Thursday, January 10, 2013

21st Century Burlesque Top 50 Poll Results!

If you'd like to see what some of the most recognized performers in our community do, check out the Top 50 Burlesque online poll on 21st Century Burlesque. There are lots of links to articles and videos for inspiration and research!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Inspiration Post: The Muppets

It's time to play the music
It's time to light the lights
It's time to meet the Muppets on the Muppet Show tonight.

It's time to put on makeup
It's time to dress up right
It's time to raise the curtain on the Muppet Show tonight.


When I saw The Muppet Show as a kid, all I wanted to do was be a part of the backstage life. My understanding of showbiz personalitty archetypes and the community they could create came from watching the interactions between creatures made of felt, ping pong ball eyes, and ostrich trim.

Also, I love skits and parodies, and when the Muppets do it, it's almost too good to be true. Basically, every second of the above video makes me have to pee.

There are a lot of valuable tips for performers from the Muppets. Below, a reminder to check the lyrics of your song for actual content, not just the title:

Friday, January 4, 2013

Inspiration Post: Miss Indigo Blue

From Indigo's Facebook:

Just found my 2007 intention statement:
My intention is to: fulfill my divine purpose to exemplify embodied femininity; empower and support people to transform themselves and live their own passions; positively impact peoples' feelings about their bodies and their sexuality; experience satisfaction, pleasure and amusement while living tri-continentally; produce funny, meaningful, political, and entertaining art.

I just stole this without her permission because if I ask her, it'll take forever. You know how you can get things done in two seconds with strangers, but it takes forever to do it with a friend? So you know.

Indigo was the Headmistress and Founder of the Seattle Academy of Burlesque shortly before I opened the School of Burlesque, and no one has been a bigger influence on my approach to and mission for NYSB. While working on the development of a program of education for The Burlesque Hall of Fame, she suggested we develop an education weekender, and Burlycon was born.

These inspiration posts are short because, actually, I'm supposed to be finishing a book proposal for a commercial mass-market gift book right now, and I have to be responsible about that fun but demanding project. I hope the posts inspire you to think about your inspirations!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Inspiration Post: World Famous *BOB*

World Famous Bob by Jo Weldon
World Famous Bob, a photo by Jo Weldon on Flickr.
World Famous *BOB* teaches Ultimate Self Confidence at The New York School of Burlesque, as well as Loving The Body You're In with Legs Malone. She's full of pith and vinegar, and recently she posted this awesome message on Facebook, and I'm pleased to share it here as well. Enjoy!

New to Burlesque? Wanna be? My advice follows:
Right away my advice for anyone starting in Burlesque is:
1. Know the history- research Burlesque and the women that came before you. The only way we can create the future of anything in a responsible way is by honoring its past.
2. Don't be jealous or competitive- if you are truly original then there is no competition! (sigh* what a relief!)
3. Lead by example- be the person you would want to share a backstage with- be the performer you would want to see- and always respect that others may have a different approach to it all.
4. Take lessons- whether it's acting, dance, butoh, or ballet- you're only as good as the time you put in.
5. The second it's not what you want to do anymore stop.
6. Do not expect to make a living doing it- it is VERY popular and there are only so many seats on the tour bus. It does not mean that you will not- just don't go into thinking you will. Most full time professional performers, myself included, do A LOT of artistic things to pay the bills. Catherine D'Lish, Dirty DirtyMartini Martini, Dita Von Tease, Julie Atlas Muz are a few of the talented but also lucky ones that do just Burlesque for the most part. Costumes, classes, and travel cost $.
7. Follow your heart.
8. Respect women and cheer them on- including yourself- Diva's are lonely people.
9. I will leave you with my personal onstage mantra:
"Wig on,
Chin up,
Heels High,
Move Forward!"-World Famous *BOB*
That is what I say when I have a job to do and need super hero powers to do it. I teach at The New York School of Burlesque and would love to see you in class.
Until Then- Love & Poodles,
World Famous *BOB*

Inspiration: Yoko Ono

When I think about some of my inspirations, I often think that they're not very visible in my work. Sometimes what informs a given number remains in it as an energy rather than an emulation of a style or technique. However, it's also true that a great deal of my work has actually been seen by very few people or by nonburlesque audiences. I have a history of numbers I no longer do, or I perform one-offs in shows that aren't photographed or filmed. While my more traditional numbers--which represent some of my most passionate expression of my belief in striptease as a standalone art form--are the ones I perform most frequently and are the most documented, I've done tons of performances and readings that look nothing like that.

Yoko Ono, artist, activist, icon, and iconoclast, is probably one of the least visible influences in my  burlesque work, though she's always there in my idea of the radical female who doesn't hesitate to make a statement in the nude.

Above:Yoko Ono in hotpants.">

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Above: Yoko Ono's Cut Piece. When I was a feature dancer I did a fetish number that ended with fire, but before I handled fire I had audience members cut off me a red body stocking, piece by piece. I didn't sit passively, I addressed the audience members and guided them, but it was directly inspired by Cut Piece.

I'm also constantly inspired by her open emotions, which she exposes without guile whether her heart is bursting with love or fear. I went to see her in concert three years ago, and she danced and sang and told wonderful stories and had guest artists sing some of her songs. It was even more exciting because some of my other inspirations were performing with her, but I would have gone to see her alone.

Above: Bette Midler sings Yes, I'm Your Angel

Above: Justin Bond Sings What a Bastard the World Is

I have a lot of Yoko Ono inspired pieces in my mind--I could probably do a one-woman girl-on-girl show of me doing all my Yoko-thievery, if I could change between acts quickly enough to keep the audience awake.

One of my favorite of Yoko's works involved her having people climb up a ladder with a magnifying glass to read a word on the ceiling. The word was YES. I'd like to be at the top of a ladder, grinning like Humpty Dumpty, and have people climb up with a speculum and tweezers, and have each of them pull a piece of paper out of my vagina, on which would be the word YES.

Yoko is controversial in a lot of ways, but my appreciation of her work is simple. If you're thinking, "What the hell, really, YOKO ONO?" her Wiki article is a great place to start to get to know her.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Inspiration: Students

"In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few." 
 ~ Shunryu Suzuki Roshi

Above: Former students performing at a Coney Island USA benefit.

Above: Students kicking ass on an MTV news piece with Angel Pai

The truth is, sometimes I get very burned out on some aspects of burlesque. When people argue about who should be allowed on which stage, and who is bringing down burlesque, and who does and doesn't deserve credit for what, the discussions can really take the wind out of my sails. I prize audacity, enthusiasm, and sincerity above Big Art, or anything that starts to become capitalized in the many ways that things can be capitalized for possession of some real or imaginary field: financial, cultural, artistic, academic, etc. Who did what first? Who does what the best? What's real burlesque? Who gets to say? Who gets into the show and who doesn't? I just don't care who was the first person to do a burlesque show downtown in NYC, honestly, except to say thank you. I don't care who gets credit for having the best dance ability or the fanciest headdress or the funniest nerdy reference. But every time I start to think that the stuff that gets to me is the bigger part of the burlesque experience, I'm proved wrong by an open hearted bawdy show or an experience with a student, such as the following email (the student said she is happy to have me post it but doesn't wish to be identified):

A million thanks to you, Gal Friday, and Jezebel Express for an amazing experience these past four weeks. When I wrote to you asking to be wait listed for this essential burlesque series, it was because I was afraid that if I didn't jump, I would lose my nerve. Thank you for the desperation in my tone and making room for a straggler. It was the best money I've spent in years.

As I mentioned in class, I took this series without any real plans --I just wanted to be around women like me, in an environment that celebrated my version of beauty, over the top and unapologetically bedazzled. I thought it would be an indulgence that would temporarily numb and distract from some recently opened up wounds. I didn't expect to learn as much as I did. 

I exit your class realizing that beauty comes from action, from how you make people feel, and what you give out. For so many years I looked at the idea of "beauty on the inside" as placating folk wisdom, or some kind of passive aggressive admonition against vanity. But all three instructors stressed having an internal dialogue when you dance, and that was a major turning point. When my classmates were thinking about their bodies, and how much they enjoyed them, and we danced with that awareness of sharing...I looked around, and every woman in that room was gorgeous. Honestly. Truly. Not in a vapid, empty compliment way, not even in a "standards of beauty are culturally mediated and useless way". By the most base, instinctual, reflexive, shallow standard you could think of---they were all beautiful.

This might be common knowledge to most people, but it never really sunk in with me. I can't promise that 35 years of self esteem issues were cured in four weeks, but I absolutely feel like I have a powerful tool I didn't have before. Every risk you take, every time you put yourself out on a line, every time you surrender to being exactly who you are, you fortify some inner reserve of light that is more powerful and more transformative than anything MAC, or Madison Avenue, can sell.

Thank you for your kindness, your inspiration, and for the invaluable lesson that beauty is really a verb. :) I wish you nothing but the best!

It's true--I care more about the hearts and minds of students than the future of the art form. Because if the hearts and minds of the students aren't fed, the art form becomes nothing but incestuous, self-congratulating, self-referential, and self-aggrandizing. Here's to both the steak and the sizzle that students bring to the table!

Below: The bold and brilliant students of Pink Light Burlesque.

Direct Link to Pink Light Burlesque Video

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

I'm going to devote January to inspiration.

My first post is about my long-time friend Lily Burana, author of Strip City, a book that said everything I ever wanted said about working in strip joints--the good, the bad, the nights of shame, the the shameless pleasures, the money, the sexy, the everything it takes to understand what it's really like.

Although I had heard about Lily and was fascinated by her portrait in Annie Sprinkle's Post-Modern Pin-up Pleasure Activist Play Cards, I didn't meet her until we were on the set of Debra Devi's video "Take It Off," the opening for Jill Morley's incredible documentary, Stripped.

Everyone I've mentioned in this post is a huge inspiration, so be sure to click on all the links, but I thought of Lily in particular today because of this post today on, in which Lily says:

"Here’s what I know, this New Year, for sure: Darlings, it’s later than you think. Always. But there’s still plenty of time. Slip the red dress from the hanger. Tuck the silk flower behind your ear. Hide the scale and head out the door. The rest of your one and only life is waiting."

In the article, she talks about worrying how she'll look in a red dress at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender. Here's how we looked:

Photo by Jonny Porkpie
Do it--wear the red dress!