Monday, November 28, 2011

There’s a lot of talk in the burlesque community right now about what constitutes a professional.

…Truthfully, I’m not even going to touch that right now, because I’m not a professional. Yet.

But I would like to be.

I have a passion for burlesque as an art form. I remember back when I first started Vixening for Vaudezilla, and even before that, when I saw my first burlesque show. I remember how I ravenously watched each and every act, sucking up the experience like a sponge. Quite frankly, it made me a good Vixen. I watched every layer as it peeled off and hit the floor. From an analytical standpoint, it meant that I never once had to look for someone’s stray stocking or glove.

I began to differentiate. What made good burlesque. Or, maybe, what made burlesque that *I* enjoy. The difference in styles that girls had. The difference between someone who spent hours prepping and polishing and someone who got onstage with a concept, some rhinestones, and a prayer.

Somewhere along the line, it became very mechanical. Very arbitrary. I continued to Vixen because that is what I had always done. By this time, I had worked with Vaudezilla for nearly two years, and I had seen many of my fellow Vixens become performers in their own right. Some, like the lovely Cherry Brandi, became incredible, valued members of Vaudezilla.

And I was still in the same place I was, two years before.

In my defense, there was a lot I had to do before I could be in this place I am now. I was not *ready* for burlesque, and, perhaps, Chicago burlesque was not ready for *me*. A lot has changed since those hazy days of the past, clambering up on Blue Bayou’s bartop to reach a pair of panties.

The first time I attempted to make a change was around this time last year. Vaudezilla, still in it’s state of rapid expansion, was holding auditions for new acts. I threw something together, kind of half-practiced in the bathroom mirror, beaded a bra on my lunch-breaks at my last job, (Health Insurance. I’m sure they were terrified.) and… generally looked like a big idiot. I was painfully nervous. I had this… complex about not being as good as everyone else, even though I had *watched* these people onstage a million times, and I *knew* that I had just as much, if not more, dance training than some, and just as much charisma welling up in me somewhere. If only I could remember where I’d left it…

It was immediately after that, that I completely disappeared from Burlesque. I took a Stage Managing job on top of my day job, which meant that I was working or driving for approximately 16 hours of the day. Every day. I stopped Vixening, partly because I wasn’t asked to very often anymore. I got defensively very angry, because it was easier to say that the higher-ups didn’t like me, than it was to admit that I had made an idiot of myself and that, if I really wanted it, I should have worked harder. I dug deeper into the hole I had been wallowing in for the last several years.

But then, something happened. I took a hiatus from my hiatus. I even called it the hiatus-from-the-hiatus-tour. Because I’m so self-important that the things I do need titles.

I took three burlesque gigs in a row, starting with February BROADZILLA, then jumping straight into the Windy City Burlesque Fest. In addition to Vixening both nights of the festival, I ended up signing up for about 5 workshops over the course of the weekend. My excuse was that I had been so busy and unemployed during the FIRST Windy City Burlesque Fest, the year before, and I had to make up for lost time. The reality was that I was coming back from an extended (nearly six-month) break, free from the arbitrary-ness of my actions, and really ready to ask myself if this was something I wanted. And I mean *really* wanted.

Two things happened. I saw Ammunition for the first time. I only mention this because she combines two of my favorite things: Pyrotechnics and the artful removal of clothing.

But the other thing that happened was that I saw this performance. Watch it. It’s not quite as incredible on Youtube, but these things really never are. I saw Michelle L’Amour perform this act, while crouching in a dark corner, just offstage. She butt-shimmies for over a minute and a half straight. A minute and a half. And her shimmy belt could have been diamonds for all I care. I had that image in my head all weekend, and when I went back to work on Monday, I cried. I cried because that fucking shimmy had destroyed the stone approximation of me, the one that numbly shuffled off to work a normal job and was routinely cut off from the beautiful things in life, and put in its place someone who knew *exactly* what she wanted to do with her life.

That’s when I knew that I was going to be a burlesque dancer. Not *maybe.* Not *someday.* Not *If I’m good enough.*

And I’m only going to go up from here.

I said in the beginning of this post that I’m not a professional. And I’m not. But I will be. Because I’m right here, in America’s heartland, and I’m coming soon to a theater, bar, venue near you.

You know, there is a *serious* lack of burlesque-oriented blogs on Tumblr.

If you are interested in seeing what I do, you can follow me at:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

It's a big 'ole life update.


So. A lot has happened in the past couple of weeks. A few weeks ago, I was super gung-ho about going back to school. I was going to do another Bachelors' for Fashion Design and Photography. Now... I'm not.

And before you go all "why's she so wishy-washy?" I'll fill you in on my logic.

Last weekend, Columbia college had their annual open house. I went, because I wanted to get the scoop on their programs. The first thing I learned: I fucking love Columbia. Their facilities are amazing, and I would kill to have access to their darkrooms.

The second thing I learned: That I'm WAY more excited about the possibility of shooting and developing my photography than I ever was about fashion.
It's one thing to be fashion-conscious, and to have an interest in the way clothes are constructed, and it's another thing altogether to be thrown into a fashion program.
On the other hand, I got really excited when I could smell the photo chemicals. It was a very familiar atmosphere. And it reminded me why I do stupid shit like compulsively buy cameras, and why I spent a summer afternoon hosing 20 year old darkroom equipment off in my backyard. I really love the process of creating a photograph. I love shooting film and digital equally, but when it comes to physical prints, I prefer traditional printing methods hands-down. If you shoot digitally and print digitally, the whole process is mechanized, and I think there is a coldness to that. But if you print in a darkroom, and your hands are in the chemicals and the paper's in the chemicals and everything is stewing together, you made that thing out of love and human touch, and it becomes a very vital, living object. It becomes a part of you, and you are a part of the art.

Lastly, I've spent the last week kind of stewing over and thinking about the next steps for me. Unlike fashion, Photography can be taught effectively outside the collegiate environment. I don't *need* that degree to progress. It's possible to get enough training and build a portfolio, as well as distilling what I want out of the process, either on my own, or without dropping the $70 thousand for another BA. So I'm looking at a certificate program with the Chicago Photography Center. It's pretty close to my house, and the whole program is three thousand. It would shore up my skills in the darkroom after three or four years of not using them, give me a quick and dirty intro to editing and printing digitally, teach me the basics of Photoshop, and afford me a (somewhat more limited than academically offered) range of electives I could take to broaden my expertise.

The only thing missing from that equation is the wealth of 19th century photographic processes that I'm interested in learning. Those, unlike gelatin-silver and digital processes, I will have to learn on my own. Color photography, I might have to seek special instruction in, since it's so damn difficult and precise. (The actual developing and printing process, that is)

So... that's where I'm at. It's a lot less money, and a good bit less time to invest. And if I think getting a degree is still a good idea at the end of it, then I can always apply to an MFA program with my newly updated and condensed portfolio.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

This sounds like something I would read on Hyperbole and a Half, but it's my life, I swear.

So... You remember Space Ice Cream?

You know, the freeze-dried brick of... whatever... that was about the size of your palm that you could buy at any museum anywhere for about seven dollars?

I loved that stuff.

I probably had it twice in all my life, because it's so goddamn expensive, and I was cognizant of that as a child. I was a weird kid. As an adult, I still want to buy a brick of the stuff every time I end up in the Adler, or the Museum of Science and Industry or what have you. But, as an adult, I'm even poorer now than I was when I was a kid, if that's even possible, so it's just out of the question.

This story has a point, I swear.

So... yesterday, I was in a JoAnns, because I needed some fringe and felt and tinsel, and that's where I go when I need things to glue on my panties. They have a wall of candy by the checkout. Including a lot of stuff you don't really see at the grocery store. Among these offerings was something called a Three Musketeers Truffle Crisp. I'd seen them there before, and always been kind of curious. Quite frankly, I kind of thought it was going to be gross, but I'm on my period, and everything sounds good as long as it's smothered in chocolate, so I figured I'd give it a go.

So I get into the parking lot, and I'm ripping the thing open, because I can't even wait to get in my car, apparently. And it's really kind of tasty. That crunchy layer, whatever the hell it is, has a really pleasant texture. But what *is* it? It's so damn familiar.

I get in the car. I take another bite. I drive halfway across the parking lot and then slam on the brakes.



And it was a dollar.

I'm tempted to buy myself a case of them.