Thursday, August 14, 2014

Touching in with the Toronto Burlesque Festival

Oh Canada, you're more expensive than I realised, hotter than I thought and apparently, come Winter, well according to the locals, winter will break me.
I arrived a week before the Toronto Burlesque Festival opened, my first days were spent getting used to Toronto's streets, a fairly easy grid of busy arterial streets interspersed with leafy suburban areas.
Perth expat Agatha Frisky found me loitering on a street corner my first morning and took me on a walking tour of downtown Toronto including Kensington Markets, an area filled with vintage boutiques, cafes, organic food shops, restaurants, print shops and a burlesque school.
The Toronto School of Burlesque run by local dancer, Red Herring is next to Bellevue Square which comes alive on Tuesday nights with fire twirlers and music, it's hard to choose between watching the fire twirlers or watching the classes through the plate glass window.

I dropped by the school on the first day of the festival, Red was rehearsing with her horse Illian. Virginian performer Deanna Danger was chilling in a corner and Blaze the cat was being hopelessly cute- until you patted her stomach when she became hopelessly angry and latched on to your offending hand with claws as sharp as hooks.

Agatha Frisky with Blaze
I stayed in on Thursday night and missed Hotel Tryst, I hadn't realised there was a proper show on that night and from all accounts I missed something special.
 Friday was a warm day which I really felt as I power walked to the Mod Club on College street to do a quick tech run. The stage at Mod Club is mid sized, floorboarded, smooth and polished. Tech went smoothly although I felt a bit unprepared lacking costumes and back up dancers.
My Erte act seems to be cursed... or perhaps it's the lack of dancers and costumes at the tech that leads to malfunctions... hmm...

Mod club running tech
I headed home to grab some food, an omelette for protein, oats to sustain me, coffee because I'd only had two earlier in the day.

Australya represent! In my ABF 2014 tee
Agatha was performing in the second act of the Dangerous Liasons show and arrived early - backstage was big but mirror space was hot property.

Putin on my make up. Yeah. So that's actually Wrong Note Rusty and me making awful puns together.
Regina and Kitty Litteur were to be my back up dancers, we organised a rehearsal but it fell through so we managed a super quick explanation backstage with a final "if it all goes wrong, just kneel down and I'll deal" which was lucky because one of my veils unclipped early in the piece leaving Regina to quickly kneel down and me to deal!

Kitty performed in the early show before joining me in the Late show.

And one more with Kitty... being a bat. Or something. You be the judge. Caption this or whatev's
Photo by Ruth Gilson

Photo by Chris Hutcheson
 Agatha Frisky performed her Love is Blind fan act in the second half of theDangerous Liasons show.
Waiting backstage on the stairs she applied a blindfold whence I questioned her wisdom in descending in heels, a panel skirt and with her hands full of feathers... but she's an agile creature and made it steadily and safely to the stage.
Security guy was super happy with his job that night. Essentially watching performers go on stage in costume and return half naked.

Agatha on stage at the end of her act
We had the choice of dancing or eating after the show... I was tired and hungry so headed to Lake View diner with Red Herring and Deanna Danger where I ate too many sweet potato fries and too much chocolate malt milkshake... Perhaps a third choice should have been to go home and rest my stomach and feet.

Waiting in a line at 2am outside Lakeview
Saturday night bloomed early, I reluctantly took my headache to a pole class at Brass Vixens and coffee at Jimmys in Kensington,I had meant to sign up for the classes that were being offered by Dr Lucky, PerleNoire and Inga Ingenue but a lack of a job means that funds are tight.

Love that the artist passes were customised!!
I prepared for the Saturday show slowly, thinking I didn't need to leave for the Mod Club until 7:30. A message from Kitty at 7pm telling me that the Early Show was already underway and that she was on soon,  got me moving, but not quickly enough to see her Attack of the 50 Foot Woman act I did however make it in time to see another Aussie, The Great Gadso rip it up on stage.
The Great Gadso brought it, the Canadians loved it, backflipping, butt bouncing, sunglass wearing, exotic bird dancing, back up girls samba-ing, high energy act.

The Great Gadso and his samba back ups including Regina Denata and Agatha Frisky
Photo by Chris Hutcheson

I was watching from upstairs near the entrance, hanging with Deanna Danger, Kitty Litteur, Albert Cadabra, Danger Doll, Bianca Boom Boom and Angela MccConnell who was shooting centre stage back. I was wearing a black flocked body suit and found that by simply extending an arm for others to stroke I was causing a lot of pleasure- should have asked for tips or, as I learnt from Red Herring, "make it hail!"

At the finale of the Early show we headed up College to Smoke's Poutine where Deanna and I attempted to share a vegetarian poutine. It was gross. Poutine is really awful. (all views expressed in this blog are my own, you may love poutine, it may be your staple diet, your grandmother possibly invented it, I will sticked to hotcakes and maple syrup) everyone else was happy to assist with my share.

Photo from Bianca Boom Boom

It reminds me of school lunch I had in Glasgow when I was 8. Nuff said.
I ran into some of the girls who'd been samba-ing in Gadso's act at Harry's, Regina said she'd skipped the poutine in favour of fries and ketchup- she's got the smarts.
We walked back for the late show and upstairs in the artists mezzanine I found Agatha and Gadso chilling. I filched Gadso's seat but only made it through the first half before my back started cramping and I headed home.

BUT not before seeing Kitten de Ville's Garden of Eden act, loved the track, MIA's Bad Girls and to be fair, Kitten really doesn't have to do much more than laze around on stage for people to love her, yet her movement is so energetic and involved.
I'd seen Kitten's producer's act the night before, it was taught to her by Burlesque legend Dixie Evans who originally performed it in the 1950s.
Backstage on Saturday night the chair was just casually standing on the stairs, it felt wrong to sit in it so I took a picture instead.

Gotta respect fellow performers props and costumes, never touch unless they offer.
Hugely grateful to Coco Framboise, Ava Noir and Sauci Calla for having me be part of the Festival and to all of Toronto's community, including Red Herring and Chris Mysterion for welcoming me to Canada and showing me the ropes.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Three years of the Perth International Burlesque Festival

Headed by Adora Derriere and Coco Poppin' from Sugar Blue Burlesque the Perth International Burlesque Festival has been hitting its stride from year one.

This year I would be without Perth locals Agatha Frisky and Kitty Litteur who have escaped the cat race and are tending the stages in Toronto - where I'll soon be joining them!
I arrived Thursday afternoon and flagged down a dapper looking Charlie D.Barkle in a three piece grey suit. He took me to Maylands where one of my hosts, Perrie (Ruby Slippers) was waiting on the sunny porch steps.

With Lulu Liquer at the opening party, photo by David Wooley
Ruby accessorised my dress, adding a fur stole, black gloves, necklace and fancy updo to my vintage black velvet gown.
The opening party was great, a chance to mingle and catch up with friends from all over Australia who had made the trek West to Perth as well as the locals who are always in fine form.
From Lallah Rook we moved on to Devilles nightclub where kareoke was in full swing and Magnus was holding court on stage.
Dumplings at Darlings
We took over Darlings for late night dumplings and drinks and then retired for a thankful night in bed.
I awoke after a short five hour sleep and spent the morning sneaking around the house trying not to wake the Maylands girls. Chat their cat was quick to sense that someone was awake and came out to the kitchen to wail for food.

Chat testing the smoothie
Ruby rose to make me a super super food smoothie of banana, cacao, chia see, milk, yoghurt and bee pollen. She tested me for allergies by insisting I rub the bee pollen on my hand.

Charlie dropped by around 11:30 with a giant cardboard box that Anne and I deconstructed to create a crate, we took a tea break before Anne armed herself and painted in the wood grain.

The Amazing Anne (Flying Wolf Co) at work
My phone was still set to Tasmanian time when I  ran outside to where Anne was enjoying a peaceful moment with a cuppa. I fell to the ground in mock pain  and said dramatically "Oh GOD, I'm due at Tech and we haven't finished." As I said this something clicked and I realised... It was only 1:30 and we had another two hours before I needed to leave. Cue me slinking away to make Anne some more tea.

Almost done!
Tech was finished quickly and I headed to the Fremantle markets where I discovered chocolate macadamia infused coffee. SO good.

Freo market's Coffee Connection
Dark of the Night Cabaret was held at the Fly By Night, a large hall  in Fremantle with a spacious stage and a large backstage area. It was a subdued but happy group of performers that settled in to get ready. We shared a large mirror in the dim area, faces ducking in and out at different angles as make up was applied and hair curled.

Is it lucky to hug a unicorn?
I was debuting a brand new act which was exciting but a bit daunting. The costume is by Zoe Felice and although I'm happy with the first section and received some good feedback, the second section needs some work.
Photo by John Leonard
Photo by John Leonard

Photo by John Leonard

Photo by John Leonard
I huddled over the quinoa salad after performing with a couple of the other performers, the food backstage was impressively good and we shunned the backstage gossip to eat our way through three bowls of salad.

Post performance- eating ALL the good food!

Curtain call! Photo by John Leonard

I skipped the after party and fell into bed, this time I slept a good 8 hours, waking in time to get ready for Coco L'ectrics Kicks and Spins workshop. We grabbed a quick coffee from Uncle Joe's before hitting up King st dance centre.

Yeeeah good signwriting!
Perrie with her honey layer cake
The workshop was excellent, fairly easy choreography but a strong emphasis on musicality and building on simple movement to add complexity.

Kicks and spins!
Charlie was in the class and ran Ruby and I home so I could pick up my costume before heading out to tech at the Astor Theatre.
I was one of the first there and once the two stage kittens arrived took them through the choreography they needed to know for Erte. Casey and Jess were fantastic and took it all in stride.
I ran across to Planet Book where Anne was working and then checked out the local general store where I stocked up on post show food.

Backstage was packed but everywhere there was laughter, jokes, costume appreciation and support.
My wig had previously slipped a bit while performing but I stuck about 30 bobby pins into my hair and it felt fairly solid- and itchy!

Backstage with Coco Lectric
I was feeling confident with my Erte act as tech had gone well but unfortunately by the time the kittens had cleared the stage and ran to where I was standing in the wings, Asher the emcee had finished his intro and the music had began. I told the kittens to just "GO!" and strode out looking calmer than I felt.

Photo by John Leonard
Photo by John Leonard
The girls (I imagine) followed me out and sadly one of the four veils detatched from my neck, but we persevered and after I realised what had happened - I have a clear image of Jess's apologetic face as she raced past me with the detatched fabric- I just kept going and tried to focus on the choreography and the new end.

Curtain call! Photo by Rachael Barrett
 Backstage I hunched over and devoured my hommus leading Bella de Jac to check that I was ok!

When not eating all the hommus I was posing with Virtue Van Tassel
The Afterparty was indecently close, at the bar across the street. Alyssa Kitt held court on a couch (her feet were sore) Bunni and mr Lambada joined us for a while and Ginger Leah Rye perched on the chaise couch.

Posing with Alyssa Kitt and Ruby Slippers
Sarah Park gave Ruby and I a lift back to Maylands and I spent a while scrubbing my face free of the pancake- I had already started deconstructing, removing my eyelashes and hairpins at the bar, a sure sign that I need to go home.

Brunch at Bread in Common with an assorted group of mostly Perth natives. Bread in Common is, funnily enough, a bakery, however they do have a decent gluten free menu. I had the sauteed mushrooms with macadamia nuts and a giant banana smoothie and felt pretty much like the hungry hippo after it's eaten ALL the marbles. Amazing.

C'mon, tell me we don't pull up well!
We checked out the Retro market and then headed to a bar where assorted performers slowly arrived in stages. Most of us were past legible conversation but we tried anyway.
Ruby and I caught yet another lift with the awesome Charlie, back to Maylands where I was force fed a gluten free pizza with SIX different types of cheese, force fed meaning they politely informed me they had ordered me delicious food which made me feel like I just couldn't refuse. (who'd wanna!)
I caught the red eye with the Miss Kitty's Meow girls, it was a full flight and being someone who can't sleep on planes I spent three hours glaring at the seat in front of me and wishing I could sleep like my reclining rowmate. Instead I watched The West Wing, my new favourite binge show, second only to House of Cards.
We arrived in Melbourne at 5:45am and spent the next three hours sitting in massage chairs, wandering the airport, cartwheeling through the halls and - if you're Oopsy Daisy- sleeping on the floor.

Nothing to see here...

Thanks to Mel and Mel and the cast and crew of Sugar Blue Burlesque. You gals (And guys) know how to put on a show!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Taking it all off

It's the middle of winter in Tasmania, I'm talking frosty mornings, dull grey skies and sitting inside watching your breath turn white while your fingernails turn blue.
So, not the best time to be getting naked, in public, while reading or swimming.
But let's not let the cold get in the way of gratuitous nudity.

MONA took care not to offend the sensibilities of the Sunday dog walkers
Reading at NGR- Naked Girls Rock
Photo by CezB photography

Naked Girl's Reading was started in March 2009 by Michelle L'Amour and Frankie Vivid in Chicago. The Tasmanian chapter has been taken on by local burlesque performers Scarlett Jezebel and Velvet Sway. The theme was rock 'n' roll and I was reading two excerpts from The Real Frank Zappa Book.

Backstage with NGR producer Scarlett Jezebel
Picturing your audience naked doesn't seem prudent when you're reading, out loud, naked.
Instead, after settling on my tummy (I thought the audience needed some butt time) I focused on the excerpt I was reading, trying to remember to talk slowly and make the story come alive- Frank Zappa is not without humour and I was reading about groupies giving blow jobs and making plaster casts of band members... members.

Sitting up for the second reading
My copy of Zappa is dog eared and creased because, as I told Richard from Cracked and Spineless during the Q and A section, "I really do like Zappa." Turns out Richard does too but his girlfriend not so much. I told her to persevere, it's an acquired taste like coffee. Maybe.

Q and A session
My ex, Kier who introduced me to Zappa got too many mentions as in the Q and A I got too many questions. Kier also introduced me to ZZ Top, Kier likes all the good music. Happily all my past boyfriends have had good taste in music, I'm yet to date someone who likes crap like Eiffel 65.

Hobart at 6:50... You can just see the lights of Rafael Lazano- Hemmer's articulated Intersect on the right

After the reading came the swimming, the MONA Nude Solstice swim, part of Dark MOFO Winter festival. On Sunday morning 700 nude dickheads in 700 swimming caps took a swim at Sandy Bay's Long Beach- I don't know if the caps were for warmth or to make us more of a homogeneous mass of bottoms.

I had promised to do the swim with my friends Phoebe and Anita, Phoebe is a mate from Melbourne, Phoebe had forgotten how cold it is in Tasmania. I don't think she'll ever forget.

So many of us turned up to swim that we were divided into two groups (those who turned up before 7:20 and those who didn't) the second group stood in a long line, scouring the faces of the first lot looking for hints of pain and shock.
At 7:42am smoke rose, drums steadily beat and the beach was strewn with white towels as the first wave ran into the water. Five minutes later they were out again, gathering at drums of fire placed along the sand.

20 minutes later it was our turn, we marched to a changing room and stripped, men and women, young and old, in my group there seemed to be more young than old, we held our towels around us, more for warmth than modesty and gathered on the beach in front of a crowd of curious onlookers. We didn't have to wait long, the drums started to beat, the flares expelled plumes of orange smoke, I grabbed Phoebe's hand, she grabbed Anita's and screaming like banshees we plunged into the water.

Photo by Bec Fitzgibbon MONA

It was very very cold, we waded out to hip height, once the water was over our hips I plunged my body in, keeping my head out of the water, it was shocking, the kind of shock that makes you wonder how you're still breathing. I struck out to the pontoon, fixated on ignoring the stabbing cold that was eating away at my vagina. After the first minute, the water was bearable except for there! Phoebe and Anita followed suit and shortly after we made it to the buoys, about 50 metres off shore, the signal came to get out again.

Getting out was slower and more difficult than striking out to the buoys but once back on shore we raced to grab a sandy trodden towels and join the huddles at the fire drums.

Getting dressed was also harder but done in double quick time when I realised I had some cash on me for coffee. We gathered to watch the sun rise and talk over the experience, "exhilarating, fucking freezing, let's do it again next year."

Post swim coffee!
Can't mention Dark MOFO without mentioning the laser cats at Faux Mo. I didn't get naked at Afterlife but I figure everyone deserves to know the wonder of Laser cats.


Winter Feast and Ferris Wheel of Death