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!
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Craig Elliott is an artist based in Los Angeles, California. He received his education at the famed Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, and studied under artists such as Harry Carmean and Burne Hogarth. Craig’s carefully crafted and arresting images of nature and the human form have captivated audiences with their visual and intellectual celebration of the beauty in this world and beyond. In addition to his fine art work, Craig has had a hand in designing many of today’s most popular animated films from studios such as Disney (The Princess and the Frog, Enchanted, Hercules) and DreamWorks (Bee Movie, Shark Tale). His work on The Princess and the Frog was recently exhibited in Dreams Come True: Art of the Classic Fairy Tales from the Walt Disney Studio at the New Orleans Museum of Art.
Drawing from the visual worlds of science and nature, the human figure, the grand tradition of American illustration, Japanese scroll paintings and woodblock prints, fantasy illustration, and great artists of Europe, Elliott’s work strikes the viewer at first with a powerful tableau and draws them in to experience the subtlety and beauty within. Beyond the pictorial impact of his work, themes personal to him such as body image, environmental preservation, and social and psychological repression weave themselves throughout his work.
Craig Elliott on the New Orleans Burlesque Festival poster design:
“Essentially the poster blends of my personal artistic interests and style with New Orleans, Jazz and Burlesque imagery and symbology. I also tried to show my respect for the skills and artistry of the French poster makers at the turn of the century when designing the poster. Their composition, color and the pure graphic punch of their work is fantastic. Approaching the poster design from a French angle rather than a purely New Orleans one keeps the design fresher but still keeps a New Orleans flavor.”
On his approach drawing the female form:
"I suppose I could boil it down to trying to show visually how a woman makes me feel. Women are people who are walking art to me. Men's bodies are mere machines, women have that same functional element, but with thousands of little modifications that make them more like flowers to the eye. Flowers are meant to attract and beauty is part of what they are, but stems are just supports and leaves make food for the plant. Beauty vs. pure function - that is a big part of the key to the female form for me."
On the dancer in the festival poster:
"I tried to focus on the single female figure and give her all the qualities of burlesque I could think of. She's dancing with energy and almost floating in a graceful dance. She has a great personality and joie de vivre - she's someone we'd all like to know! Of course she also has beautiful curves that flow with the dance she is doing. In the end I hope she is seen as classic, lively and fun, just like burlesque itself!"
Artist Website http://www.craigelliottgallery.com/
Festival Website http://www.neworleansburlesquefest.com/
Monday, April 5, 2010
The New Orleans Burlesque Festival is now accepting performer applications! The deadline is May 15, 2010. The second annual event will be September 17-19. Applications can be found on www.neworleansburlesquefest.com. The nightly showcases will be held in the beautiful theatre at Harrah’s New Orleans and the House of Blues in the French Quarter. The host hotel will again be the luxurious Westin New Orleans Canal Place Hotel.
ABOUT THE FEST
The New Orleans Burlesque Festival is devoted to classic and traditional styles of burlesque. But, it’s more than fabulous feather fans and big beautiful boas. You can view the festival’s YouTube page to see the variety of performances from the inaugural festival (www.youtube/burlesquefest).
Festival founder and producer Rick Delaup encourages all burlesque performers to apply, “The talent last year was the cream of the crop, but we had few variety acts, and only one “boylesque” act. Also, we were lacking performers from overseas. I’d love to have some of the top talent from other countries represented. And we are also looking for one or two more experienced and engaging emcees.”
“The edgier neo-burlesque performers who are interested in participating should pull out their classic routines, adapt an existing routine, or challenge themselves to come up with something classic, but also unique. We are looking for acts that evoke a certain period of time in burlesque, basically anything pre-1970s.
A staple of the New Orleans Burlesque Festival is its mission to keep alive the live music component of the striptease show, once prevalent during the golden age of burlesque. A live, traditional jazz band accompanies two entire main showcases.
The main event is the Queen of Burlesque competition, which is held at Harrah’s on the Saturday night of the festival. The organizers select celebrity judges in different areas of media and entertainment to judge the very best of the burlesque performers who apply to compete in the festival. Last year’s judges include actor/comedian Jay Thomas, Miss Louisiana USA Lacey Minchew, former New Orleans Saints player Brad Edelman, and burlesque legend Rita Alexander. The competition is not for amateur performers, but for the most established and/or entertaining burlesque dancers in the business.
New Orleans legends of burlesque are on hand throughout the weekend to sign autographs, participate in panel discussions, and conduct workshops. Returning this year are Rita Alexander the Champagne Girl, Evangeline the Oyster Girl, Tee Tee Red, and Wild Cherry. Last year, fest-goers were introduced to former burlesque stripper Eve St. Pierre, who was attending her first burlesque festival.
PARTIES & ACTIVITIES
The NOBF throws free parties throughout the festival. Last year, performers received complimentary absinthe at the Thursday night party, complimentary rum drinks at the opening party (with featured striptease performances), and complimentary beer at the closing party, (which featured entertainment by Kitten on the Keys).
Members of the burlesque community are welcome to submit ideas for workshops, panel discussions, and daytime activities. The NOBF will continue to present panel discussions with the legends of burlesque, as well as the panel on the new stars of burlesque.
ON A SHOESTRING?
The NOBF was designed to appeal to those burlesque performers on a budget. The lowest flight and hotel rates are available in the month of September, which is the off-season for visitors to New Orleans. Venue locations are all within walking distance from the host hotel. The NOBF provides information on the best cheap-eats, directions to a nearby grocery store and Walgreens, and where to locate free WiFi. And all are in the French Quarter! An honorarium and goodie bag is given to performers. Last year’s goodie bag contained, among other things, snacks, Hubig pies, and a flask of rum. The NOBF was able to arrange some airport pick-ups, and hopes to do the same this year.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING ABOUT THE NOBF:
The shows were inspiring and the company was exceptional. Great music, food, southern hospitality and vintage glamour made the New Orleans Burlesque Festival a well-orchestrated masterpiece. Within the setting of the French Quarter it felt like you were truly transported in time. Simply magical, I am truly hooked.” – OPHELIA FLAME (Minneapolis, MN)
WOW!!!! I felt that we were all treated like royalty. There is a reason this is my favorite city in the world, no stone left unturned, a stellar lineup, lots of fun to be had by all. Like I always say, New Orleans never fails to turn up the heat and I’m not just talking about the temperature!!! – RENEA’ LE ROUX (Atlanta, GA)
Every moment was well thought out by the producer, and left me wanting to never miss another… Thank you for such stunning attention to detail and a serious respect shared for burlesque in a perfectly cinematic setting.” – AMBER RAY (New York City, NY)
The sexy art of burlesque is absolutely meant to be in the sultry city of New Orleans. Thanks for bringing them together in such a big way! – TRIXIE LITTLE (Baltimore, MD)
The New Orleans Burlesque Festival was an amazing experience! After years of going to festivals and conventions, I wouldn’t have believed it was the first year as smoothly as the event went. With amazing performances, classes, and parties, it was truly a wonderful time and I can’t wait for next year. – KATHERINE LASHE (Atlanta, GA)
The New Orleans Burlesque Festival was extremely professional. Everyone involved was helpful and friendly. The shows were of the highest caliber of entertainment! New Orleans definitely has an old-world charm to it, and blended with the southern hospitality, sparkling costumes, fabulous performers, good liquor, good music, and too much dancing... I can’t wait to see what happens next year! – TOMAHAWK TASSELS (Minneapolis, MN)
I can’t think of a better city for a burlesque festival. Rick and his entire crew threw an amazing event, and I plan to go back every year. – GINGER VALENTINE (Dallas, TX)
Beautiful shows, top-notch talent, and a wonderful opportunity to network with fellow performers. I can’t wait to go back! – RED SNAPPER (Los Angeles, CA)
We had such a marvelous time in the city, and the whole event reminded me of why I love performing. – RUBY JOULE (Austin, TX)