Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My First BHoF Weekender - Day 4 (and 5)

Sunday was the final official day of BHoF, and in spite of the desire to sleep in, I wanted to make the most of it.  Carmen and I went to the Legends Q&A which was one of my favorite things of the weekend.  The legends had so many great stories.  I was shocked to hear how young some of them were when they started.  When I was 14, I didn't know what to do with myself.  I mustered up the courage to ask them a question: what is something we have today that they wish was around back then?  Although some of the legends misinterpreted my question to be about what they missed from the past—the general consensus being live music—, I appreciated the insight.  It made me feel lucky that we have the internet, mp3s, and cell phones.

Photo from Carmen St. Cloud
After the panel, I spent a long time looking for the right souvenirs to bring back home and called The Companion.  I got down to the pool just in time for the fashion show.  The nice thing about being short is that I can slip in between people without blocking their view.  Then it was time to hit the water, where a bunch of us gathered for a burly conga line.

For Sunday night, Apple Angel had gotten together a My Little Pony group.  Since she was doing Twilight Sparkle (the pony that I had already cosplayed), I spent the week before BHoF trying to figure out whether to do Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy.  The former suited my tomboy style, but the latter was more my personality, especially among the bold and outgoing burlesque crowd.  I settled for Fluttershy since I had a pink wig and an outfit that, though made me feel under-dressed, would suffice.  Had I known Kay Licious had put together a Fluttershy ensemble, I would have gone for Rainbow Dash.  However, the nice thing with cosplay is the more, the merrier!

Photo by Ed Barnas
I could easily see why the Icons and All-Stars won their titles.  There was so much attitude, fierceness, and creativity.  My favorites were Tigger! whose clever take on a classic strip made me disregard my dislike of phalluses, Dolls of Doom who had me fangirling over their high tech costumes and Heelys, and Perle Noire who always brings 110% to her performances.  I also enjoyed Dusty Summers' magic act; it was simple but much better than what I saw with Criss Angel.  Even though awards and speeches dragged the night out, I understood the importance of recognizing influential individuals and key players.  They worked hard to help make burlesque what it is today.

how you do BHoF
with no checked bags

Carmen and I decided that this was the night to party it up, but most of our friends had either turned in early or were M.I.A.  Since I had congratulated Mr. Gorgeous during intermission (he's so sweet), I went looking for Midnite Martini.  I found her and was able to give her my praise (she's so sweet too).  Then I came across Carmen who had found Blaze by the slots.  We decided that we would go play a little bit since most people were chatting and smoking outside the party venue.  I wound up breaking even and decided to head upstairs to pack.  A part of me wished I had stuck around the party and danced a bit or at least tried to talk to more people, but I think I did good for an introverted noob.  Maybe next time I go I'll socialize more.

Heading up early to pack turned out to be a good idea since I somehow figured out how to cram everything into my two carry-ons.  My flight was in the morning so there wasn't really time for good-byes although Carmen kept me company after I found out there was a long delay.  I was able to get standby for an earlier flight that was also delayed.  Boy was that an anxiety-inducing wait.  I was sad that BHoF was over, but I wanted to go home.

Especially since I had a lot of things waiting afterward…like a routine to finish and submit.  I thought the deadline was a month later than it actually was.  On top of that, I came back to news that I was accepted into the San Antonio Burlesque Festival.  These couple of months after BHoF have been crazy, but that's a post for another day.  In the meantime, see you in San Antonio this weekend!

To read my previous BHoF posts, click on the links: Days 0-2 and Day 3
To see more pictures, visit my facebook album

Saturday, July 19, 2014

My First BHoF Weekender - Day 3

The one must-have item from Burlesque Hall of Fame wasn't even official merchandise; it was a rhinestone necklace spelling out one's stage name from DuBerry's.  There was a practical function: it made the perfect burly name tag.   Lily LeCroix and I didn't have one so we, along with Black Mariah and Carmen St. Cloud, made it our mission to hit up with the indoor swap meet.  I kept an eye out for potential costume pieces or a nicer dress to wear to one of the shows, but I kept a tight fist around my wallet.  I did, however, get my "name tag", an eyebrow pencil, some hair clips, and a belt—for a total of less than $15.  After a sketchy ride back, we hit up the Burlesque Bazaar again, where I did find a costume piece from Booty and the Geek.

Our pre-show dinner became a battle
between the blues and the reds.
People were not kidding when they said I would overdose on burlesque by the end of the Tournament of Tease.  Two performances in and I already had two of my favorites for Best Debut.  Lisa Fa'alafi gave a huge middle finger to Polynesian stereotypes and managed to make leaves look chic.  Then Jeez Loueez brought so much attitude to the stage as Rufio, dancing to Michael Jackson.  Rounding out my top three was Bonnie Fox who Charleston-ed faster than anybody I'd ever seen and into the Best Debut and Most Dazzling Dancer titles.  I was also rooting for Dallas' own Missy Lisa who was the obvious pick for Most Classical.

The next three categories sped by due to fewer competitors and a lot of high energy performances.  Since I considered Japan my second home (I lived there for a year), I was eager to see Circus de Moccos in Best Group.  They did not disappoint, and I truly appreciated their whimsical and silly take on sexuality.  The Land of Sweets won the category, and while they stuck to more traditional dance, I had to give them props for their technical skills and the homage to my favorite ballet, The Nutcracker.  Although Best Troupe had me biased with the Ruby Revue competing, the ladies really were on point in every little aspect.  Even looking back at the photos now, I'm impressed with how everybody's legs were extended to the same height.  I was super stoked for them.

Ruby Revue also gets my pick for cutest dress theme,
as they matched their gowns to their costumes.
King of Boylesque was my favorite to watch because all four contenders had such a different aesthetic.  They represented all forms of masculinity—from graceful and androgynous beauty to "Macho Man".  I couldn't pick a favorite…except that Mr. Gorgeous did win my heart by building his act around one of my favorite things in the world, ice cream.  He won the judges' hearts too, as he got the crown at the end of the night.

Finally the Miss Exotic World/Queen of Burlesque competition came.  It wasn't as diverse as some of the other categories, which was a little disappointing, but everybody was dancing at such a top level that I was still in awe.  The ones who did stand out to me were the ones who took a different approach.  Iva Handfull rocked her suit and giant mohawk; she brought the fierceness that I've admired since I knew who she was.  Melody Mangler's transformation from a devout Puritan to a fiery enchantress was unique and well thought-out— I always love a good narrative.  The two I was cheering loudest for were Midnite Martini and Ginger Valentine for obvious reasons.  The former epitomized grace, innovation, and boldness with her mix of aerials and classic burlesque while the latter displayed the perfect balance of elegance and raw sexuality.  I was super stoked when Ginger got second runner-up with the gorgeous Medianoche getting first runner-up.  Then I became even more elated as Midnite Martini took the title.  Very rarely do we have a woman of color as Queen of Burlesque (especially an Asian), and Midnite Martini's ability to take the most classic moves to a new level is inspiring.

I helped Carmen her mission
too: getting a pic with the
handsome Trojan Original.
After that marathon, I didn't have that much energy to party.  However, I did want to congratulate the winners, particularly my classmates and teachers.  I also made it my mission to tell Circus de Moccos "Otsukaresama deshita", which translates as "Thank you for your hard work" and is something you say to performers afterward in Japan.  Sometimes I wish we had a standardized phrase like that in English because "I loved your performance" feels repetitive after a while and "You were awesome" sounds corny.  I don't know where to find the middle ground between expressing appreciation and coming off as a super fangirl.  Being overly self-conscious of being the latter kept me from talking to more people.  There was one more night left so I didn't stress about it too much, especially since I had a lovely day and evening with friends and great performances.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

My First BHoF Weekender - Days 0 to 2

aboard The High Roller
Last year I had passed up the invited to go to BHoF because I had already committed to A-kon.  Before the anime convention was even over, I had made up my mind to go to Vegas the next year.  Despite my determination, I was apprehensive.  I knew BHoF had the potential to make my social anxiety skyrocket the same way A-kon had.  I arrived at the airport wondering what I had gotten myself into, but then Carmen St. Cloud, my BHoF roommate, showed up and I saw the sun.  We were going to have a lot of fun that weekend.

Since we arrived a day earlier, we explored the Strip and saw Criss Angel's Believe.  The show was entertaining but not the best I've seen in Las Vegas.  Afterward, we rode The High Roller, a new attraction that took us over the entire city.  The view was gorgeous and a good way to cap off a night of doing non-burlesque things.

The official first day of BHoF began early due to the time difference and us being early risers (for burlesquers).  I had bought an afternoon ticket for the Shimmy Shuttle to the Burlesque Hall of Fame museum so Carmen and I staked out a spot by the pool.  The Shimmy Shuttle was fun although I wish I had a travel buddy since everyone else seemed to have one.  Tiny as it was, the museum was wonderful.  The featured exhibit outlined the history of burlesque, beginning with The Black Crook and Lydia Thompson's British Blondes.  Having researched the history for my All-con panel, there wasn't much I hadn't all ready known, but it was cool seeing those flyers and photos in real life.  Plus we got to admire the exquisite details of the costumes up close.

I don't think I've been as excited
to see a G-string.
By the time I returned to The Orleans, the pool had been taken over by burlesquers.  Again I couldn't stay for every long because Carmen and I had to change, get dinner, meet up for the Texas photo op, and find our seats.  Sadly we couldn't really enjoy the buffet due to the time crunch.  At least we had a decent sized group for the photo op.

Photo by Ed Barnas
Day 1's show was Movers, Shakers, and Innovators which highlighted dancers at their most creative.  My three favorite acts were: Sizzle Dizzle whose tribute to her friend with cancer brought tears to all our eyes (never thought that would happen at a burlesque show), Rubensque Burlesque who fiercely embraced their curves and gave a big F-U to modern day beauty standards, and Ray Gunn's Jabberwocky which made the English major in me squee with delight.  His attention to all the aspects of staging is really admirable.  I was super inspired by everyone that night.

The highlight of Day 2 was the Finishing School class, "Latin Moves with Tai Ping".  I was nervous about not being skilled enough of a dancer, but the class turned out to be easy-going and fun.  Tai Ping and Kristina Nekyia made a great team, and I came away with more knowledge of Latin dance and how to create drama.  A bonus was our mini Q&A session with Tai Ping and learning how she got started in burlesque.

Photo by James Lester
After browsing the Burlesque Bazaar, Carmen and I wound up checking out the Barecats Bowling Invitational because we knew it would be wild.  Some of the Ruby Revue ladies were participating so we got to cheer them on.  There were a lot of fun costumes and wild moments.  It made me want to participate even though the game ended so close to when the doors for the Titans of Tease Reunion Showcase would open.  Maybe one year…

Blaze, me, and Carmen
Being a newcomer, I know my opinions don't carry much weight.  However, I shared The World Famous *BOB*'s disappointment at the number of empty seats.  This was the legends' night!  I thought that was what BHoF was about, and the competition was just a bonus.  I felt terrible that my exhaustion and an increasingly upset stomach (most likely from dinner) prevented me from being less attentive than I could have been because the legends deserve all the props.  It was hard to pick a top three, but mine were: Lovey Goldmine who made us green like our outfits with her rockin' body and then shocked us by going down in her splits (and this was her return to the stage!), Holiday O'Hara whose commanding seated performance culminated with her standing (and the rest of us followed suit), and Gabriella Maze who impressed the belly dancer in me by fiercely moving to Beats Antique.  Toni Elling received Legend of the Year, and she was the embody of grace both on- and off-stage.

World Famous *BOB* told us to "become what you see tonight".  Seeing all the legends on-stage really hammered that message home.  Regardless of the fact that this is really a hobby for me, I wanted to work harder and be someone worthy of carrying on the legacy of burlesque.

Carmen, the legendary Dee Milo, me, and Lily LeCroix
Photo from Lily LeCroix

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Upcoming shows: San Antonio Burlesque Festival

As I'm writing up my BHoF recaps, I would like to announce that I will be performing in the Friday Night Showcase of the San Antonio Burlesque Festival.

Click here for tickets

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Spectacular Lessons with Penniless Writers and Pink Feathers

My recap of Texas Burlesque Peepshow's Moulin Rouge- inspired show actually starts two months before the show.  That was when I decided to put together a routine.  Plenty of time, right?  I failed to realize that my "Black Glasses" act had been brewing in my mind much longer than the month it took to put it together.  There was also the issue of making a complicated costume, which I couldn't have done without the help of my wonderful friend Mandy.

This is the face of a tired
penniless writer.
The premise of my act was inspired by Christian at the beginning of the movie and "Nature Boy".  While I liked the song, I thought I would go with something less obvious and more adaptable.  I'd been wanting to dance to "Hurricane" by MeByMe, an old music project from a college acquaintance.  That must have been a strange facebook message for him to have received.  With the time crunch, precise choreography, and monster of a costume, I started to become distracted from other aspects of my life.  In a way, I was turning into my character with the frustration and lack of sleep.

When I first considered performing, I read a lot about needing to have a thick skin.  I've never handled rejection well, but being a writer and constantly reminding myself that I was doing burlesque for fun steeled my soul.  Nevertheless it still hurt to learn that I wasn't cast.  What really got me was knowing that I could've done much better had I not procrastinated.  To regroup, I decided to put that routine to rest for now, but I did continue to go to dance class.  There, another opportunity presented itself.

Black Mariah had been putting together a fan dance for Spectacular Burlesque!  Since I wanted to focus on my solo act, I wasn’t sure about joining in.  However, the routine, which was set to Valeria's "Rhythm of the Night", was too irresistible to not learn.  It gave me a chance to work on my fan dance technique, and I finally was motivated to buy proper ballroom shoes.

Las Tentadoras Plumas Rosadas

I was stoked at how our routine had come together by show day.  We had different experience levels with both the dance and performance in general, yet we all came together on-stage and backstage with putting on costumes and make-up.  I did almost have a meltdown two acts before ours because one of my false eyelashes had started to fall down.  I had been struggling with them all day and with another pair the night before.  Since there wasn't enough time to reapply, I ripped the other one off and got ready to step out.  With all the gorgeous fans and even more beautiful ladies, I don't anybody noticed.

I think the false eyelash failure was a sign that I'm not really classical at all.  That's not to say they're not a staple for all of burlesque, but I had struggled to come up with a pink and black costume too.  Then there was the realization as I watched the other performances that the routine I submitted really did not fit in with the show at all; that is, my vision of the Moulin Rouge— the free, bizarre Bohemian spirit— wasn't the vision of Spectacular Burlesque!  Although I've had the inkling for a while, I didn't want to pigeonhole myself as only a neo or nerdlesque dancer.  Now I know I shouldn't force things to happen.  Group numbers can be where I get my taste of classical, and I have an idea of how I can improve my writer routine.  At the after-party, Jay Scarlet did a Tarot reading for me that told me to stick to my guns with whatever I'm working on.  I think that summed up the major takeaway from this experience pretty well.

For more photos, visit my facebook.