Dirty Martini and The New Burlesque

(originally posted on my Tublr blog July 2011)

Well I thought it was about time that I actually wrote something to do with burlesque on here rather than the inane whitterings that come so easily to me…. One of the wonderful things I bought with some money for my recent birthday was the Dirty Martini and The New Burlesque DVD. Trailer below:

Dirty Martini is one of my favourite burlesque performers (if not my favourite), she absolutely oozes old school glamour and glitz and embodies everything that is fabulous about burlesque. When I first started to get into burlesque she was one of the ladies that jumped right out at me, not only for her dance skills and the preciseness of her movement but the characterisation that goes into every act that blossoms from her imagination into reality.

The little glances, the sultry faces, the amazing smile…she’s a complete master of her craft. Sex on legs basically. After watching many a youtube video of Dirty I got to see her perform live at Neil Kendall’s Halloween Ball at the Guildhall in Chester (if you haven’t been to one of his burlesque events you need to get there sharpish) and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

She performed her spider act (Zorita tribute) one of my absolute favourites (below if you haven’t seen) and I was in awe.

I was also lucky enough to meet her backstage at the Tournament of Tease last November and she’s so so lovely (who would have thought anything else?).

Anyhoo……on with the DVD stuffs: As much as I love Dirty it’s not all about her, it’s not just about how she started and the people that she met on her journey to become one of the biggest burlesque stars of our day, it’s about how the new burlesque evolved from performance art and how these performers kick-started the current neo-burlesque epoch in NY.

There are interviews with Julie Atlas Muz, World Famous *BOB*, Bambi the Mermaid, Murray Hill, Angie Pontani, Tigger! Jo Boobs, Scotty the Blue Bunny, and many more who speak not just about Dirty and when/how they met her but about their friendships with each other and how performing neo-burlesque is an an outlet of their art and creativity.

The interviews with Dirty show her for all that she is, a generous, loving, talented free spirit and a beacon for burlesque. She shares stories, talks of her passion and how burlesque has affected her life personally and professionally. All of those interviewed are honest in their opinions about aspects of their work, take for example working in burlesque full time.

In world famous *BOB*’s own words: (speaking of teaching at NYSB) “……..welcome to a fantastic hobby, because the illusion created by a successful burlesque dancer is one of complete glamour and carefree and only having time to be absorbed in this beautiful movie star performers life” and “……and there’s an illusion that there’s money in it but as far as a steady paycheck it’s not something I would reccommend.

People ask me sometimes what’s the difference between a stripper and a burlesque dancer and I always say strippers make money” It’s good to see those interviewed being so upfront about the financial side of a regular performer’s life.

In Dirty’s words: “Interview any burlesque performer that’s doing burlesque today and they’ll tell you they have a day job and they do it because they love it. I am so fortunate to say that I am one of the people that now after five years of being a legal secretary quit my job and I just sort of plunged head on into the world of nightlife, burlesque, corporate parties and gosh, now international touring with the Cabaret New Burlesque“.

It’s refreshing to hear this, esepcially in a climate where some performers see the big names and expect overnight success and big bucks after a couple of gigs and/or a lucky break. I really enjoyed watching this documentary, it was an honest, frank and thoroughly entertaining look at the world of neo-burlesque and the lives of those living it daily, exploring feminism, sex work, burlesque, relationships and friendships. It’s about performers’ passion for their art, for burlesque, for life and for not being put into a box. I would highly recommend this for anyone who performs, is thinking about it or just has a general interest in burlesque. You will not be disappointed!

Available to buy on Amazon for £14.40 (currently)

Want to read more about Dirty Martini? links below:

Dirty Martini’s Website

wiki

Burlesque Daily

revel in new york

21st Century Burlesque

The Martini Lounge

Gilded Lili: Lili St. Cyr and the Striptease Mystique

(originally posted on my Tumblr Sept 2011)

I’ll start with this: Lili St Cyr is the second burlesque artist I ever heard of.

When I was knee high my sister was a massive fan of the Rocky Horror and we’d listen to it in her Austin A35 when either she was driving me about or we were all on long road trips in my Dad’s car. (Not the most suitable material for a 10 year old but a lot of it went over my head, plus after my other sister taught me to shimmy when I was 8 there really was only one way this was all going to go….)

And there was the line Janet belts out: “God bless, Lili St. Cyr”

I remember that I couldn’t quite make the words out but upon discovery of what they were I assumed that Lili St Cyr was a B movie actress, it was only years later with the arrival of the internet (and dial up at that) that I found out who she was.

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The photos I did see showed a statuesque beauty, long legs, blonde hair, a regal stance and a body to die for. I learned about her glass bath routine which got her into hot water (ba boom tissssssh) amongst others, her marriages and of her long lasting career, which I assumed was due to her being at the top of her game.

It conflicted my thoughts of her when I learnt of another side to LSC, from the Mike Wallace interview (1957) in which she appeared not to be proud of herself and what she had accomplished.

http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/multimedia/video/2008/wallace/cyr_lili.html

I really couldn’t get to grips with this stunning beauty who smiles straight at you through the lens of a camera being completely at odds with the image I had construed from the limited information I had.

And so when compiling my burlesque based Amazon wish list (or homework as I like to call it) I was thrilled to come across as book that would hopefully clear up some of the mystery that surrounded LSC.

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Gilded Lili: Lili St. Cyr and the Striptease Mystique

– Kelly DiNardo 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gilded-Lili-St-Striptease-Mystique/dp/0823088898

DiNardo has done a superb job in her research, the amount of work and time that must have gone into finding the golden nuggets of information, especially with LSC being recluse in the later years of her life, is astounding.

Exhaustive yet not exhausting, DiNardo presents a clear image of the facts of LSC’s life whilst placing them in the cultural and social revolutions through which she lived. It’s also commentary on women’s place in society, through the changes in the ways women were perceived and the expectations put upon women through the years that she spent performing, which no doubt troubled her and would have led (in all probability) to the loss of any pride in her profession.

It paints a picture of an independent woman who loved and was loved, a free thinker and spirit who felt the pressure of society moulding her into what they thought as right for a woman in their time but was certainly not right for LSC.

It is sad to know that for someone of such stature, and known so broadly for so long, that ultimately her reclusiveness and unwillingness to let the world into her life in her later years has made her fall to the wayside somewhat in people’s memories when her life should be celebrated. That someone who influenced the style of Marilyn Monroe, Madonna and many more is no longer a household name is wretched to say the least.

I truly hope we can one day see the heydays of her performing life on the sliver screen, I’m sure she would have approved on some level.

Thanks to Kelly DiNardo for this wonderful, insightful book and thanks to Lili St Cyr for being the inspiring woman that she is.

A little bit of help: Booking onto a burlesque course

(originally published on my Tumblr blog March 2012)

There are many classes/courses/workshops being run by many performers/dance teachers/fitness classes for burlesque tuition up and down the country, you can be spoilt for choice and the expertise you receive can vary vastly.

I have heard nightmare stories recently from newer performers about classes/workshops they have been on. The teacher did not have the skills advertised, they were not insured, or they were under prepared to teach a class of hopeful ladies who were left disappointed and cash down.

I hope this blog gives you a little understanding and info and helps you choose the right class for you with a qualified/insured instructor.

(Any comments are welcome, I know I may have missed something along the way….)

Different classes for different people

You see an advertisement for burlesque classes, intrigued you take a look and low and behold it’s a fitness/dance class with a burlesque twist, burlesqueacise if you will.

If you’re looking for the type of burlesque class that’s a good work out this will be right for you.

If you’re looking to perform professionally/semi-professionally/as a hobby on stage in front of a paying audience then this would probably not be the best starting point.

If the above is your goal, please ensure you read any info on a website to so you don’t end up in a class, parting with your hard earned cash for expectations that may not be fulfilled.

So you’ve found your class

The website/facebook page/other information available tells you the location, the start date, the cost, what you’ll learn, and waxes lyrical about the teacher’s accolades in the burlesque world.

At face value this may look great, you might think you’ve found the right class for you and in a lot of cases the information will be correct, this should not stop you from doing a little homework on the teacher and course.

Things you can do to ensure you are given genuine information

*Email the teacher

Don’t be afraid to email the teacher and ask for the information you want.

Ask for their insurance details (a lot of performers/teachers are insured through Equity to teach workshops/classes – you can ask for their membership number or other insurers details). Do not attend a class where there is no insurance, if you fall/hurt yourself you may well end up the creek.

Ask for references. They instructor is doing a job just like everyone else and you’re employing them to a certain degree by joining their class/workshop. They will not have a problem with providing references for you, ensure you get full names of those who gave the references if you would like to email the referees for more information.

Ask if they have previous dance training. Not all burlesque performers will as not all are solely danced based acts but being able to move well on stage is key to any performer and this information will be useful as to what type of class you’re entering.

Ask how many years burlesque performance and teaching experience they have. You wouldn’t want to be taught by someone who had only been performing for six months/someone who has been performing for two years and is bottom billed as they wouldn’t have the stage experience/or have shown the progression required to teach others in my opinion.

Ask for their performance CV.

*Google the teacher/class

This may seem completely obvious, but you should be able to find out a bounty of information about them on the net. You’ll be able to see photos, articles/blogs they may have written/facebook pages created, events they have previously performed at and will hopefully be able to gage from this how much experience they have.

*Ask other performers

Email performers and ask if they know of the class/teacher. If you don’t know any other performers put a post up on a message board or facebook group to ask for opinions.

(please feel free to email me anytime if I can be of help ivywilde@gmail.com

also sneaky link to the North West Burlesque Society group:  http://www.facebook.com/NorthWestBurlesqueSociety  we’re more than happy to help with any queries as are any of our members!).

*Watch the Instructor’s  performance footage

Look up the teacher on youtube and watch them perform. You would not believe how many people book onto a class run by a teacher who they have never seen perform before.

If there is no online footage of the teacher (and to be honest, if they’re teaching there should be even if it’s on their website rather than youtube)  ask them for their showreel (most performers will have one to send out with their CV) OR ask them when their next performance date is and go and check them out.

Go to your class…go to some more

Have fun, learn some moves, start to put an act together but don’t let this be the end of your tuition!

There are workshops/courses in all types of things burlesque related such as costuming and embellishing, hair and make up, clowning, fan dancing……I could go on and on and on!

As performer styles vary so much don’t be put off by going to clases/workshop taught by other performers just because you’ve already done a course/class, some may be focussed on bump ‘n’ grind, some may be the classical fan dance sort, some may be cheesecake all the way and some may be more comedic.

Please, please, please continue to learn and grow, find your own style, get up on the stage and knock them dead!

Ivy xx

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