Thursday, September 26, 2013
Saturday, September 8, 2012
Monday, August 29, 2011
Damn I love a big stage! I love my music fresh and sautéed in real butter. Don’t give me any of that canned crap, I take the real deal when I can and put some hot sauce on it!
The New Orleans Burlesque Festival Queen of Burlesque competition is as close as a girl can get to the real deal. We honor each high-heeled footstep our legends took when we perform to a live band, never knowing the offroading the trombone player may take during our bootie shimmy. The Burlesque Festival in New Orleans is deliciously steeped in talent from all over the world and the roaring audience, for me, has yet to meet its match. It has truly been an honor to perform for such amazing people and on such big beautiful stages in New Orleans. It has been my great and humbling pleasure to spend a whole year as the New Orleans Burlesque Festival Queen of Burlesque.
Even though I hail from Austin, when the audience finds out that I’ve made a splash in New Orleans, they expect something incredible. The city has had it fair share of pain and struggle in its history and yet, it triumphs victoriously at every test. It may be for this reason that the audience’s desire and hunger to savor life rivals no other city I’ve ever played. And to my great delight, this feeling is contagious. For a hedonistic burlesque beauty, this city is home.
My year as the Queen has been a fabulous one, pleasurable and prolific at its core. I’ve done my best to share New Orleans’ beautiful rawness and love of life in every town I’ve performed. The title itself has afforded me an invitation into shows I would have never had the opportunity to indulge in. I got to take a new audience as my lover for 147 shows during my reign. I have been a very lucky lady, indeed. While this may all sound exhausting, I’ve been blessed with so much to invigorate me along the way.
I’ve met and performed with some of the most amazing performers and producers this year. It has been such a humbling experience and I know I have so much to learn. As an instructor I like to share what I learn, so here are a few people that have shaped me this year:
Catherine D’Lish. Her smoldering sensuality beckons the audience to come a little closer and, for those who are smart enough to accept the invitation, the rewards are delicious. Her beauty, honesty and silent strength are present off-stage and on. We can all take a hint to work very hard to get to know ourselves and take care of our bodies every day. A little extra stretching, and rhinestoning doesn’t hurt either. Oh and the feathers…oh the feathers!
Kitten DeVille. Kitten has shown me that being a great mother and a great performer, at the same time, is possible. While I struggle to be both, she does it in a way that seems effortless. In the time I’ve gotten to spend with her, I know that it all takes so much work and perseverance and, above all, love and care. She extends this love and care to her burlesque family, as well. Her Dixie Evans tribute piece is still one of my absolute favorites and has informed many new burlesque performers and audiences about our history. They inevitably want to learn more and this legitimizes our place in the world.
Perle Noire. As the first Queen of Burlesque she has shown me that audiences love when you push the envelope—push yourself physically and emotionally, give them all of you. Interact with them and let them be a part of the show. She does this in every single performance and I do my best to do the same. Her enthusiasm and genuine love for her art is delicious.
Michelle L’Amour. Michelle is inventive and creative and truly built to be a burlesque legend and businesswoman. The hours she spends cultivating her art is staggering. She presents on-stage what she would want to see—innovation, sexiness, perfection. Off-stage she creates a business, a way for her to continue to do what she loves and be around the people she loves, admires and trusts. This type of work takes true genius and ingenuity. Her ability to run her business and be such an incredible performer is remarkable.
Dirty Martini. Dirty does what she wants and does what she loves. She’s a classically trained dancer and it shows that she’s had a long and fruitful love affair between what she can do with her body and how the music moves her to use it. I’ve never seen her take focus off of her audience for even a split-second. As an audience member she holds you and molds you and by the end of it, we all feel invigorated and sexy, ourselves. I can not only see but feel her joy of being on stage. She radiates fun and appreciation for her audience and for her art.
Queen Indigo Blue, Miss Exotic World 2011, Reigning Queen of Burlesque. Her majesty has been such an inspiration to me as a performer, a producer, an instructor and a student. She is constantly learning how to improve upon her art and she is gracious enough to share that knowledge with her students and colleagues. Her genuine love of people and the world around her extends to her performances. Her legend’s tributes reflect not only their style, but she takes it a step further to know their story, know them and their energy. In Indigo’s performances she commands respect and honor not just for herself, but for the legends she learns from and admires, as well. She has made it her life’s work to legitimize the burlesque art form and perpetuate its growth in a way that honors our legends and our history. Her work in her Academy of Burlesque is truly inspirational and success of burlesque in Seattle can be attributed to her work and perseverance.
There are so, so many others to name and I have so much more to say about each lady I’ve mentioned. The Queen of Burlesque title has opened so many doors for me this year. I am truly grateful for all of those who have supported me, and even those who did not because you all have made me a stronger performer and strengthened my resolve to be a true and active member in the burlesque society and family.
For the next Queen, enjoy your new title. Take a moment, even if it is by yourself, to put on your crown, have your favorite cocktail and try to reflect on what this means. This means that you did great in ONE show, now that you’ve done this you have many, many other shows to prove to yourself and the audience that you deserve this award. This title makes it easier for producers to book you. Having the Queen of anything on a poster draws a crowd and producers want to fill that venue! Go to them, they won’t always come to you. Let them know that you are available and what you can do to wow their audience. If there is anything you’d like to do or anyone you’d like to meet, do it this year, you won’t have this title forever and you should always make the most of what you have. Now is the time to be seen. Take as many great photos as you can, do interviews, make appearances, contact the local press and let them know about your upcoming shows. Improve upon your routines, be versatile and above all enjoy what you do and be gracious to your producers and your audience. They are why you are on stage to begin with.
I will always be here for you with a hug and any advice you may want from me. I wish you all of the luck in the world. With all of my love,
Queen of Burlesque
New Orleans Burlesque Festival, 2010
Saturday, September 4, 2010
Perle Noire, the Black Pearl, won the Queen of Burlesque competition at the 1st Annual New Orleans Burlesque Festival. Since then, she’s received maximum exposure in a variety of shows. She was featured in the UK documentary Burlesque Undressed, produced by, and starring, Immodesty Blaize. She appeared in the Travel Channel’s Extreme Competitions, shot at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend in Las Vegas. In July of this year, Perle Noire performed in Cointreau presents Dita Von Teese and Special Guests, in association with Bustout Burlesque at the House of Blues in New Orleans. Producer Rick Delaup asked Perle a few questions, as the 2nd Annual New Orleans Burlesque Festival approaches.
Last year was the 1st Annual New Orleans Burlesque Festival. I don't think anyone knew what to expect. What were your impressions of the weekend overall?
I thought that it was an amazing Burlesque Festival. It was so organized and the venues were unbelievable. It was so nice to watch the performers at Harrah’s casino dancing to a live Band. A band always adds a touch of elegance.
What are your thoughts looking back to the night when you won the Queen of Burlesque competition?
I was so nervous. I thought I was dreaming when Rita Alexander called my name. The most amazing part was the support from my peers. Amber Ray gave me the biggest hug while I was crying. Everyone seemed thrilled that I won that night.
The biggest highlight was performing with Dita . She said that after seeing my YouTube video, she knew she wanted me in her show. I'm so proud that she saw the video from the [Queen of Burlesque] competition.
Give us a little insight to backstage at the Dita Von Teese show. What was it like backstage?
It was amazing! The best part was talking with Dita about Josephine Baker.
Tell me a little about your experience with the Burlesque Undressed film?
In the Queen of Burlesque competition, the winner passes on the crown the following year, but can continue to compete after that. Are you planning to compete for the Queen of Burlesque title in 2011?
You will all have to wait and see!
Photo by Shoshana Portnoy
Friday, August 27, 2010
The New Orleans Burlesque Festival is thrilled to have Jo Weldon return to the festival this year. Jo is the headmistress and founder of the New York School of Burlesque. Her new book, The Burlesque Handbook, was released this summer by HarperCollins. It is the essential manual to understanding and performing both classic and neo-burlesque. NOBF founder/producer Rick Delaup asked Jo twelve questions that were on his mind.
1. The Burlesque Handbook is a much-needed guide. It covers so many aspects of burlesque performance. Everything is there to help new performers jumpstart their burlesque careers, without years of
figuring it out on their own. What kind of feedback have you received
from beginners who have read the book?
Since the book was based on handouts and information given in classes, which produced students who went on to become successful performers, I knew it would be a useful guide. I've gotten great feedback from new performers. Most often, they comment that it has changed the way they thought about some of the details I discuss, such as music and color choice. And almost all of them have commented that they appreciate the chapter on etiquette. In fact, a lot of experienced performers have told me they appreciate that chapter!
2. What are some of the qualities a successful burlesque entertainer should have, that can’t be learned from a book?
Inventiveness and timing!
3. I’ve come across women who want to perform in burlesque shows, but don’t want to strip down to pasties or a g-string. Is there room for them in burlesque?
I have to teach on TV fairly often, and I'm able to convey some of the movement and style of burlesque without going that far. However, I think pasties and g-strings are what ultimately make burlesque so remarkable. It's the only performing art in the world in which striptease plays a part. Why leave out the think that makes it unique? The other elements--sexiness, satire, etc.--are all available elsewhere.
4. Burlesque performances are known for iconic props like feather fans and boas. What small props have you seen over the years that are unique, but just as effective?
In my opinion, every costume piece should be used with the same attention, care, and theatricality as a prop!
I'd love to see more folks really get into working the robes. When I began working in strip joints there were a few people who were still working robes and chiffon, and they had a sort of casual showmanship that was mindboggling. They made the most elegant sculptural forms, and framed and revealed their bodies in the most devastating ways.
5. What kinds of things does a burlesque performer learn from years of stage experience?
You learn to what the audience responds, instead of just what looks good in the mirror during rehearsal.
6. There are some burlesque performers who don’t, or rarely, attend burlesque festivals. Being that there is a sense of community in the world of burlesque, what are the advantages of attending a burlesque festival?
Just that, the sense of community. It is a very special world! And the opportunity to network with that international community is stronger in person than online.
7. I know a lot of dedicated dancers dream of making a comfortable living in burlesque. These days, it’s an extremely difficult thing to do. What advice can you give a dancer who would like to earn the same income as Dita Von Teese?
Nobody earns the same income as Dita, and I can't think how anyone could plan to do so. She is a celebrity, and celebrity is hard, if not impossible, to deliberately create. Anybody who wants it has to be prepared for it. She is an entrepreneur and a person who has branded herself and has built powerful collaborations with people such as her costumer Catherine D’Lish, her manager, her web person, and others with whom she has worked or did work for many years. She had an image and stayed true to it; there's a lot to be said for believing in what you love to do! But there isn't a beaten path to being a burlesque celebrity, in the same way there is a path to try to prepare for a million-dollar record contract. There just isn't a burlesque industry in the same way there is a record or movie industry. We all have multiple streams of revenue, and certainly Dita does. Or, we have to get jobs and do burlesque on the side. And also note, young performers -- Dita responds to all her emails with her best possible grammar and no texting shorthand! She's always professional.
8. With so many burlesque performers out there these days, what’s the best way for a dancer to get noticed and recognized?
Good manners and inventiveness.
9.You are one of the organizers of BurlyCon coming up in October in Seattle. What can attendees expect this year?
BurlyCon is an amazing experience, complete immersion in burlesque and all it can be. I love it, and I love participating as well as instructing the classes. It's the ultimate burlesque community experience because no one has the pressure of performing. Of course we love the pressure of performing, but it's really wonderful to just experience the people we know and love without the hustle of work.
10. While in New Orleans, what are some of the things on your itinerary outside of the burlesque festival activities?
Not many! I can't wait to see my friends. I love the festival, and I want to take classes and see all the shows. But I look forward to taking the streetcar out to the Garden District for a leisurely walk.
11. We're all working to move the burlesque scene forward, make the art form more popular, and sell more tickets. What areas need the most improvement, and what can be done to get there?
I think it needs to be kept playful, sensual, not too self-conscious. Over the past few years I've seen top performers repeatedly raising their own bars, and new performers developing much more rapidly than they used to. I love it!
I think the marketing in some cases, especially smaller shows, could be aimed a little bit less at what burlesque connoisseurs think will be appealing, and more toward what the uninitiated might find appealing. Burlesque just is appealing!
12. What are your views on the mainstream media's coverage of burlesque?
It's kind of amazing that they still keep claiming "Burlesque is Back!" But that's part of what I was talking about with regard to marketing. There are still plenty of people to whom burlesque is new.
This is very true. At the 2nd Annual New Orleans Burlesque Festival, our audiences will be filled with many locals, as well as visitors to the city, who will be exposed to burlesque for the first time. It’s a wonderful event to catch so many great performers from around the world performing over one weekend.
The Burlesque Handbook will be available for purchase throughout the festival weekend. There will be many opportunities to meet burlesque star, instructor, and author Jo Weldon over the weekend. Jo performs Friday, September 17th in the Mondo Burlesque showcase at Harrah’s New Orleans. You can also find her at the shows, parties, panel discussions, as well as the afternoon burlesque workshops at the Westin Hotel. For more on the NOBF (Sept. 17-19), visit www.neworleansburlesquefest.com.
More information about The Burlesque Handbook:
About the book: http://bit.ly/dwJ2F3
Read an excerpt: http://bit.ly/a2FU15
Buy the book: http://amzn.to/axi6aF
Thursday, August 12, 2010
"I love everything about this shot from the composition, to the way the lights hit her just right. It feels both staged and natural at the same time and to me it’s perfect from her hat to her stilettos."
Photo of Evie Lovelle (right) by A. Koch :
"This shot is the perfect combination of sensuality, innocence and femininity. It’s a great example of what modern Burlesque is all about. The art of the tease."
So that Friday night I walked into the New Orleans Burlesque Fest with my camera in hand, I didn't realize I was about to strike photographic gold, I was just curious about what exactly burlesque was. After showing them my card and explaining my experience, the management was happy to have me and I walked into a very classy art-deco styled theater in Harrah's New Orleans casino. In fact, it looked more like I was at a Broadway show. Once the show started, I immediately knew I was in for a great experience.
Photo of GiGi LaFemme (above) by Jeff Teachworth.
As the performers came out, they were all shapes and sizes, all dressed beautifully in fancy historic glamorous attire, pulling it slowly off and modeling it all with the confidence and poise of trained dancers. I got a memory card full of exciting images that night. As I looked through them later, I saw gold, and when I showed them off, everyone loved them - both my male and female friends. In fact, one photo became a signature piece for me. It is of Mia Vixen, all dressed in red with starry black background and a hot white spotlight behind her. I present it here in its later form as an advertisement for my feature publication.
Photo of Mia Vixen (above, right) by Jeff Teachworth.
Not only did these and other photos inspire me to specialize in burlesque, but as I followed it locally, I built up a portfolio which inspired me to combine it with my journalism skills to create a magazine called, 'Burlesque Scene'.
Thanks Andy and Jeff! You will find them back at the 2nd Annual New Orleans Burlesque Festival from September 17-19. We can't wait to see the new photos!