The burlesque scene has its very own print magazine thanks to Dale "Black Dahlia" Rio, Shimmy Magazine's co-owner/editor and photographer (recently relocated to Seattle). She has been photographing burlesque for about five years. A little over a year ago she began editing and publishing Shimmy Magazine, the only print magazine devoted to burlesque. I know how hard it is to not only get a project like that off the ground, but to keep it going for any amount of time, and I'm thrilled to hear that Shimmy has come out in a larger format and is now being distributed in bookstores! She interviewed me for Shimmy and now...well, turnabout is foreplay.
How did you get interested in publishing?
I've worked on the other side of publishing, as a
freelance photographer and writer, for over ten years,
and when my business partner, Robin, and I decided to
start shimmy, it was both of our first forays into the
business side of things. it's been quite an
eye-opening experience, especially since both of our
magazines are self-published; we've had to learn all
the ins and outs and do most of the work ourselves!
Why do you think so many people who are interested in Burlesque are also interested in Roller Derby?
In both, women have total control. Naturally, women
are attracted to burlesque and derby because of that,
but men, too, seem to really appreciate the fact that
in both, women are doing things on their own terms.
In both, too, something that has a firm foundation in
the past has been taken and adapted to today's
sensibilities, so it touches upon a sense of nostalgia
but is ultra-modern at the same time. Today's burlesque embraces women of all shapes and
sizes, and the audience responds to that energy, even
when the women on-stage don't typify society's
standards of what is beautiful. Derby, too, has
redefined what's beautiful with a focus on strength as
opposed to an unrealistic, idealized image of
Both also combine smarts with sexiness. Roller derby
leagues are skater-owned and operated in a d.y.i.
fashion that gives skaters 100% control over their
leagues. Everyone really digs that. And burlesque
performers are largely self-represented, make their
own costumes, do their own choreography, etc., and
people appreciate the hard work that goes into each
How did you get interested in burlesque?
My interest in burlesque actually stemmed from my
interest in sideshow acts. It was through sideshow
performers that I knew and photographed that I was
first introduced to burlesque.
The Great Throwdini, photographed by Dale Rio.
What does burlesque mean to you?
Burlesque, to me, is a process. It starts the moment
you're struck with inspiration and continues through
to the act of performing and fine-tuning your number.
Each stage of the process, from selecting music to
choreographing to costume-making, is creative and
challenging, and that's what I like most about
What was your first experience with live burlesque?
I believe the first time I saw burlesque was when I
went to catch a performance by a woman who I'd
photographed for a portrait project. That was at the
Blue Angel in NYC, (which is now called Le Scandal).
I found her act, in particular, irreverent yet sexy,
and I thought it was great!
The first time I performed was when I organized a
fundraiser for the L.A. Derby Dolls roller derby
league. We teamed up with a local, weekly burlesque
show, and some of the skaters performed. Never one to
do things the easy way, I did an homage to my team,
Fight Crew, which involved a complicated voice-over
consisting of a demented stewardess monologue segueing
into "Come Fly with Me" by Frank Sinatra, ultimately
segueing into sounds of a plane crash and back to the
monologue. In the act, I tried desperately to get the
attention of an oblivious, but handsome, passenger,
and by the end of the song, I became so frustrated
that I strangled him with his own seat belt. Since I
don't skate in L.A. on the Fight Crew any more, that
was a one-time performance! It was a lot of fun, and
the fundraiser was a whopping success!
Kitten on the Keys, photographed by Dale Rio.
What is one of your favorite experiences so far?
Gosh, that's a tough one. Every time I attend Miss
Exotic World, or Tease-o-rama, or the New York
Burlesque Fest, there are so many amazing performers
that it's absolutely mind-blowing and so
inspirational. I like getting the chance to get to
know some of the performers through photographing and
interviewing them. I've made some friends along the
way and have also had some preconceptions shattered.
Do you travel to burlesque events?
I try to get to all of the major events to cover them
for the magazine. I also travel a lot for the
freelance work I do, so whenever I'm on the road, I
try to meet up with as many performers as I can. I'm
currently working on a personal project called "Night
and Day," where I photograph performers at their day
jobs in costume. Since today's performers don't
usually get paid as well as performers in the past
have, it's interesting to explore the dichotomy of who
these women are during the day as opposed to who they
become at night. I'm trying to include as many
performers from around the country (world!) as
possible, so when I'm traveling, I like to try to chip
away at this project, too.
Dale shooting. Photo courtesy Olive Talique.
Who inspires you most, and why?
My mom is my all time, #1 inspiration. When I was a
kid, the only magazine we could afford a subscription
to was Ms magazine. My mom raised me by herself while putting
herself through a Ph.D program. She never lectured me
or told me how to do things, but she showed me by
example that you can do anything you set your mind to,
and that no one can hold you back.
What is your favorite aspect of burlesque as it is now?
I really enjoy the fact that everyone's welcome.
There's a style and a taste for everybody; classical,
humorous, bawdy, long hair, short hair, no hair,
flat-chested, curvaceous, tattooed... Anyone can get
on-stage and be a success, if they have the
What would you like to do or see next in burlesque?
Personally, I'd like to start making enough money to
be able to take dance lessons and start performing
more! Until then, I'll have to be content
photographing others have all the fun!
I'm not sure what direction burlesque will go in in
the future... I'm just going to go along for the ride
and watch what happens!
What do you think is one of your characteristics as a photographer?
As a photographer, I'm known for my painless photo
shoots. I'm not the kind of photographer who makes
the subject bend to my will... I'd rather have a
collaborative shoot than one where I dictate what
takes place. it makes for a more comfortable process
and usually results in photos that we're both happy
You can check out Dale's magazines and photography at:
Blood and Thunder