Friday, January 25, 2008

Interview: The Porcelain Twinz

The Porcelain Twinz are a spectacular pair of performers. They are not part of the burlesque circuit that is such a big part of my life these days, but they've carved their own niche at the Box. I first saw them on the cover of Penthouse, kneeling gorgeously at the feet of a spike-heeled leather domme, and later doing a hypnotic leg show in the movie "Autofocus." Over time I became particularly interested in them because they were unique, intense, beautiful, creative, and entrepreneurial. They produce their own music and have written their own book, "Our Life in the Sex Industry." When Rose Wood told me they were performing at the The Box with her, I was thrilled to go see them perform and to meet them. They work every element of being twins onstage, using vivid, distinctive choreography and powerful music while they work their incredible mirror image to its best possible advantage. I often hear new performers say that they're going to "bust out of the classic mode," and while for them I'd recommend checking out Rose, Velocity Chyalld, or Julie Atlas Muz, I would also love for those who have a taste for the darker side of burlesque to get their eyes onto the Twinz for some additional inspiration. While a single performer can't imitate the visual impact their twindom has, their ability to weave strip-joint style stripping, burlesque tease, fetish costumes, and performance art aesthetics all into a single performance is a lesson in how to successfully break all the rules. They are inconoclasts of both the sex industry and the theatre, and they more than live up to the hype. And they are darling in person. I feel very honored to have gotten to interview Heather and Amber.

The Porcelain Twinz
All photos courtesy the Porcelain Twinz.

What is your interpretation of burlesque?
For us burlesque has to capture elements of classic burlesque, otherwise it is not burlesque; however, we like to turn the volume up and take it to the next level and we don’t categorize ourselves as classic burlesque but as “Fetish-burlesque.”
There has always been somewhat of an evolution in Burlesque. It began in the 1900’s as more of a comedy/variety show, with skits and sketch acts, and just a little bit of strip tease, but the popularity of the strip tease aspect of burlesque being so taboo for the time, it eventually took over and became what burlesque is known for today. We think burlesque is what burlesque is, and that is old style, classic strip tease dance performance. The burlesque community today is amazing in keeping to the time period, and celebrating the true art of being a burlesque performer. We do not follow the traditional format of burlesque, though we do take many elements from traditional burlesque strip tease and make it our own. We mix it with elements of fetish play, intending to create another evolution burlesque in the 21st century. Some of our shows are classic burlesque with a hint of fetishism sprinkled on top, and other parts of our shows are just pure fetish performance art cabaret theater. We coined the term fetish-burlesque as our genre of entertainment because of this. Our performance art cabaret theater/fetish burlesque has a very parallel line to some of the old burlesque routines, in that they both are based in creating beautiful, erotic dance routines with themes that may tell a story or make a point to the audience to get them thinking, whether it be a political point, or just exposing them to a world that they otherwise would know nothing about.

You use the term "performance art" to describe some of your numbers. What does that mean to you?
For us performance art is still a form of creative dance, but it is not burlesque as much as it is usually our more obscure, weird, and bizarre shows. We always mix fetish into our performance art. Fetish is the root of everything for us.

The Porcelain Twinz

What was the first act you put together that you felt really achieved some of your performance goals?
It was a show we choreographed in 1997 and performed in Portland Oregon at a bar called Berbati’s Pan where they hosted an event once a month called “Fetish Night.” We called ourselves “Twin Suicide,” and did a very raw fetish/strip dance routine,. We wore long, tight, black velvet skirts with long slits up the sides to reveal our legs, and velvet tie halter tops, silver arm bands, bracelets, and necklaces, and black pointed boots with stockings. Our hair was cropped into matching short A-line bobs and bleached blonde. We breathed some fire in this first routine, danced around together like a couple of slinky snakes to our carefully chosen music, and threw buckets of glitter all over ourselves, which made the stage like an ice skating rink.. At the time it felt fabulous, and amazing, and did capture a very magical moment. This was a very raw and unpolished beginning of what would become our fetish-burlesque cabaret shows.
Another act that began to define what we were about to do with our performance art was our, “Anarchy Cheerleader Fire show.” We took elements of fire dancing and mixed it with our strip style routine. We outfitted ourselves with authentic red black & white cheerleading uniforms onto which we hand sewed some anarchy patches, and brought it all together with an awesome set of pom-poms. We worked out the show by first choreographing a routine with a set of fire juggling torches, which we would swing (not juggle) to Marilyn Manson’s, “The Beautiful People,” and then ended our show with a strip tease and our pom-poms.

The Porcelain Twinz

What was it like to put these first shows together?
It was very daunting and a lot of work. It was a bit overwhelming at times, and still very raw. There was no real format to follow, because we were working to create our own thing, and making it up as we went along. At the time there was nothing like what we were doing in the scene, so we really only had a couple of outlets where we could perform this type of art. It didn’t really belong in a strip club, and it didn’t really fit into the bar scene. Fetish Nights were the only outlets that we had to truly perform at in the beginning. It wasn’t until, “Dante’s Sunday Sinferno Cabaret,” opened in 2000 that we would have a place to perform our fetish-burlesque shows at on a weekly basis.

How did people respond?
The response to our shows was absolutely amazing. People were getting it and wanting to see more. This type of support really inspired us to keep moving forward and creating new shows, which we did. Each new show that we created seemed to take on a life of its own, and to get bigger and better than the last.

You say in one of your interviews that you rely more on dancing and choreography than on large props. Do you have dance training?
The school of stripping. We really learned to move as strippers and became in tune with our bodies. We developed our own movement and style. It just happened naturally. As children we were always dancing, choreographing and making up dance routines. We always loved to dance, but never had the opportunity to have training. When we became strippers we developed our sensuality, style, and movement. Strip clubs are the only training we have ever had we give all other credit to infused knowledge from the other side and past lives.

Do you ever work with outside choreographers?
Never. We like to march to the beat of our own drum and when we create a show it is very spiritual and divine. We have our own creative process that we go through when constructing a new piece. Bringing in another energy just doesn’t work for how we create, and is unnecessary.

And do you ever think about large props you might incorporate?
We have a few shows that we need large props for that we haven’t brought to fruition, but they will come alive in the near future.

You seem to really embrace being in or having been in the sex industry. Do you consider that an unusual focus for performance artists, or are there other performance artists who have some of the same focus who've inspired you?
We take pride in being in the sex industry, because it is an industry where only the strong survive. If you can get through being in the sex industry without it chewing you up and spitting you out, then you are going to be able to handle anything in life. Being in the industry has changed our whole perspective on everything in our lives. It made us really strong and we are proud that we have made it through that stage.

Tell me a little bit about your experiences with the Box. Does that feel like an extension of the sex industry, or a move outside of it? Do you think the audiences are similar?
There is no comparison between the Sex Industry and The Box. They are two totally different beasts. The Box is a brilliant beautiful decadent theater. It is a fantastic outlet for us to perform our shows to then amazing highest caliber. We have an amazing stage, amazing lighting and a captive audience. To have these elements in a strip club is few and far in between. A theater like The Box is really a dream come true for avant guard performers like us! What is really great is that we are still performing the same shows for The Box that we were performing in strip clubs, but now we just have the correct tools to capture us in our best light, so in regard to moving outside of the sex industry, the only thing that has changed for us are the stages and the audience and we don’t have to hustle customers for their money--which is a nice change. We always hated the hustle in the clubs. We don’t miss that element.

What burlesque performances have you gotten to see in New York that you particularly liked?
We love The Bitter Poet and Miss Saturn, two New York artists who are absolutely fabulous. Our favorite Box performers would be Reggie Watts, The James Gang, Narcissister, and Rose.

The Porcelain Twinz
The Twinz with Big Indian and Narcisster.

You are also writers and musicians. Do you do multimedia performances, and if not, would you like to?
We have yet to perform our music live, but we will be soon enough. Our music will be it’s own thing separate from our fetish-burlesque shows, but we do look forward to a new creative outlet, and there will be some performance art based elements mixed in with it. It is still in the making, so we will see what transpires. We are also filmmakers with a feature film in development. Our goal is to saturate the masses!

I'm very impressed by you not only as artists, but also as entrepreneurs. You have kind of performance empire that I love. Do you want to talk briefly about the business of being the Porcelain Twinz?
We have learned a lot through trial and error, but we have developed a really good business sense and have really big dreams for our future as the Porcelain Twinz. We will be expanding into many other media outlets in the future. We are really just getting started!

What do you like best about the city of New York???
The Subway. It fucking rules. We are still enamored by how easy it is to get from point A to point B. Also it’s New York the city you see in the movies. It’s a bit surreal to look out our living room window and see the Empire State building and the Chrysler building glowing in the night. Wow it feels like we have finally arrived!!….almost!!! http://www.porcelaintwinz.com/
http://www.myspace.com/porcelaintwinz

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