  Need a hand to hold or a question answered?  Any member of the community is happy to help, and every student has an assigned mentor.

My mentor, Minxie Molotov, was definitely there for me last night.  She performed as the shadow dancer for an hour before the show started.  That is, she danced behind a thin curtain with the light behind her, so that her shadow on the curtain was all that was visible to the audience.  IT WAS AWESOME.  (Example of shadow dancing.) She waved around a scarf, casting ghostly shadows that rippled like waves.  She utilized every inch of the stage: coming closer to the curtain, dancing further away.  It was mesmerizing.

She came up to me after, smiling and as emotional as a proud mama.  “You were amazing!  That thing you did with the staff—wow!”  She gave me a big hug.

“I couldn’t have done it without you.  The scepter was all you!” I said, honestly.  Minxie is the best!

Pre-Show

At intermission I ran upstairs to change.  In the excitement, I forgot to put on my bracelets and rings.  Oh, well, no one noticed!  I did remember to remove my necklace, which had gotten tangled in my hair at two different rehearsals.  And I remembered to put on my pasties and tail, so overall, I dressed myself ok.

Waiting for my turn on stage, I felt that odd sensation again.  It must have been nerves.  I’m a professional, a single mother, and an author: an accomplished, brave woman.  I am often the only woman in meetings.  I stand up to men who are taller and sometimes older than me in professional and personal situations.  In short, I don’t feel nervous very often.  I may get anxious before I present at a big meeting, but that’s just a weak emotion compared to what I felt last night.

I haven’t been that nervous since my wedding day in 1996.

Have you ever been so nervous that the sound of your heart beat filled your ears, drowning out the rest of the world?  It’s a very strange sensation in a room with a cheering crowd: you can see them, but you can’t hear them.  Then there’s the muscle weakness, which felt like my limbs were going to fail and leave me kissing the ground.  The world looked far away, and the edges of my vision faded.

I shook it off and took deep breaths.  Frauline Ingrid Funtime (kitten) was there, coaching me to breathe.  Sinn La Vie (stage manager) reassured me that I’d do great, ran back to help Sinnamon Sizzle off the stage, then returned to help me on.  Ingrid Nox (our other kitten) was there, moving props and telling me that I’d do great.  I concentrated on Ingrid: breathe in, breathe out.  Thank you, Ingrid!!  Thank you, Indigo and Sinn!

Roxy came and gave me a hug.  “Pop a pastie!” she said.  Or, at least, I assume she said that.  It’s the burlesque equivalent of telling an actor to “break a leg” or telling a person, “good luck.”  I was too nervous to register her words.

I took another deep breath, heard my music start, and stepped out onto the stage.

After My Act

When the music ended, and I raised my scepter high, I felt triumphant!  I DID IT!  I completed my act without losing an earring, knocking off my antennae, or dropping my scepter.  I did it while having fun and feeling the support of the crowd.

I didn’t want to leave the stage!  I wanted to dance MORE!

Violet O’Hara, hostess extraordinaire, joined me on stage.  I hugged her and wrapped a leg around her.

“Just saying hello,” I told her, referring to my back story that I was from Venus.

She played along, then handed me some handcuffs.

I didn’t understand the gift, but they had soft covers, so I rubbed them over my chest and thanked her.  Someone told me later that she was advertising a fetish ball.  OHHH!  In retrospect, it made sense.

Stepping off the stage, Ophelia met me with a glass of wine.  OMG I love that woman so much!  She told me, “You did great!”  My adrenaline was high, so I didn’t need wine for that; however, I appreciated the gift very much.  At that moment, there was nothing that I wanted more!

The Show

The other ladies in my class had AMAZING sets.  Of course, I didn’t get to see them all, since I had to go upstairs to change before and after my act.  But the ones that I saw—WOW.

Aly-Sin Asylum had been shy and nervous at dress rehearsal.  My friend told me, “She’s danced before.  You can’t tell me that she put that act together in 6 weeks.”

Wow.  What a transformation!  She really did put on a professional act!

Francesca laughed and had fun in her role as a private investigator, based on Agent Carter from Captain America.  The show was a surprise to her husband, who had been told that she was taking dance classes.

Well, she was, sort of.

I asked her how he took it.

“I haven’t talked to him yet,” she told me, “But he was sitting in the front row grinning from ear to ear.”

He should be!  She looked FABULOUS!!

Daddy’s Little Voodoo Doll also looked like a seasoned professional.  Her outfit was almost all custom made or altered by the performer herself.  She even made the voodoo doll, which broke tore apart to shower red glitter on the stage.  What a great neo performance!

Suki took the stage twirling a blinged-out Asian-inspired parasol.  Her legs and ass teased the audience, a true strip tease, with emphasis on the tease!  And then she did the splits.  I am ALWAYS impressed by the flexibility of people who can do the splits; I’m doing good to get halfway.  Great job, Suki!  Happy Birthday!  What a way to spend it.  : – )

The act by four BE alumni was captivating.  Sinn La Vie, Sweet Darla Danger, Foxy, and Zerlina began with traditional burlesque music.  They worked their boas and teased off their gloves.  Darla’s expressions were priceless!  She truly is a joy to watch.  Sinn has cute expressions, too – her “Oh!” of surprise” when the music changed was great.  Prince started singing a sexy song with suggestive lyrics as the ladies started to strip.  Foxy pulled down the zipper on her little black dress.  Zerlina wiggled out of hers.  You know, with four gorgeous women on the stage, it was hard to decide where to look; but there wasn’t a wrong answer, either.  They ended with a pasties twirling.  OMG that one act was worth the price of admission.

Sinnamon Sizzle, Mysti Inque, and Chickadee Lee performed while I was changing or waiting in the wings.  They performed kickass shows at the dress rehearsal, though, and I heard that they killed it.  Their costumes were a-maze-ing!!

Sinnamon portrayed a cubical worker whose sexuality burst forth.  She shook her long red hair out from a hair clip and removed not one, but two masks during her act.  Sizzling, indeed!

Mysti portrayed a villain from the Batman comic book series.  A cardboard cutout of Batman stood on the stage and his voice started the show.  She put a scarf around his neck and pushed him over at one point.  It was so cool!

Chickadee Lee had a skimpy costume covered in feathers.  Oh my.  I hope the crowd appreciated every thin strip of feathers that she removed; she certainly held me captivated at rehearsal.  Oh my.

Chantilly Vixen ended the show with a fun, sexy tease with a chair dance and a boa.  Oh la la la!

After Glow

Lisa Carmen announced that she was stepping down as director of the Burlesque Experience and handed the reigns to Sweet Darla Danger.  Darla is a nurturing, talent woman and a patient teacher.  She will be a great director.

Wow.  We were Lisa’s last class.  What an honor!

The class presented her with flowers, some journals (since she loves to write) and some office supplies (scented markers!  Cocktail glass tape dispenser!  Colorful post it notes!  30 pack of colorful gen pens!).  I hope that she gets a lot of use out of ‘em!

She presented us with red roses made from feathers.  I stuck mine in my corset.  Mysti followed suite, then pretended to lick the top.  Several times.  Daddy’s Little Voodoo Doll joined in and I laughed.  Then I tried to be a grown up and scold them (while I was laughing).  It was hard to concentrate on the raffle!

Gabby won three different prizes from the raffle: a rainbow boa, two tickets to the next Hump Day show, and a necklace.  She cleaned up!  Since she has two girls at home, she was grateful for the boa.  She turned around and bought one more, to avoid fights at home, and then spent a little more money.  Gabby, just remember, you got in on a comp ticket, so you had extra money to spend, right?  Right?  : – )

On the Way Home

I hated for the night to end.  However, I hadn’t slept well the night before and had arisen at 4:30 a.m. for my workout.  I was struggling to keep my eyes open while I drove.

I dropped off Andrew off at his hotel at DFW.  I had removed my antennae, but I still wore the rest of my stage makeup and crown.

“You are coming from an event?” the toll booth operator asked me.  His shirt said, “Jose,” but he sounded and looked like he was from India.  Not that it mattered, but it was a bit confusing, especially since I was half asleep.  Like, when someone calls you by your real name when you’re expecting to hear your burlesque name.  Or, when you think you’re driving north and you discover that you’re headed south.

“Yes,” I said, smiling.  “I danced tonight.”  I handed him my ticket and money.

He held onto it and said, “What kind of dance do you do?”

“Burlesque,” I answered, smile wavering.  Just take the money and let me go home, I thought.

“What is it?” he said, not understanding.

“Burlesque.  It’s similar to stripping,” I said, hoping that that would end the conversation.

Um, no.  That just made him smile.

“You live alone?” he asked.  “You are single?”

“Uh, no, I don’t live alone…” I said.  Jack and Ed live with me, but he doesn’t need to know that.

“I am alone.  You want to go out sometime?” he asked.

Oh. My. Goodness.  The toll booth operator just asked me out.

“Um, no, look, I really need to go,” I said, nodding toward the money in his hand.

He smiled and pushed the button to life the toll booth arm.

What an odd way to end the night.  But then, it was flattering.  Just one look at the Queen of Venus, and he was mesmerized.

Gratitude

Thank you to all my classmates, for being part of this experience with me, and offering love and support.  I hope that we have a reunion soon!

Thank you to Lisa Carmen, Sinn La Vie, Sweet Darla Danger, Minxie Molotov, Chordella Smash, Molly Macabre, Ophelia Wood, Roxy Reck, and the other instructors and mentors of the Burlesque Experience.  Thank you to Frauline Ingrid Funtime and Indigo Nox for being there for us and offering reassuring words when we needed it the most.

And thank you to all the people who came out to the show, knowing it was amateur night, and cheered us on.  It literally would not have been the same without you.  Gabby and Andrew, I am deeply grateful that you took the time to share this experience with me.

And thank you to my two Marines, who made my heart beat a little faster because I knew that you were watching.  I’ll see you again soon!  ; – )

Cheers!

Next weekend: I’ll take a mini-vaca to Colorado to see Gala Pear.  We’re going to hike ‘til we drop, party like rock stars, then repeat.  Woot!

A rose made of feathers and the handcuffs that Violet gave me.

A rose made of feathers and the handcuffs that Violet gave me.

Burlesque Experience Bust Out Rehearsal

I stood in the wings of the stage, awaiting my queue.  My heart beat louder than the music.  My elbows and knees felt weak.

“What’s happening?” I asked myself, worried I might collapse.

I shocked myself by answering, “I think you’re nervous.”

“That’s ridiculous,” I said.  “I know this routine.  I’ve got this!”  I shook off the odd feeling and nodded to Sin La Vie, indicating that I was ready.  This was the dress rehearsal for our Bust Out, the first time that any of us have performed on stage.  Six brave ladies had performed already and completely blown me away.  Now it was my turn.

The music started to play, and I strutted onto stage, a regal queen surveying her people.  I thumped my scepter on the floor, handed it to a kitten, and began dancing.

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Jislana Lanerex. Photo by Dee Hill. Makeup by Vivienne Vermuth.

Being on the stage is soooo different than practicing in a studio.  Every sensation is different: the feel of the hot, bright lights; the sound of the audience’s approval; the glimpse of faces under the spotlights.  At first, it was overwhelming; I had to concentrate on the music and remember my next move.

“Smile,” I told myself.  “Look at the audience.  Eye contact!  Now, remember to work both sides of the stage.  Oh, hell, what’s next?!  Must be the corset, I already took off my dress…”

I found myself shaking it a little harder, grinning a little wider.  I LOVED how the applause and hoots got louder when I pulled down a dress strap or wiggled my ass.  My blood pressure was still high, but now in an exhilarating way.

The song was near the end, and I had already ran through my moves.  Oh, shit, I had done the routine too fast!  I repeated a move that I’d already used.  No one seemed to care; they cheered me on, anyway.  I ended the song right on time, in my pre-determined pose.

Then I strutted off the stage, mostly naked, fully triumphant.  I’ve got this!

The other ladies were so, so nice!  They showered me with praise, told me how well I’d done.  I expected someone to call me out on the repeated move, or—well, something.  But they didn’t.  They complimented my outfit and told me that I did well.

Awesome.

I did receive some constructive feedback from the mentors present:

  • Slow down the beginning. The Isis wings (purple cloak) shimmer enough that I don’t have to work so hard or move so quickly.
  • Straighten my back before opening my corset. I had been in mid-shimmy, and heard my musical queue.  I should have taken the time to stand up straight first; this was a good catch.

And the other two are confidential, because sharing them would give away too much about my act.  Let’s just say, they were excellent suggestions which I will incorporate.

And the audience will go wild!

IMG_3541

Jislana Lanerex. Photo by Dee Hill. Makeup by Vivienne Vermuth.

My classmates’ acts were great.  One classmate started out shyly, then warmed up to the audience and began popping her hips—WOOT!  Another lady who had claimed to have body issues previously, did a chair routine and popped her legs open.  Oh my!  She certainly looked uninhibited at that moment!  GO GIRL!

Chickadee Lee’s costume was all feathers.  What little there is of it—whoo whoo!  I won’t say too much—I don’t want to give too much away—but she will definitely hold everyone’s attention.

There was even one classmate who hid behind a boa.  Ya know, her act was just as sexy—or more—than the others.  She had a lot of fun on stage, too; I was sitting on the edge of my seat watching her.  YA!!

Overall, there were some professional-grade costumes on that stage: blinged out hats, gloves, bras, and even custom-made dresses.  I was flattered when someone asked me where I got my corset; I was happy to tell her that I took an old corset and blinged it myself.  I realized that a compliment on my creation made me feel almost as proud as a compliment on my act.

Sinn La Vie was a great stage manager: confident, calm, in charge.  That’s what I needed, someone who remained calm in the face of all of our nerves and excitement.

The kittens were awesome, too.  Kittens are the beautiful ladies who set the stage before each performance and pick up the props and clothes afterward.  Indigo and Frauline Ingrid Funtime were professional and nice.  Ingrid is a BE Alumni and a performer; I had the pleasure of seeing her work at the Popcorn & Pasties show, where she assisted Arielle with her act.

Just two more sleeps until the show.  I’ve just got to wash everything, check my jewelry, practice the routine a few more times, double-check my suitcase to make sure that I didn’t forget anything, call my friends to make sure that they’re coming…

I can’t wait!

Cheers!

This is one of a series of posts about The Burlesque Experience.

Continuing the Burlesque Beginnings thread, I will interview Molly Macabre tomorrow night.  After that last show, I’m a big fan, so I’m looking forward to hearing her story. 

Burlesque Beginnings

Jislana_undress_backopen_e Jislana_undress_e

“Would you rather watch someone else undress, or would you rather undress for him, knowing that you’re turning him on, like a light switch?” Andrew asked me.

At 16 years old, I hardly knew what to say.  I always thought that kissing led to other things; I hadn’t considered that simply watching another person would be arousing.  And despite the fact that Andrew was a Good Catholic boy, we had done a lot of kissing, etc.  I meant it when I said that the hot tub was hot and wet that night – oh, boy!

However, the thought of having that sort of power did appeal to me.

One burlesque dancer told me, “I don’t dance for the penis.  I never have.  I dance for me.

I get that.  At my last rehearsal in front of friends, I felt sexy and in control.  I could make the crowd (such that it was) shout out by running my hands over my body.  I could get them to hoot by pulling down a dress strap.

One of my classmates said, “I’ve always had body issues; I mean, I never liked my body.”

Sooo many of us fall into that category, thinking that we’re too short or too tall; our breasts are too large or too small; or that our hair is too light or too dark.

I’ve always felt average.  At 5’4”, I’m the average height for an American female.  My brown hair is depressingly boring: not dark enough to be fashionable, not light enough to glow.  My mother despised the red highlights in her own hair, to the point that she died her hair ash blonde for years.  When I found the same red streaks in my own hair, I rebelliously dyed my hair a brazen red.  Still, it felt like everyone was dying their hair red that year, so sadly, I still felt somewhat average.

To counteract this, I work out regularly.  I’ve found that I can keep my waistline slightly below average if I sweat every day.  Since I tend to work out just 3 or 4 days a week, I still have 10 or so pounds that I’d like to lose.  I’m ok with that, most days.  I only occasionally think about calling the plastic surgeon to inquire about liposuction rates.

It doesn’t help that my sister is stick thin and model gorgeous.  My brothers were tall.  We all earned straight A’s in school, so there was no way to stand out there.  Sports were always a struggle for me, since I have allergies and these stubby little legs.  Oh yes, I suffer from middle child syndrome.  I acknowledge it and own it!

Like my siblings, I shined in the classroom.  So it came as little surprise to family and friends when I became an engineer (like Dad and Brother #1).   At work, I must be technical and professional.  I love it, make no mistake, I have my dream job.  But my sexual side is repressed and I can only let it out on evenings and weekends.

But I digress.

I’m often digressing.  I get bored, and I need a challenge.  I worked out at a gym for a while, then switched to another.  I ran for a short time, but my body didn’t like that, so I tried Insanity.  So when Lisa mentioned the Burlesque Experience, I thought, “Why not?  A new dance class would be a different way to work out and stay in shape.”

Ha!  I was sorely mistaken – BE wasn’t a work out class, nor was it really a dance class.  It was—is—an Experience.  On the first day of class, when I realized my mistake, I thought, “Well, this will be fun—something completely different.”

So I stumbled into burlesque.  I wondered how others had gotten into it, so I asked a few of the performers.

The beautiful and talented Anna Mulhouse is a founding member of the Deadly Sins Burlesque and Sideshow in Deep Ellum, Dallas, where she performs monthly.  She occasionally performs as a guest in other DFW shows.  Her background includes some dance and theater arts training, which gives her an appreciation of performance, like most folks from New York.  Anna is very active within the local burlesque community and an alumni of the Burlesque Experience.  And she’s a sweetheart!

Speaking of BE Alumni and sweethearts, Arielle shared her story with me, too.  She said, “After watching the movie Burlesque for 50 million times, my birthday came up and I asked my husband to take me to see a burlesque show.  We went to Viva Dallas @Lakewood Theater (now closed) to see the Bedtime Stories show.  It was very freeing to see regular women on the stage dancing.  I said, ‘Honey, I can do this,’ to which he responded, ‘Fuck ya you can!’  That was in March 2013, and I took the BE class later that year.”

She continued, “I love dancing.  I’ve been dancing since 12 years old, when my favorite thing to do was dance alone in my room.  Later, when I was old enough to get into clubs, I would dance from open until 4 a.m., when my legs were Jello and didn’t want to work anymore.  I took country western classes just to keep being out on the dance floor.  While I excel at partner dancing, I wanted an outlet so that I wouldn’t have to worry about having a partner.  And while I love hip hop, I do not excel at it.  When I tried this [burlesque], it clicked.  People seem to like what I do.  I have my own niche.  I haven’t tried to be a classical burlesque dancer with big band music and the feathers.  My performances are neo.  I may try classical one day, if I can find the right song.”

So, Arielle loves to dance.  I can relate to that; I danced alone in my room, too.  “Sometimes I lock the door, so no one else can see,” sang Madonna.  I also took ballet, country western dance classes, swing dance classes, and salsa over the years.  Others have backgrounds in dance, too, like Carmen Diablo, who discussed her beginnings in our first BE class.

Ophelia Wood, who performed in Hot and Sweaty and is a BE mentor, was introduced to burlesque after she discovered that she had fertility issues.  In her own words, which she has shared publicly previously, she wanted to become a burlesque dancer “to embrace my femininity in a way that is strong, fearless and above all else fun! After a crushing blow on our infertility journey, my husband looked around town for something fun to take me to take my mind off of things.  I’ve always loved musicals and he discovered a burlesque festival in Austin.  It was the first time that I even knew burlesque existed outside of Guys and Dolls.  We had such a blast at the event and was truly able to take a break from our grieving.  Ever since that year, we have been regular attendees of the burlesque festival and enjoy going out.  I love that it’s less about what you’ve got (aka perfect bodies), but more in terms of what you do with it and how you sell it on stage.”

Oh, yes, Ophelia!  That’s it!

“I’ve never been a strong dancer despite my enthusiasm, but I do love fantastic costumes and am definitely famous for my ability to tease!  I’ve taken a few workout classes that focus on burlesque or pole dancing and really enjoyed them, but never have considered performing.  After settling on the fact that I will not have children, I have sought out ways to embrace my femininity in ways that are strong, fearless and above all else fun.  With apprehension and excitement, I want to become a true burlesque dancer and embrace a strong fearless feminine side and get on stage to shake my money maker.”

YES!  Ophelia said it well, “It’s less about what you’ve got (aka perfect bodies)…”  That echoes what Arielle said about, “regular women.”  That is so true!  The Burlesque community welcomes imperfection with open arms.  No one cares that I have 15 extra pounds.  I could have 150 extra pounds, and they would encourage me to be brave, bold, and confident.  I’ve seen it happen, and I’ve cheered on imperfect women myself.  Correction: I don’t see them as imperfect, and I don’t think that the community does, either.  We see beauty, and beauty comes in all forms.

That, and I always have fun at the performances.  I’ve even made some really good friends.  Someone one recently said, “It’s hard to make friends as adults.”  Yes, it really is.  Having something in common—like burlesque—brings people together.

My 16-year-old self, years ago, answered Andrew with, “I want to be able to undress and turn him on like a light switch.”  That’s part of the reason that I got into burlesque.

The question is, why did it take me so long?

Maybe that’s the wrong question.  The original question was, “Why are you here?”

The simple answer is, “Lisa invited me.”

Then the question becomes, “Why do you stay?”

And the only answer that matters is, I’m having a lot of fun!

Cheers!

Popcorn and Pasties

Signed poster and the goodies that I acquired (minus the popcorn, which was consumed - nom nom nom).

Signed poster and the goodies that I acquired (minus the popcorn, which was consumed – nom nom nom).

“I am Groot!” the performer on stage said.  Groot, a character from the movie Guardians of the Galaxy, looked like a tree.  That was not what I expected at a burlesque show.  But ya know what?  Tifa Tittlywinks pulled it off!  She managed to entertain and be sexy, while showing a minimal amount of skin for most of her act.  Now that’s a great performance!

The show opened with Molly Macabre, producer and master of ceremonies, singing a song from the movie Chicago.  Four lovelies danced and stripped to an act choreographed by Sinn La Vie (according to inside sources).  Molly’s strong voice alongside the beautiful dancers made for a powerful start to an amazing show!

“What do the employees of Facebook do at work to waste time?” Molly Macabre asked.  “Seriously.  The rest of us play on Facebook, but they get paid to do that.”  Molly had great timing.  She took in the crowd’s reaction before moving on, to her next line.  “We’re going to play a game.  I’m going to give you three lines from a movie, and if you know the movie, stand up.  If you win, you get to choose a box of movie candy from this box.”

Molly also said, “I’m popping my own cherry tonight.”  She made a suggestive gesture with the microphone which made the crowd laugh.  Then she explained, “This is my first time to MC a show.”  Molly had years of theater experience and commanded attention.  She knew how to work the crowd.  I would not have guessed that this was her first time, and would have believed that she’d been MC for years.

The alien from Mars Attacks took the stage, complete with the hideous Martian mask.  The Martian’s “space ship” was a LED hula hoop that changed colors and blinked while Janie Slash kept it moving around her waist, then around her knees.  It was hypnotizing and Janie has a lot of skill to pull that off for so long.  (I think I can hula hoop for about 30 seconds before it drops to the ground!)  The music changed and she “died,” true to the movie plot.  The mask came off and she became her beautiful self, dancing across the stage.  At this point in the show, my voice was already getting hoarse from hooting and hollering.

The rest of the acts were amazing, too.  Divertida Devotchka chose Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas for her movie.  She started the act looking like an unremarkable, geeky tourist, but finished it looking sexy and gorgeous.

Arielle (one of my favorites from previous shows, and the chair class) performed 50 Shades of Grey complete with a little S&M.

Hana Li enacted a scene from Kill Bill that included a sword (kitana?), traditional Japanese formal kimono, and red silk dress.  She changed from slippers to heels on stage, the first time that I saw that happen.  It made sense for her strip tease.  Even her pasties fit the theme of her act and she finished strong.

Helena Isis was the most energetic, with an act that had her silver fringe flying.  Molly made a comment to the effect that she (Molly) felt like she had exercised after just watching Helena move.  I sympathized!

Sapphire De La Noche performed her signature “Nerd-lesque” act, in a typical nerd outfit: plaid pants, button up shirt, bow tie, frizzly pigtails, and black framed glasses.  She has that act down pat: she trips on stage and scatters a stack of books.  She “reads” a book on strip tease and removes her plaid pants to reveal plaid capris underneath.  Then she returns to the book for more guidance.  I was dying!  It was funny and sexy, in a very nerdy way.

Cambria Cadavah was the evil queen from Snow White.  Sinn La Vie performed a Christmas Story.  Zerlina Brava portrayed Marilyn Monroe from Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend and sang while she danced.  That takes talent!  And last but certainly not least, Black Mariah was Magenta from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  I would never have thought to use feather dusters like that; oh my.

I’m gushing.  I know I am.  This was the best burlesque show that I’ve ever seen!  Ok, so I haven’t been to many.  STILL, the performers were great, the costumes were detailed, and the show flowed well.  Several of the performers came into the crowd to interact: kiss, caress, hand out apples.  I love that!

The cast had made jewelry to sell to benefit a performer who had had surgery.  “Absinthe is a college student and a burlesque dancer, so you know that means she’s broke!” Molly said.  “Help her out by buying a necklace, flowered barrette, or a little hat.”

So I did.  I purchased a purple flower clip and necklace.  Then I bought some raffle tickets and won a little hat!  I love it!  It’s green zebra stripe with purple sequined trim and a black flower.  I do not have an outfit to match it so I don’t know when I’ll wear it, but I love it anyway.  Damn it, I’ll go shopping and buy an outfit if I have to (No, don’t make me go shopping!).

Absinthe, I hope that you have a speedy recovery and that the fundraiser helped with your bills.  You certainly have a lot of people working hard to help you, which I hope is some comfort to you, as well.

Congratulations, Molly, on having your cherry popped.  Congratulations to the cast for an amazing show.  I can’t wait for the next one!

Cheers!

Next time: Burlesque Beginnings.  Why did some of us decide to perform?  Thank you to one of my readers for the suggested topic. 

I'm showing off my pretty new hair clip and necklace.

I’m showing off my pretty new hair clip and necklace.

Burlesque Rehearsal & Racism

Jislana_and_scepter“Rehearsal was great!” I told Nadia.  “At one point, my necklace came off and snagged on my hair—just like at the photo shoot—so I know not to use it in the actual performance.  And my hair snagged on my sequined corset, but I kept going.  Geez, I wish I could just call up Vivienne to do my makeup every day—you can’t even tell in these pictures all the hard work that I put into my funky makeup!”

I did my own makeup. It was fun to color outside the lines!

I did my own makeup. It was fun to color outside the lines!

“That’s ok,” Nadia said, “You’ll have Viv on the night of your performance, right?”

“Yes!” I said.  “OHHHHH and my friend Andrew is going to be in town that night, from Washington D.C.  I’m so excited—I hope that he gets to come!”  Andrew and I met when I was 12 years old.  At one point, I thought that I was going to marry him.  Hmmm, maybe that will be the subject of my next blog post.  I changed the topic.  “It’s strange that I felt a little self-conscious in front of the camera.  I mean, it’s just a little box of electronics.”

“A little box of electronics which is recording your image for all of eternity!” Naughty Nadia replied.

“Ya,” I said.

“Ya,” she said.  “Your scepter turned out great!  I love it!  I thought the star on top would be like a little Christmas ornament; this is so much better!”

“Thanks!” I said.  “I’m really glad that my mentor Minxie Molotov could come out and play.  Even though she didn’t agree with my blog post, she supported my right to write what I wanted.”

Nadia said, “Well that’s cool.  You certainly pissed some people off with that post!  What the hell!”

I laughed.  Obviously she was referring to my next-to-the-last blog post.  “I didn’t expect so many people to get so offended, over the fact that I was offended!” I said.

She laughed, too.  “Well, when you put it that way…what the hell?!” she repeated.

I shrugged.  “I saw, I felt, I wrote.  I moved on.  But look at some of these comments!  They are hilarious!  One person called me a racist because I called my character an illegal alien.”

“Uh, wait a minute…that confuses me in all sorts of ways.  Did she think that all illegal aliens came from Mexico?!  You are portraying an alien from outer space!”  Naughty Nadia shook her head and rolled her eyes.  “And on a completely different level, if you call yourself a name, it can’t possibly be misconstrued as racist, can it?”  She paused, then said, “I am a proud Irish woman!  There, did I just insult the people of Ireland in some way?”

I couldn’t help but giggle.  That was soooo ridiculous.  “I think you’re okay.  You are Irish, and that’s a fact, not an opinion.  Just like the fact that illegal aliens can come from all over the globe: Ireland included,” I explained.  “And France, Sweden, Antarctica, or Canada.  In fact, my friend Jane is from Canada, and she was an illegal alien for a little while.”

“What?!  Sweet little elementary school teach Jane was illegal?” Nadia said incredulously.

“Yep.  Jane said that she let her visa (that’s like a green card, not a credit card) lapse.  When she renewed it, she was on a Conditional Visa.  She explained that as, ‘I can stay in the U.S., as long as I don’t get picked up for hooking for my crack habit,’” I said.  “She found a man as quickly as she could, fell in love, and got married.  They now have a sweet baby boy and are living the happily ever after.”

“So your illegal alien friend from Canada, seriously, had a green card wedding?”

“Essentially, yes,” I said.

We looked at each other for a minute, then cracked up laughing again.  I refilled our drinks.

“More, more!” Nadia told me.  “What else did the hecklers say?”

“One lady REALLY misunderstood me.  She must have thought that I was calling for a boycott by my readers, when all I really did was express my personal decision to boycott future shows by that performer.  She asked me, ‘If you go on a diet, do I have to quit eating donuts, too?’” I said.

Nadia lost it.  She laughed so hard that she fell on the floor.  “Did you tell her that you’ve been gluten free for years?”

“Basically.  I commented that I don’t eat donuts, but she was free to eat as many Krispie Kremes and Dunkin’ Donuts as she liked.  I told her to wash it all down with country-fried steak with extra gravy.  I added the hashtags Gluten Free and Eat What You Want,” I said with a smile.

“Your character is a queen, right?  Next time, use the hashtag Let Them Eat Cake!” Nadia said with a wicked grin.

I smiled back.  “I wonder if they’ll get the reference to Marie Antoinette.  Someone will start looking for a guillotine!  I bet someone would get offended, and think that I was calling someone else fat!”

“Hey, she’s the one that brought up donuts!  And for the record, I have no idea what the commenter looks like.  I wasn’t there, and you didn’t describe her,” Nadia said.

“That’s right!  I didn’t attack the performer, either.  If you ignore the pictures, you don’t know her height, weight, age, or any other identifying feature.  In the text, I stuck to the act and what I felt,” I said.

“Ya, I’m a little disappointed that you didn’t cuss or give a better description,” Nadia said.

“Well, get over it!  I’m classy, damn it!” I said, slamming back my whiskey.  “Now get me another drink, Bitch!”

Cheers!

Tomorrow: Andrew and I, a romance that wasn’t meant to be.  After all, he was a virgin until his wedding night.  Who does that?

Friday night, I’ll attend the show Popcorn & Pasties, a Molly Macabre production.  I’m really looking forward to it; I love Molly and her work!

My Bust Out is coming on August 21st!  I’m so excited!