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.

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