Saturday, May 31, 2014

#YesAllWomen Means Burlesque Dancers Too

I haven't talked much about feminism and burlesque because it's a tired conversation that has gotten nowhere (the link reveals truly how long the debate has gone on). However, as an unapologetic hardcore feminist and overall social justice rogue, I can't avoid the topic. This past week, the #YesAllWomen movement has really taken off, and it really warms my hard heart to see burlesque dancers use the hashtag to share their stories and stand in solidarity.

my second cosplay ever:
Umi Ryuuzaki from
Magic Knight Rayearth
It's about damn time. A year ago, the "Cosplay Is Not Consent" movement began, uniting cosplayers all over the world against harassment. Many were already sharing their stories before then, but this helped bring the problem to the mainstream. I remember the second time I cosplayed, the first time I attended a convention, almost resulted in me quitting. Thankfully there wasn't any unwanted physical contact or too lewd remarks (though what kind of world do we live in when we're thankful of that?), but it was obvious that the people did not even consider that the group had underage member.

 I bring up my cosplay experience for several reasons. The first is that Elsa S. Henry proposed a same movement last year for the scene. Before reading article, I had only dealt with minor incidents of harassment and inappropriate behavior. How naive of me to think that burlesque was "safe". To make things worse, when I talked about it to non-burlesque friends and how I didn't know if I wanted to go to BHoF anymore, a couple said, "Well, what do you expect?" Cosplay and burlesque are not the only scenes subjected to rampant misogyny. It's everywhere, and that is why #YesAllWomen was created.

With burlesque though, there is more cause for outrage. Dancers using the hashtag have been accused of being hypocritical and told that they "deserved" to be harassed or worse due to what they do and what they wear. What bullshit. I got harassed in my Umi Ryuuzaki cosplay which covered every inch of me except my face, neck, and hands. I've been harassed while wearing business casual as much as I've been harassed while in a bra and panties. It's especially hurtful when feminists turn on dancers because it weakens the movement. Yes, burlesque has bawdy origins and you can catcall the dancers on-stage, but like cosplayers, we are still people. We are people who work hard at what we do and are proud of it. Those who enjoy the fruits of our labor but can't stomach our humanity, who won't accept the brains and heart that comes with the beauty, can head out the door; slut shamers are not welcome here.

Respect shouldn't depend on what you're wearing
or whether you're working press or stripping.
Obviously I did not quit cosplay because I wasn't going to let a bad experience get me down. I still am incredibly frustrated at the misogyny, whether it's my sexy cosplay sisters getting accused of being "attention whores" or dealing with a guy who does not understand that "You're a cute Asian" is not a legit reason to take my photo when I'm not in costume. I'm equally frustrated at burlesque shows when guys try to sneak behind the merch table or when drunk women say they'll pay me to bend over like I do on-stage. Sometimes I wonder if I should speak up, but there's always a fear that the perpetrator will freak out and make a scene (and that's not the worst that could happen). Then that just looks bad for me and the show.

This is why the solidarity I saw this week is so important. Knowing that we have each other's backs makes me feel a little safer. On top of that, seeing male dancers share articles in support reveals that we are being heard by the guys. I know that there is an element of fantasy in both burlesque and cosplay. However, as I've said before, we are real people. We deserve nothing less than the respect shown to co-workers, family, and friends. We deserve to have our voices heard because #YesAllWomen includes us.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Rocky Horror Texas Peepshow

I have a confession: I am a Rocky Horror Picture Show virgin. I've seen the movie, but by that time, everybody around me had already gone to a show or had no interest in going. Thus it was a little strange to stage kitten for a Rocky Horror-themed production. Doing the show doesn't count apparently.

Spyke Styletto bestowed a pearl
necklace upon me and a veil upon Kitty.
Photo by Cher Musico/Roots
The Texas Burlesque Peepshow put on its first production, "Oh, Rocky", two months ago. I was still trying to recover from All-con, but I wanted to help out. Lily LeCroix supplied a clipboard with notes for Kitty Martini and me, which kept me from completely stressing out. I was feeling off my game and had nearly lost it when I discovered that I put the wrong contacts case (the empty one) in my bag.

Due to Dallas' two shadowcasts being invited, "Oh, Rocky" had an unusually large number of people backstage. They took care of themselves, but it was a little different. It was different but fun, as I enjoyed getting a taste of the Rocky experience and the shadowcast members enjoyed the new setting. And everybody enjoyed the presence of Mr. Gorgeous. Never have I seen so many heads turn when a person walked by, but at a fit 6'5" plus heels, he strikes an impressive figure. He's also really nice and assuaged any concerns we had about setting up the rigging for his aerial routine. Kitty and I did have to work around the height issue, but the cables were lowered just enough to where I could reach them.

The show had begun on a somber note with Black Mariah explaining the situation with Lola LaRue. Whether they knew her or not, everybody in the cast and crew wanted to help her. That was really heart-warming to experience, and I think that created a positive energy that propelled the show forward.  Everybody wanted to do their best for Lola, and I was really happy to be part of such a supportive community.

To put things into perspective,
I'm 5'1" plus 3" heels.
While Kitty and I were running around, I made a mental note to make sure my shoes for the after-party were super comfy any time I did a show at the Texas Theatre. I had opted for a goth look and wore my three-inch platform boots, which are usually comfy.  After climbing lots of stairs in heels, that was no longer the case.  Lesson learned.

"Oh, Rocky" was a HUGE success. Never have I heard a crowd that cheer that loudly at a burlesque show; I felt like I was going to go deaf by the end of the show. After hanging around a little bit to talk to people and try to not be awkward, I decided that it was best to avoid the shuffle out of the dressing room and head out to the after-party, where The Companion and I wound up eating pizza with La Divina and Diamond Jim first and then with some of the "Oh, Rocky!" cast.  I was suddenly glad I ran up and down those stairs.  I didn't take too many photos, but you can see a couple more on my facebook page.

Also, don't forget to reserve your tickets for the Texas Burlesque Peepshow's next production, Spectacular Burlesque!: a Tribute to Moulin Rouge. I am fan dancing with the producers and my classmates from the Dallas School of Burlesque.  You don't want to miss this show!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Whatever Lola Wants

Dallas' own Lola LaRue was recently diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma, and the community is rallying to help her with expenses.  I won't be performing in this show, but I'll definitely be out to show my support (click here for on-line tickets).

Lola is a kind-hearted and intelligent woman who was on her way to furthering her nursing career before the diagnosis.  She's a fantastic performer and a great classmate.  I know she'll beat this cancer, but she still needs all the love and support she can get.

Erika, me, Lola, Layla, and Renee at the Ruby Room
Photo from Renee Holiday
If you missed the show, there will be more in the future.  In the meantime, click here to make a donation.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

All the Fun at All-con 2014

This recap was a little daunting to write because over the weekend of All-con, I was Hana Li the burlesque dancer, Hana Li the cosplayer, and Muggle me.  I'm trying to move away from my third identity when I'm doing a show or panel, but transitions take time.  Originally I was only going to focus on burlesque-related endeavors, but everything crosses over (which just complicates me trying to keep my Muggle identity separate).

As I've mentioned before, All-con was the first burlesque show I saw in Dallas.  Therefore, when Diamond Jim asked me to be in this year's show after seeing my DBF performance, I was more than thrilled.  Actually I couldn't believe it because despite being in a convention, the All-con show features a lot of well-known locals and even out-of-town guests.  I was ready to do the show, but there was one concern: I had four different panels that weekend.

It wound up being five panels because the convention decided to schedule Nerdlesque twice.  After hearing good words about my History of Burlesque panel with Black Mariah last year, I proposed one about nerdlesque.  To keep ourselves sane, I made it a more casual presentation where we talked about what's out there and the rising interest.  My other two panels called Ignorance and Fandom were about social issues in sci-fi, comic books, cosplay, and other fan communities: harassment, discrimination, under-representation of minorities, etc.   Jim assured me that call times would not conflict with any panels so I was doubly excited to both perform and talk about things I’m passionate about.
Nerdlesque panel
Photo by Long Le

On Friday, I took a little longer to get ready since I had to streak my hair for my Mako Mori cosplay.  I went for temporary dye because it seemed pointless to buy extensions for two short strands and being a performer, I have to now be cognizant of my appearance (not that it would have affected the routine I was doing, but I'd rather not have to deal with too big of a change in hairstyle, especially since I already cut it).  The Companion and I arrived just in time to slip into our friends' Dieselpunk 101 panel.  Larry and Tina were kind of enough to lend us their projector for the burlesque panels.  I also have to give a shout-out to my Ignorance and Fandom co-panelists: Ashley E., Callie Calypso, Frank H., and Helena Isis.  The discussion we had on Friday was great, and it made me more confident about the rest of the panels I had in store for the weekend.  Nerdlesque went well its first run, and afterward I got to learn about fluorescence in carnivorous plants.

The show was my focus the following day.  As a result, I chose a cosplay that allowed me to wear my glasses: Jet Girl from the Tank Girl movie.  Even though The Companion and I got featured in the Dallas Morning News gallery for the Steampunk Costume Contest, my outfit is by no means steampunk (and The Companion was not an entrant either) despite what the title might suggest.  The day was pretty easy-going until dinner time.  I almost wound up being late for my own panel, but Black Mariah was kind enough to wait while I got my contacts in and changed out of cosplay.  Immediately afterward, we had to meet up with Diamond Jim and La Divina to get ready for the show.  La Divina had brought her homemade macarons, and they were absolutely delicious.

Since I was the only dancer with just one routine, Angi B. Lovely recruited me to be the ghost in her Scooby Doo act.  It was fun being campy and pervy although I wish I could have seen what I looked like on-stage.  The crowd loved the classic acts as well as the nerdlesque ones.  The nerves started to kick in because everybody was so good and I was opening the second act.  However, the minute the lights came up for my act, I heard someone in the front row recognize that I was reading Final Crisis (originally I was reading Fables to show that there's more to comics than DC and Marvel, but I realized that nobody could see it so I went with something that had a bigger, bolder cover).  That's when I knew that my routine was just perfect for the All-con crowd.

I didn't stay around too late because we were commuting and there were two panels left on Sunday.  I also had to get into my Wonder Girl cosplay, which I didn't have time to complete. I actually resorted to using the bra I had made for my Clever Girl Cabaret stage kitten outfit because the material I bought to make a new "W" was more transparent than expected.  Sunday's Ignorance and Fandom discussion, which wound up getting featured in the Dallas Examiner.  That was followed by the second round of Nerdlesque.  Black Mariah was dressed as Wonder Woman so that was really fitting. It was cool to see a number of people ask about where they could take burlesque lessons, and even after the panel, I came across a couple of guys expressing interest in it.  I hope everybody's All-con experience was as awesome as mine.  I'm already excited for next year's con.

Thanks to Mike McGee for covering the panel!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

All-con cosplay photos by Neither Noir

My apologies for disappearing on y'all.  I was busy working on a new routine (that, of course, had to have a complex costume) so I haven't been able to catch up on entries.  Next up will be my All-con recap, but in the meantime, here are some photos of my cosplays from that weekend by the fine folks of Neither Noir.

Mako Mori - Pacific Rim

Jet Girl - Tank Girl (film version)

Wonder Girl - Young Justice (90s version)
For more photos, check out my facebook album.