BurlyCon is proud to announce Dee Milo as our second Guest of Honor and Living Legend for BurlyCon X.
Dee Milo, “The Venus of Dance”, got her start in burlesque in 1949 in New Orleans and became a headliner performing nationally and internationally. She is known for her signature act “Sentimental Journey” where she undresses and then redresses in the routine. During her career Dee Milo toured with the USO; performed in Japan and Mexico; and appeared at the top theaters in Boston, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Denver.
In 1964 Dee Milo moved to Salt Lake City and at the urging of her family quite burlesque and burned her burlesque memorabilia. However, years later a box was found in the attic that had Dee Milo’s red sequin mermaid gown. This same dress would later be worn on stage when she came out of retirement in 1995 and performed at Miss Exotic World after speaking with Dixie Evans. Since then Dee Milo has performed at Tease-O-Rama, the Burlesque Hall of Fame’s Titans of Tease, and burlesque festivals & events around the country.
You have three chances to learn from Dee Milo at BurlyCon. On Thursday, November 9 at 1:45-3:15p.m. and on Saturday, November 11 from 10:15-11:45a.m. there is My Life with Dee Milo– where she will talk about her life as a burlesque performer, share some of her fondest memories, and discuss what she’s up to now.
On Saturday, November 11 from 4:30-5:00p.m. the Venus of Dance will be teaching Allure of Vintage Panels and Skirts where she’ll discuss the charms and intricacies of the vintage panel skirt.
We are so excited to bring this unique opportunity to you for our 10th Anniversary BurlyCon Bash! Make sure you’ve registered and booked your hotel room so you don’t miss this amazing woman and burlesque Legend. Then make sure your friends have registered too!
Peer Review Lottery Applications are now live and will be accepted until August 15th. There are 10 spots available at this years Peer Review event, where peer review participants will receive feedback from a panel of experienced performers and other professionals. Want in on the action? Apply HERE!
To help us learn a little more about Peer Reviews, we’ve caught up with Fosse Jack the Peer Review Coordinator to get a little more insider information about the event!
Name: Fosse Jack
Official Job Title: Peer Review Coordinator; Programming Committee
How long have you been the Peer Review Coordinator?
This will be my third year as the Peer Review Coordinator, and fifth working with BurlyCon.
What do you love about being the Peer Review Coordinator?
Having participated in peer reviews in the past, I understand that they can be pretty intimidating. The stakes feel higher when you are performing for peers, than when doing so for strangers. You feel vulnerable, because… well you care what your peers think. Actually asking for their opinions of you work? Well, that is pretty scary. I love that as the Peer Review Coordinator I get to set the stage for people taking artistic risks. I get to bring together the elements that provide a safer place for artists to step out of their comfort zones and be vulnerable. I love that my work can set the tone for a constructive experience. Witnessing the “Ah-ha!” moments of inspiration evoked by a well-articulated critique is the most rewarding aspect of this role.
What makes the Peer Review event special?
As an Education Organization and Event, BurlyCon plays a crucial role in the development of Burlesque as an art form and as a discipline. As a hallmark experience of the BurlyCon Weekend, Peer Reviews set the example for artistic critique all over the greater Burlesque Community. It helps provide the tools that others can use to strengthen, and challenge each other in their artistic endeavors. By participating in Peer Reviews, performers may gain valuable perspective by listening to a wide range of their Peers. This perspective can allow them to see their strengths in a new light, identify those areas in which they can improve, and come away with a more complex understanding of the piece they present.
Every artistic presentation is a risk. Peer Reviews provide an arena in which those risks can be managed, and by doing so the event allows participants the chance to make discoveries, and mistakes. Together these may promote growth and development.
How do you decide on which person you’ll ask to assist with the event as a Moderator or as one of the experienced burlesque professionals?
My goal is to select individuals who will be models of professionalism in critique. Generally I look for individuals who can combine experience and a trained eye, with a teacher’s tone. I try to provide Panelists with as wide a range of styles, and strengths as possible. Varied perspective is important. I do want all of our Moderators and our Panelists to really WANT our participants to succeed. Encouraging success may come in the form of “tough love” and I want critiques to be honest, but I also want them to be delivered with respect, and understanding. If I don’t know the potential Panelists, personally, I will seek the advice of others in the community. The BuryCon Committee has individuals from all over the country and world, and the advice of my peers has been invaluable.
What is your favorite memory from a Peer Review event?
I have seen so many amazing moments these past couple of years, but my favorite moments aren’t the ones that happen during the events. My favorite moments are seeing people who have participated, risked, and learned, and in doing so have taken their art to amazing places. This past year at BHoF I got to see Kitty Von Quim bring an act to the stage that I first saw her perform at Peer Reviews. I got to see the confidence she had in her act and know that part of that had come from the risk she had taken at BurlyCon.
How has the Peer Review event changed over the last 10 years?
As BurlyCon has grown, so has the Peer Review format. What began as an intimate gathering of close knit individuals, grew to encompass more presentations, more peers from a wider range of places, bigger spaces, and WAY more feedback. Over the past couple of years, I’ve had the opportunity to help build a fresh structure for an event that had grown a just little unruly. We have up’d our game in regard to production values, and developed a more uniform format for the feedback. Thanks to these participants can both feel confident in presenting on a stage meant for performance, and receive feedback in a structured way. The biggest development that I have noticed over the past few years, however, is in the community. Our community has a developing interest in positive critique, and a growing investment in the art form. We’re raising the stakes, and we’re learning how to both challenge and support one another. It is my hope that BurlyCon’s Peer Reviews have played a part in this ongoing development.
What advice would you give to attendees who are thinking about applying for the Peer Review Lottery?
Peer Reviews are risky. It’s scary to get up on that stage and perform for your peers, but it is even scarier to sit down afterwards and just… listen to what others have to say. Sometimes we get way too much feedback, and we can get overwhelmed. If you want to get the most out of your Peer Review experience, come knowing what you want, and be prepared to hear what you might not know you need. Know that we love, and we want you to succeed!
I’m The English Muffin, and I’m the co-founder of Frostease Burlesque in Anchorage, Alaska. Last year at Burlycon, I presented my “Eat It” act for Peer Review. What was originally concepted as a throwaway act for a seven deadly sins show had grown, in my head, to a signature piece of commentary on diet culture, body shaming versus body positivity, and my own relationships with food and body image. As I reconceived the act in my head, I made a deal with myself – if I got a Peer Review slot, I’d put in the work and try to get it to the place I saw in my imagination. When I opened my acceptance letter, I am pretty sure I whispered “fuck,” quietly to myself and started panicking. I’m here to talk about what happened after I said “fuck,” and why you should definitely submit an act for the tenth anniversary of Burlycon this November.
What is Peer Review?
Peer Review has been touted as one of the most valuable things Burlycon has to offer. You have a chance to bring an act to hundreds of your peers, for thoughtful feedback. You can be a glittery veteran or a fresh-faced new dancer, you can bring an act in the development stages or something to refine for a festival. Peer Review is a fair stage, with equal opportunities.
Slots are awarded on a lottery system. Once you’ve been selected to present, you’re also given a chance to state your preference on which night you’d like to perform. As Burlycon approaches, you’ll be provided with a call time, a tentative lineup, and the names of the volunteers working on the night you present.
Peer Review Audience Attendees are given index cards to record their feedback. No anonymous feedback is accepted. Cards are collected twice, halfway through the presentations and again at the end, for distribution to the presenters at the end of the convention. Feedback is filtered before it reaches the performer. Only feedback that is constructive in nature is allowed. For example, you’ll never receive a card that says “You suck at twirling.” You might, however, receive one that says “Your shimmy twirl is not successful, try a different method to get them spinning.”
But that sounds terrifying!
Yes, it is, but let’s talk about the ways you can prepare.
Rehearse, because it will make you a better performer.
The point of Peer Review is to workshop fine details on an act that’s mostly complete, rather than to crowdsource a concept from its infancy. Put in the work ahead of time and you’ll have more detailed, helpful feedback at the end of your presentation.
The process of preparing act for my peers put a level of urgency on the creative process. I held myself to a higher standard, knowing I would be performing for others in the industry. Halfway through the process, I realized that every single act I create from here on out has to be held to that standard. Every audience deserves my very best.. I work harder on my acts now, conceptualize them earlier and take more time to bring my concept to life
Research, because it will prepare you, mentally.
Peer review is conducted Thursday and Saturday. As a performer, you can request a certain night to perform. I weighed the options pretty heavily but settled on Saturday. I considered what time I arrived in Seattle, would I have jet lag? Did I want a few days to settle in or did I just want to get it over with as soon as possible? Weigh all your options but if you just can’t choose, it’s ok, Fosse Jack will find the best place for you. For me, the choice of panelist played a huge part.
My panelists were Coco Lectric, Tigger!, and Jacqueline Boxx. I’d met Jacqueline before, and fallen in love with her performance style at the previous year’s Peer Review and I had taken classes from Coco at Burlycon, but I’d never had any interaction with Tigger! I made sure to attend at least one of his classes before my presentation so I had some familiarity with everyone in the front row.
Burlycon is a very intense experience, and adding the stress of putting together a presentation can be very overwhelming. The day I presented, I allowed myself to skip two class periods in the afternoon. I ate a full dinner and drank lots of water. I took a nap. I didn’t drink caffeine after noon. I didn’t drink any alcohol (until I was done). I spent as much time as I could relaxing and preparing slowly, so I didn’t feel overwrought by the time I had to go to the ballroom.
I did all this self care and research because I carried this level of high anxiety with me. When I sent in my application to present, I immediately started spiraling outward. What if no one likes my act? What if all my feedback is horrible? What if the panelists are mean? What if everything goes wrong and I can never show my face at Burlycon again? Knowing myself and caring for myself by doing research beforehand and taking care of my mental and physical health gave me the ability to cope with the process, this is especially poignant if you are a performer with anxiety. I don’t really remember too many details about my actual time on stage. I remember smiling a lot, and I remember thinking that there was SO much food to keep track of in my costume, but I also remember having SO MUCH fun. All the previous stress and anxiety melted away when I heard the first laughter from the audience.
Reach out, because it will help you form connections.
After my name was drawn to present, I reached out to several performers I knew who had done Peer Review in the past. I asked them for advice, about the experience, and what to expect. Knowing some of these things in advance was extremely helpful to me, as it made the whole thing less shadowy and unknown.
You want to stack that audience with people who will cheer for you. I made sure to tell everyone I knew that I was presenting an act at Saturday’s Peer Review. Tell everyone you can that you’re doing a peer review and ask them to come. Not only will you have people in your corner, it will help your other presenters by giving more opportunities for thoughtful feedback. Producers will have a chance to see what you can do, and decide they love you for it. There is always a possibility that someone will scribble “contact me please” on your feedback and you’ll book a trip across the country to perform for a brand new city.
You’ll form a bond with your fellow presenters because you’re all terrified for the same reason. It’s something so unique that you won’t even feel it with other people who have done Peer Review on other nights, or in other years. It’s a very intimate.
Reflect on your feedback, it will help you know yourself.
You’ll receive a lot of feedback which is great but also scary. Read the feedback in a way that makes sense to you. Iva Handfull told me that she had her feedback read aloud to her, and only the cards that had something for her to work on. By skipping the strictly positive ones, she could focus on the feedback that would help her polish the act. Jacqueline Boxx reminded me that the feedback was all helpful, even if when I disagreed with what it said. I waited until I was home, in pajamas and on my couch with a glass of wine to read my feedback, and it was awesome. Everyone was kind in their critique, many good points were raised and I immediately incorporated them into the act as you can see it today. Other points were dismissed because they don’t suit my vision.
Feedback will give you obvious answers, over half of my feedback cards had the exact same advice on it – meaning it was pretty clear what audiences wanted to see more of. In the original “Eat It,” I enter the stage wearing the oldest, saddest fleece bathrobe I have in my possession. For Burlycon, I upgraded that to a satin robe trimmed in boa feathers, to add a little glamor to the act. I received consistent feedback that a rattier robe would have been more impactful and signaled a larger transformation from the starting character attitude to how she ends. Do the act that you want to do, not the act that you think the audience at Burlycon is expecting or wanting to see, your instincts are almost always right and you should trust them. Feedback will also tell you what your strengths are, and what part of your body is the absolute cutest (it’s my ass, btw).
You’ll feel good that you did it.
The act of putting yourself up on the Peer Review stage is a statement that you’re here to be taken seriously as a performer. It shifts your focus from whatever stage you call home and forces you to see yourself on a much bigger scale. It’s not easy to bare your soul as well as your ass in front of people you look up to, but when you do it and you hear them cheering for you, you’ll never look at yourself the same way. I feel more confident in my abilities and I feel very strongly when I say it was the best thing I could have done for myself at Burlycon last year.
So submit an act for Peer Review. It’ll be fun. And I’ll be there to tell you your ass is cute.
Every year BurlyCon offers scholarships to help offset the costs of attending the convention and this year we are excited to introduce you to 6 of the 7 scholarship recipients. To help us get to know them a bit better we asked them a couple of questions to find out what they are looking forward to most about attending BurlyCon X.
Ashland Oregon by way of Denver Colorado
photo: DC Photography Denver
This will be my first ever BurlyCon, and what a great coincidence that it also happens to be year 10!
If you had to pick 1 thing, what would you say you are most excited about in attending BurlyCon X this year?:
I can’t wait to connect with the world of burlesque performers and learn ways to use my burlesque as a tool to create change. I am constantly being challenged to grow and change in my art when I discover new performers and take in their process. The idea of a whole weekend of sharing the different tools that can be used to build me as a performer and connect with a community of beautiful creative people is just what I need to find a deeper confidence in producing what I believe is going to be view changing conscious and inspirational burlesque. Connecting and sharing our process and stories creates a level of unimaginable change, and Burlycon X seems to be the perfect environment to plant those glitter seeds for the growth that our burlesque community and the world is just dying to see! The idea that I’ll get the opportunity to learn ways to boost my ability to entice people into diving deeper into politics, race relations, and self-care through the art of Burlesque is just one of the many reasons I can’t wait to get my buns to Burlycon X!
I haven’t attended BurlyCon before, but I’ve heard a lot about it and I’m very excited to have the opportunity to go this year!
If you had to pick 1 thing, what would you say you are most excited about in attending BurlyCon X this year?:
Is it possible to pick just one thing? The class line-up, the meeting with fellow performers, all the products out for vending…. heck, even being in Seattle will be wonderful! It’s something I’ve been looking forward to since starting in burlesque.
From Bogotá-Colombia but lives in Buenos Aires-Argentina
photo: Demian Turquet
Have you attended Burlycon: No, It´s my first time in the Convention and it’s incredibly exciting 🙂
If you had to pick 1 thing, what would you say you are most excited about in attending BurlyCon X this year?:
Thing most excited about: Meeting Burly Fellows from all over the world, sharing experiences, tips and lots of glitter!
photo: KM Chavez photography
Have you attended BurlyCon Before? No
Most excited about?:
The mix of classes geared towards performance AND production. As a producer/performer, I can’t wait to have some new perspective and advantages in my tool kit to bring home.
photo: Deck Mara
Have you attended the BurlyCon before? No
If you had to pick 1 thing, what would you say you are most excited about in attending BurlyCon X this year?
I come from a country that has never heard of burlesque, so I had to create the scene and everything it stands for here in the Philippines. I am very excited to be the wide-eyed pupil for once in the many workshops and intensives that the BurlyCon has to offer. Finally, I get to be anonymous and I get to be the learner in this event, instead of the main point person. I want to enroll in all of the workshops and intensives and just absorb everything up, if time and money permit.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
photo: Jeff Bidewell
Have you attended BurlyCon before? No
If you had to pick 1 thing, what would you say you are most excited about in attending BurlyCon X this year? Meeting new people, networking and learning different techniques new ways to improve the art of burlesque.
Learn from your Living Legends of Burlesque! Every year BurlyCon sponsors special classes at your Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender, and 2017 is no exception! The BHoF Finishing School presents classes with burlesque Living Legends from the mid-twentieth century. Classes are held during the Burlesque Hall of Fame Exotic World Weekend in Las Vegas, and focus on lifestyle, skills, and history. These classes are a fantastic and opportunity to receive information passed on directly from one of our most finite resources: the performers of yesteryear.
Thursday: Community Classes
Come together with members of the burlesque community from around the world for panel and lecture classes about specific parts of our sparkly history, from pasties to the BHoF Museum, and even our Legends Roundtable.
Friday/Saturday Legends Classes:
Burlesque Classes taught by the Legends of Yesteryear at the Burlesque Hall of Fame! Burlesque Legends will inspire you! They may also challenge you, thrill you, or even shock you, but they will never bore you. Come with an open-mind for perspectives you may not have expected to encounter, as well as for raw, unfiltered history you simply cannot get anywhere else. All Legend Classes are taught Friday, June 2 and Saturday, June 3, 2017 in Bienneville Room J at The Orleans Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, NV. Students receive a Certificate of Completion for all classes.
Full Weekend All-Class List includes:
12-1 Connecting with Legends Panel
1:15 – 2:15 The Past Present and Future of The Burlesque Hall of Fame
2:30 – 3:30 Performers of Color Community Roundtable
3:45 – 4:45 Pastie History presented by The Pastie Project
11-12 Viva La Music with Viva La Fever
12:15 – 1:15 TBD
11-12 Work the Stage – Marinka
12:15 – 1:15 Bump & Grind Boot Camp – Penny Starr Sr
1:30-2:30 Poise & Polish – Val Valentine
We hope to see you in Las Vagas, and remember, you can ala carte your learning with individual classes, or snag one of the VERY few (2 at last check) ALL CLASS PASSES.
Get ALL the class breakdowns and register at: www.burlypod.com/bhoffs/
The countdown to BurlyCon X is on with 6 months left to budget, plan, and kick yourself into gear as we prepare to celebrate ten years of BurlyCon! With education and training being the main attraction in this blog I’ve interviewed a few burlesque teachers who have been in the business of teaching burlesque. Not only will you find them at burlesque schools, but they have also taught at universities, acting studios, fitness clubs, and other non-burlesque specific places of education. As burlesque educators, I wanted to find out if teaching burlesque has changed much for them during their careers.
Cherry Manhattan, Seattle
photo: Wynne Earle
Where and what do you teach: Cornish College of the Arts, I’m on the Theater Faculty, and teach multiple courses including “Neo-Burlesque Theory & Performance”, and Freehold Acting Studio – “Intro to Neo-Burlesque”
How long have you been teaching burlesque? 6 years
World Famous *BOB*, I just moved from NYC to Austin, TX. I was in NYC for 21 years and have been in Austin 1 month.
Where and what do you teach: I teach several subjects and will do so anywhere that English is understood. I’m sadly not multi-lingual but luckily many countries are! I created my Ultimate Self Confidence! Series in 2004 with the encouragement of Jo Boobs Weldon and since then I have also created my USC! One on One Coaching practice. Other subjects I teach are Hosting Basics, Polishing Your Professionalism, Gender Superstars! and Gender as Performance. I lectured on Gender as Performance for 11 years at NYU and have taught at BARD college as well as St. Francis and Kingsborough Community College. My classes are often featured as part of Burlesque festivals worldwide. It’s a great honor to be a teacher as well as a student.
How long have you been teaching burlesque? I’ve been formally teaching Burlesque related criteria for 13 years including private act development sessions. I did not teach until I had 8 years of experience though – not that beginners don’t have things to share but I wanted to have a vast personal library of experience references to pull from to offer my students.
Midnite Martini, Chicago
photo: La Photographie
Where and what do you teach: Burlesque Dance, Burlesque & Barre Fitness at Studio L’amour, The Brass Ring, and Fitness Formula Clubs in Chicago and Co-Founder and still Guest Instruct The Burlesque Booty School in Denver.
How long have you been teaching burlesque? I started specifically teaching burlesque in 2009, but had been teaching aerial and other dance classes before then
Panel Questions & Answers
- What interested you in teaching burlesque & how did you get started?
Cherry: I trained as an actor and a director, both in the US and abroad, and have taught students at every grade level both in public and private schools for the past 21 years.
Specifically, I’m currently a faculty member at Cornish College of the Arts where I have been teaching in the Theater and Performance Production Departments for the past 11 years. So when my own performance path veered into burlesque, it seemed only natural that I would bring this to my students as well, and share with them the details of creating work of this nature. I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of a faculty where it was actually my department chair, Richard E.T. White, who first approached me with great progressive vision and said “Don’t you think we ought to have a course on Neo-Burlesque?” and asked me to create one. And since then I have had the joy of personally teaching and mentoring over 150 students and new acts, and I feel immensely proud to be at one of the very few schools in the country that offers a combined theory, history and practical studio skills course in Neo-Burlesque in their curriculum. I also teach classes independently, and at Freehold acting studio.
Midnite: I started teaching burlesque in 2009 I believe. I had been teaching dance and aerial classes before and had been burlesque dancing for a few years at that point. So it was a natural next step for me to take.
The thing I didn’t anticipate was the difference in what I would end up focusing on when teaching burlesque. Those classes were much more focused on empowerment and inviting in self-worth. It was a refreshing change to let go of the pressures of technique to some extent and focus more on just feeling good!
- From the very first class that you taught to today what has been the biggest change you have seen from teaching your class (either from an administrative, educational, or class standpoint)?
Midnite: Again speaking back to my first answer my biggest shift as an instructor I think has been my focus of the classes. I quickly found I was more interested in spreading that feeling of self-worth and body-positivity with burlesque and wanted to have that underlying theme in all my classes! Don’t worry, we’ll still move, workout, and learn a lot in classes, the lovey wooey-woo stuff is just woven into the hard work. The shift of my teaching style and classes to this was pretty natural though it didn’t happen overnight.
Also I’ve just grown to be more comfortable teaching, speaking and cueing. So I’m sure if I looked back on my first class I’ll be slightly horrified at how awkward I may have seemed to me now. I hope my classes are cleaner, more well organized and have more clarity and depth now.
But that’s a great thing! I’m always trying to learn as a teacher and hopefully will continue to grow which will therefore affect my classes to continue to shift and feel different.
As for purely logistics, it’s funny because I feel like there’s a lot more interest in burlesque than when I first started teaching. It’s more “mainstream” or well-known now, so you’re not having to explain to students what it is first and then get them to sign up for class, more people know what it is already and are searching out classes themselves. BUT there’s also more classes and burlesque all around, so that doesn’t necessarily mean you get more students in your classes. It does make me appreciate and work towards how I can make my classes unique and try to bring all that I can offer each time I instruct.
- Why do you think it is important to have classes on burlesque?
World Famous BOB: It’s an absolute marvel that there are SO many schools and places to learn this incredible performance discipline. When I started in 1996 I just watched Something Weird Videos for reference! Classes are important for a handful of different reasons. 1. It’s so important to share the history of this art form and having the legends teach is an extraordinary opportunity! What field can you sign up and learn in person from the BEST? We’re so lucky that much of Burlesque’s history is living and willing to teach us! 2. Not everyone who takes a class has to become a performer but aren’t they fun?! If you think about people who enjoy reading- they don’t all become authors but book clubs are great! It gives people who love burlesque or want a fun new way to move their bodies the chance to enjoy burlesque in a relaxed atmosphere. (Trying to copy Something Weird videos at home was very stop and go.) 😉 3. It is a way for professional performers and aspiring professional performers to enhance their skill sets, learn new approaches as well as teach others themselves. In this way we have access to a rich vocabulary of Neo Burlesque’s tool kit for learning and improving our own ability to convey the story we want to the audience.
Cherry: From an educational standpoint, I think it’s extremely beneficial to have classes in burlesque at the college-level because it stands as one of the pillars of a balanced training in the arts. Here at Cornish College students are trained in such genres as clown, dance, fight combat, Restoration Comedy, solo performance, and a multitude of other approaches and styles that round out their “tool kit” as performers. Not only does burlesque stand alone as an important part of the evolution of American Theater that every performer ought to be versed in, but it also serves to synthesize so many of the forms they are learning, and put them together in a single, self-authored performance.
Creating burlesque calls upon an artist to not only act or dance, but to direct, choreograph, draw contextual meaning from history and current events, create costuming, respond to music, collaborate with others, and then actively interact with an audience – it’s the full gauntlet! Plus students are getting work in burlesque and drag right out of graduation (Jinx Monsoon is one of our treasured alums, and four different troupes have formed from my classes at Cornish, and gone on to produce prolifically and even be featured on Bumbershoot’s theater stage) and I believe we need classes to support the type of work they are going out into the industry to engage in.
Yet from a personal standpoint, I find it crucial to offer young artists a chance to feel what it is like to own the power of their own bodies. Our entire lives we are told by others what we should do with our bodies – where we should take them or not take them, how we should dress them, how we can and cannot behave in them, and so much of that is based in fear, shaming and policing. But to perform a piece of burlesque is to hold space onstage utterly without apology, and for a few glorious minutes you get to tell your own story about your body. I’ve spent years watching 20 and 21 year olds step into that power for the first time, and to see them truly understand what it means to be the author of the story of their own body, and to share their idea of beauty, sexuality and self love with an audience, is the most gratifying part of being a teacher. In an acting training program we constantly require young actors to be vulnerable, put their physical body out to be judged, and ask that they step into roles that portray the most vulnerable, sexual and powerful parts of humanity … but so rarely do we give them the direct tools with how to cultivate and effectively wield these very raw parts of their humanity and sexuality. How can you play Lady Macbeth if you are afraid of sex? How can you dance with authenticity if you feel shame about your weight? How can you face the constant rejection of auditions if you can’t walk into any room like you own it? In this way, even for students who aren’t considering a career in burlesque, taking classes on the theory, history and technique of burlesque can be akin to confronting all your personal fears all at once … and emerging informed, confident and empowered.
Midnite: Just like any skill, artform or activity someone wants to learn and grow in it is important to have classes to help guide that journey. I believe that there is no “one way” though. I remind students that I believe I’m giving them tools for their toolbox. When creating a piece as an artist you want as many tools in your toolbox as possible, but it is your choice as to what tools you use at what times. Some speak to you more than others and that’s okay! The more classes/teachers you can learn from hopefully the more tools you gain for your toolbox. It expands your views and resources which ultimately will help make you a more creative, innovative, and capable artist and performer.
Think of if you want to build a house and are limited to only 3 tools. You won’t get too far or the house will end up being pretty simple. But if you keep adding more and more tools that you can use your options expand and your house has more potential. You don’t have to use all the tools, but you now have the choice and resources to do more to build!
- Have you seen a change in public or student perception in regards to burlesque?
Cherry: It’s certainly become a lot more popular! Five or six years ago it felt like the students enrolling my burlesque classes at Cornish were the ones “brave” or “bold” enough to try it, and now it feels like a much more integrated part of the performance training expectations they have for themselves. This may be due in part to simply the saturation we’ve had at the college, and a school culture where they enter as Freshmen and see the end of year burlesque showcases, and then wait with anticipation until their senior year to take the course. But I think it also says a lot about the high quality of professional burlesque we have here in Seattle, and how many opportunities there are to see such a wide range of styles, genres and types of burlesque, and get exposed to all the ways you can use your theater degree professionally. As we move farther and farther away from the old-school repertory acting models of theater, and performers become increasingly diversified and multi-faceted in the types of work in which they regularly engage in order to shape a career in the arts (from stage acting to web series, pod cast creation to graphic design, etc) I believe more and more artists are seeing burlesque as one of those potential facets that they can actively pursue in fulfilling their whole artistic self.
Midnite: Yes! As I mentioned before it’s way more “well-known” now. Most students already have a pre-conceived notion of what burlesque is and so they have expectations of what they want to get out of the class. Back in the day students would come in with no idea of what they were getting themselves into.
Both scenarios have their advantages and disadvantages. Mainly now I ask my classes (if they aren’t too big in size) to go around and introduce themselves, say if they are connected with burlesque already and how, and what they want to get out of the class. That gives me a good idea of where students are coming from and it makes me feel better prepared to adapt to their given situations.
- How has your curriculum developed over the years?
World Famous BOB: The largest area of growth in my curriculum has been the addition of courses in my Ultimate Self Confidence! Series that invite everyone to participate. My original workshop for Cis Gendered Females is a truly magical experience and I still teach it. I’ve been able to extend the concepts in that experience to workshops for EveryBODY, LGBTQ Youth ages 12-25, LGBTQ Elder Women 65+ (ALL Women Welcome) as well as my One on One Coaching Business. ALL of that came out of my first class at the New York School of Burlesque. That class was called, “How to have really BIG hair and not care if the neighbors call you fat!” Which is now a chapter in the book I’m working on. You just have to start- who knew I’d be where I am now as a teacher!
Midnite: The best thing I’ve done as a teacher is take lots of classes myself! From fitness to dance to burlesque to theatre, every class offers something to learn and every teacher has a different way of delivering their message. By casting a wide net as a student I have helped myself develop and refine my curriculum as a teacher over the years.
- What has been the biggest challenge teaching burlesque?
Midnite: For me I’ve found there’s a fine balance of wanting to provide a safe and welcoming space for all students and still be able to critique and correct technique, movement quality, and performance. How can I challenge my students to grow in their skill or push harder in a workout or correct improper dance form being sensitive to not trigger feelings of isolation, shame, or comparing themselves. I can’t say I achieve this balance all the time, but I am always aware of it in my classes
- If you had to pick one, what is your favorite teaching experience of all time?
Cherry: The majority of my most treasured teaching experiences center on how vast the transformation can be in a student from pre-burlesque to post-burlesque. Like the young woman who almost cried when she saw that her stage costume for the mainstage theater production I was directing her in was a regular pair of shorts, because she couldn’t even bear to show her legs at the time, and she is now not only performing burlesque professionally, but is also a producer! Or the student who confided in me that they were only taking the class because it utterly horrified and terrified them to face their body issues, and then 6 months later they are walking nearly naked down 4th avenue with me in the Pride Parade dressed as a piece of candy. Now anytime I meet a student who describes themselves as shy, I am pretty much ready for them to be the one with a ball gag and a butt plug in their solo act.
Midnite: Oh man, I don’t know! I’ve been teaching all different things for a really long time . . . the first thing that pops into my head is I used to teach for Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance in Boulder, CO. They have a program called “Kids Who Fly” that takes at-risk youth and teaches them aerial. Those classes were almost always rewarding as you saw these kids and teenagers slowly let down their guard, work together, and achieve more than they every gave themselves credit for.
But in one particular class we had a group that was from a rehabilitation school; all of these students had struggled with substance abuse in their past. They were very hesitant and “too cool” to try at first. Slowly one by one they tried out the trapeze, discovered they could do more than they thought they could and it was actually fun. By the end everyone was up in the air and cheering each other on! At the end of the class their teacher came up to myself and the other teacher and told us that they had not seen the kids like that before. Just having fun so carefree. And they said that one of the students had asked if they could come back to do that again saying it was better than getting high. That is a moment as a teacher I’ll always value.
I get those teaching burlesque too. I’ve had several students tell me their stories of how the burlesque classes helped them get out of a bad relationship, helped them start to love themselves and accept their bodies, helped them find and start to accept their sexual identity, helped them feel more confident at work or take that risk in life.
Those fill me up as a teacher. It makes me feel that great appreciation of, “I’m so fortunate to be providing something in these people’s paths and journeys, whatever that and wherever they may be.” It makes all the bad shit you ever cross or have to deal with worth it. I hold those times very close to my heart!
- If money was no object, what would you have in your classroom and why?
World Famous BOB: Everyone – because if we were all open to learning together in the same space anything would be possible! (World Wide Ultimate Self Confidence! Workshop)
Midnite: Yes, dream time! I would want a HUGE open studio space that is half hardwood floor and half carpeted (because sometimes venues are carpeted and you gotta practice your heels on that shit!)
Skylights to let in natural available light, huge windows that lead out to an amazing view, and then huge mirrors lining all the other walls. There’d be a big screen that can come down for projections or to watch video on.
It would be sustainable and powered by solar and wind. There’d be aerial rigging capabilities with a fly system, retractable poles that came down from the ceilings to the floor and storage space for all the other props and equipment a showgirl’s gotta have!
Oh, it would also have a food and drink area in the corner with wine and tequila on tap.
Y’know, just your simple everyday classroom! Okay, I put it out there in the universe, maybe this will actually happen one day! 😉
This year marks BurlyCon’s 10 year anniversary and we are celebrating in a big way, with incredible changes to our format and schedule! Every year BurlyCon invites a handful of select members of the burlesque community to share their knowledge, our Invited Presenters. Today’s Invited Presenter spotlights is World Famous *BOB*! Known for her blonde bombshell looks and effervescent personality, World Famous *BOB* has captivated audiences all over the world with her unique burlesque stylings, humorous performance art, and MC skills. When not titillating on stages, she’s spreading her Ultimate Self Confidence! work in universities, classrooms, and with private clients worldwide.
We can hardly wait to get in the classroom and soak in a little history and knowledge, we hope to see you there. Secure YOUR registration today to join us for the world’s largest educational burlesque convention and spend some time with 2017 Invited Presenter, World Famous *BOB*!
This year marks BurlyCon’s 10 year anniversary and we are celebrating in a big way, with incredible changes to our format and schedule! Every year BurlyCon invites a handful of select members of the burlesque community to share their knowledge, our Invited Presenters. Today’s Invited Presenter spotlights is Joe Williams-Willy Barrett! An accomplished performer and teacher, his knowledge on The Delsarte System has been shared around the world. Joe lives in New York City, and has been creating workshops and seminars on Delsarte since 1997, and since his first year at BurlyCon, his classes have been convention favorites. Don’t miss out on one of the world’s only instructors of an incredible way to refocus on your movement at BurlyCon 2017!
We can hardly wait to get in the classroom and soak in a little history and knowledge, we hope to see you there. Secure YOUR registration today to join us for the world’s largest educational burlesque convention and spend some time with 2017 Invited Presenter, Joe Williams-Willy Barrett!
This year marks BurlyCon’s 10 year anniversary and we are celebrating in a big way, with incredible changes to our format and schedule! Every year BurlyCon invites a handful of select members of the burlesque community to share their knowledge, our Invited Presenters. Next up in this year’s Invited Presenter spotlights is Sweetpea! She’s been teasing her way into the hearts of audiences for more than 12 years, from being a pioneer of the Twin Cities’ Neo-Burlesque movement to headline festivals across the country and produce powerhouse events in her hometown of Minneapolis. A six-time competitor at The Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend, this multiple title holding burlesque superstar and superfan, dedicates her time off-stage to helping others discover, nurture & express their love of life through her Studio Sweet.
We can hardly wait to get in the classroom and soak in a little history and knowledge, we hope to see you there. Secure YOUR registration today to join us for the world’s largest educational burlesque convention and spend some time with 2017 Invited Presenter, Sweetpea!
photo: Dennis Driscoll