Sunday, June 30, 2013

Student Stage Debut at Panty Raid

Never did I expect to be performing burlesque this past May, just a little over a year after I started taking classes.  Then again, I hadn’t expected to stage kitten at the Dallas Burlesque Festival a month after I decided to get more involved with the scene.  However, I couldn’t pass up the Academy of Queerlesque’s Burlesque Group class– not after Lillith Grey included asexuality in her definition of queer (something that doesn’t always happen).  Although performing at Panty Raid was optional, the instructor, Lily Lovely, was so encouraging that I couldn’t pass this chance up. The show, which was less than two weeks after class, coincided with Butchfest.  If that wasn’t a sign that this was my golden opportunity, I didn’t know when I would be ready.

The class consisted of five individuals with different experience levels and performance backgrounds.  We began with talking about stage names and personas, which helped me finally settle on a name (I'll elaborate more in future post).  Lily then had us channel our personalities through our walks.  Although burlesque walks were nothing new for me, I’d been focusing so much technique that I wasn’t sure what to do at first.  When it was my turn, I reminded myself of the dancer I wanted to be–someone tough and punk rock yet still graceful and flirty– and I let that be my guide. 

pre-show shot
Choreography came easily for me; the improvised moments required more thought and practice.  I had to figure out how to convey my personality in a way that would fit the song, “‘Cause I’m a Blond”.  How could I keep the rocker persona in my head while conveying the dumb blond stereotype depicted through the lyrics?  Eventually I decided that I wanted to be the tomboyish surfer chick version of Regina George from Mean Girls.  I tape myself so that I could work on facial expressions.

My other challenge came in costuming.  The outfit was pretty basic: bikini top, skateboard shorts, and heels.  I lucked into being given a swimsuit with ties (something I’d never buy for myself).  I would've liked it to be less frilly, but it matched my shorts really well.  The one thing I had to make was the wig from the yarn that Lily gave us.  Despite being a cosplayer, I'm not really crafty.  Fortunately my partner had some suggestions, and I had planned on wearing a bandana.

There wasn’t any requirements on how much we had to take off.  I wasn't sure I wanted to go down to pasties and panties (my substitute bikini bottoms since the ones that came in the top were too big).  Burlesque has helped me combat years of self-image issues resulting from bullying and two cultures’ standards of beauty, but I still had the irrational fear that people would be disgusted by my naked body.  I kept wavering on my decision until I came home from rehearsal and watched the X Games.  The “go big or go home” spirit of the athletes inspired me to take it all off.  I had to commit 100%.

Photo from Panty Raid's facebook page
Once I had that mentality, all reservations went away.  I even had a last minute idea of using a beach ball to tease the audience.  I arrived at Sue Ellen’s with a lot of confidence though I still felt awkward in the dressing room full of people I didn’t know.  There was a slight freak-out moment when I discovered that fabric tape doesn’t adhere to my skin as well as the glitter on the pasties to my bikini.  Thankfully, one of my classmates, Coraline Mae, let me use her Top Stick.  We ran through our routine one last time, and after enjoying the other performances, we were up next.  The crowd’s energy was infectious, and while I didn’t get the chance to grab a beach ball to hide behind, I was still enough of a tease for someone to shout, “We want to see your boobs!”  Little did they know that it would only make me wait a little more before the final reveal.  Lillith, who was emceeing, gave each of us a smack on the butt as we exited the stage.  She and Lily were beaming with pride, and I felt like I had done something great.  It was just over so soon that I wanted more.

I am so thankful for the opportunity I was given and for the kind individuals who were with me on this journey: Lillith; Lily; Effy; my classmates Cheyenne, Coraline, Nella, and Vita; and my friends who came out to support me.  The Panty Raid crowd was so welcoming and enthusiastic; it would be awesome to perform in another one.  I know I have a ways to go before I can do my first solo or be more than a student performer, but I took a giant leap with my debut, conquering a long-time phobia and learning to seize the day.  Life’s too short not to give things like this a shot.

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