Video Review: Go-Go-Robics and Go-Go-Robics II

Dear Constant Reader,

These may have been the first burlesque-related DVDs I bought when I was just starting out *mumble* years ago. I still think they’re a ton of fun.

         

On each DVD Angie, Tara, and Helen take you through a high-energy go-go routine that will definitely get your blood pumping. The music is catchy and they wear adorable home-made go-go outfits. Each video has a warm-up, a cool down, a step by step breakdown of the moves, a run of the entire routine with captions, and a chance to do it without coaching. The moves are perky and have cute names. The Pontanis are also perky and cute.

The original Go-Go-Robics is to “Chica Alborotada” by Los Straightjackets featuring Big Sandy. The three of them wear ridiculous tiny sombreros and go-go outfits covered in ball fringe. This routine is mostly classic go-go moves like the Mashed Potato and the Twist.

Go-Go Robics II uses the song “The Baracuda” by the 5.6.7.8’s. The routine contains almost twice as many dance moves, many of them named by the Pontanis, like Jazzercise Throwdown and Fancy Dancer Jog, although there are traditional moves like the Freddy and Pony.

Personally I like Go-Go-Robics 2 better, but that’s because of all the extras.

There’s “Five Minutes of Fun”, which is more like 10 minutes. You will learn a smattering of go-go moves, none of which were used in the workout. Some are classics like the Hully Gully and some were invented by the Pontani Sisters. There’s even a couple named after them, like “Angie’s Applesauce Stomp”. Then there’s little routine to practice them all.

There are two videos of Pontani Sisters’ routines: “Sterno” (with actual horses!) and “Italian Princess”. It’s a nostalgia trip — I saw “Italian Princess” when we performed with Burlesque-A-Pades.

My favorite by far is “In the Kitchen”, where the ladies cook four Italian specialties. It’s a blast to watch as they drink wine and walk you through how to make the dishes. You’ll want to be smashin’ and bashin’ garlic with a big glass of red after you watch this! I make Angie’s Gravy (marinara sauce) pretty much every summer and I always keep a stash in the freezer. Zuppe Ingese was a big hit too.

You can get the DVDs on Amazon for ridiculous prices or you can buy Go-Go-Robics II directly from Angie for a steal!

Angie also released a couple of solo go-go DVDs. Perhaps I’ll review those next.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 20 August 2019 at 12:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! A couple of announcements before we get to your tip.

Tonight we’ll be performing at Deacon Giles in Salem, MA. We’re only doing one show, so tickets are extremely limited. Don’t take your chances at the door — get them now! I’ve heard a rumor there will be a very special cocktail on the menu tonight…

Tomorrow we’ll be in Worcester at the Beer Garden Pavilion! We’re so thrilled to be performing burlesque as it should be… with live music! You might recognize some of the musicians from Unlucky in Love and The Wrathskellar.

Also, I’ve got a little poll going on my Patreon. You do not have to be a subscriber to participate.

And now on with your tip!

For a clean fabric edge, pull a thread.

You want a nice straight edge on fabric before you begin cutting, so you’ll know everything is on grain. My favorite way to do this is to pull out a thread, as shown, then trim the fabric along that line. The point of a pin works really well to tease out the thread. This method works for all woven fabrics and especially good to use on delicate material.

M2Like this costuming tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Burlesque Costuming.

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 16 August 2019 at 3:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! Here’s your tip!

Use stage directions.

It’s so much easier to give instructions to a performer or tech person, if we all speak the same language; in this case, a location on stage. Not all of us come from a theater background, so here’s a quick primer.

Imagine you’re standing in the middle of a stage. Look to your left, that’s stage left. To your right is stage right. Easy, no? The tricky part is if you’re standing in the audience; now if you look to your left, that’s stage right and also house left.

Now look out at the audience, you’re facing downstage. Turn around and now you’re looking upstage. I’m sure you’ve heard of “upstaging” someone. That happens when someone further back on the stage is drawing attention from the performer downstage and/or forcing them to turn their back on the audience to look upstage.

Why “up” and “down” instead of, say, “front” and “back”? Other than we already have a “backstage”? Until the 20th century stages were to be raked, that is, they sloped up away from the audience to improve the audience’s ability to see and hear the action. The performers were literally going up and down the stage as they moved closer and further from the audience.

Of course the very middle of the stage is center stage. You can also be center left, center right, down center, and up center. I usually specify “center center” for dead middle, but I’m not sure how common that is.

If everybody on the team uses these terms, you can be confident that everything and everyone ends up on the stage exactly where they’re supposed to be,

M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 9 August 2019 at 2:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Stripteaser’s Education

Dear Constant Reader,

I performed “The Stripteaser’s Education” at Hot in Topeka’s fundraising show in June. It’s an act that’s been around for a long time and seen some changes.

It’s adapted from Gypsy Rose Lee’s famous talking act. Rather than do a strict recreation, we changed and updated some of the wording. She references people and places that wouldn’t mean anything to our current audiences. Our version has changed over the years and we’ve thrown in a few New England references. For example, Gypsy used to say she’d attended Sweet Briar; I say Wellesley. Neither statement is true.

When I performed it in Topeka, I checked with the producer about using some local references. She gave me some suggestions and I worked them in. Instead of Wellesley, I used Washburn University plus a few other references specific to Topeka. From the cheers, they went over really well.

When I first started performing the act, I just wore gowns and gloves from my wardrobe, nothing special. In 2011, we gave the act to Devora for Madame Burlesque. We had a costumer for that show (our first tour!) and she made a lovely costume for D.D. based on a photo of Gypsy.

        

I used mostly the same costume when I did the act (we had to make a matching bra to fit me).

When I got the word I was going to do this act in Topeka, I decided to upgrade the costume, really make it match the photo. I had asked for advice in finding a hat like that when I learned, to my shock, we’d been laboring under a false assumption. That wasn’t Gypsy! It was Burgundy Brixx *as* Gypsy! Clearly our costume designed hadn’t done her research very well, but I admit, I hadn’t looked closely enough.

Well, there was absolutely no reason to recreate someone else’s interpretation of Gypsy. I went back to photos that I know were actually of Gypsy and picked out some of the hallmarks of her costumes — full skirt, modest blouse with a big collar, stockings, wide-brimmed hat.

The skirt came from The Wrathskellar. It was sort of inspired by a saloon girl look, with alternating panels of black lace over black jacquard and embroidered green lace. It has matching panties and a bra, so I figured I would use them. I also had a garter belt that coordinated nicely. The next challenge, the hat and the blouse.

I didn’t want to use the hat D.D. is wearing above. It doesn’t fit me very well and it doesn’t pack easily. I wanted to do this trip with just a carry-on and I also wanted to be able to have my ubiquitous sunhat. After some fruitless searching, I was in Emporium 32 and they had the perfect hat! Big brim, black straw, good price. I decided I’d give my signature leopard-print sunhat a break (I’ve been wearing it every summer for almost 20 years) and make this my new everyday hat, as well as use it in this performance. If I’d had more time, I would have added some big white roses and a new hat band for the show.

I looked all over for a blouse with the right look and just found nothing. I ended up grabbing the blouse from my “Li’l Red Riding Hood” act, but while it has the right shape, it’s a sturdy white cotton and didn’t blend so well with the lacy skirt. Fortunately, I still had some of the two kinds of lace I used to make the skirt. I used it to make a big collar, like Gypsy had in some iterations of her costume. It helped tie things together, and since it was just pinned in place, I can easily transfer it to a more appropriate blouse once I find or make one.

Lastly, I upgraded the pasties. They had just been black brocade with a ring of green rhinestones around the edge. Good for The Wrathskellar, but not exactly projecting glamour. Some radiating lines of more stones and they had sufficient sparkle.

And here’s a bit of the act on stage at Jayhawk Theatre.

Photos by Sarah Kietzman

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 7 August 2019 at 11:05 am  Leave a Comment  
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Friday Tip

Dear Constant Reader,

Happy Friday! And happy August! Here’s your tip!

Make your own bias tape.

Bias tape is great for finishing work on costumes, especially where you don’t want much bulk, like the edges of corsets. Its ability to smoothly curve makes it perfect for binding necklines, armholes, and hems.

Sure, you can buy it, but there’s a limited range of colors and most are a polyester-cotton blend. I think having a perfect match to your fabric makes for a more polished look.

It’s not as hard as it might seem with a couple of simple tools.

  • A rotary cutter, mat, and ruler. Use these to cut the bias strips. Make sure you’re cutting on the true bias, diagonally across the grain. Sometimes very slippery fabric shifts around making this s difficult process. You can read about a solution for that problem here.
  • A bias tape maker, as seen in the photo above. This simple little tool is the key to easy bias tape. The most tedious part of making your own tape is pressing the tiny little seam allowance under. This tool folds the long raw edges under for you! Feed the bias strip through the wide end and then pull with the little handle along the strip. Neatly folded tape comes out the narrow end!

    Tape makers come in multiple sizes for most standard widths of tape. Pictured is a 1/2″ tape maker. I also have a 1″, and you can get 1/4″, 3/4″ and 2″ as well. These tools make single-fold bias tape. If you want double-fold, you’ll need to make a tape twice the size of the desired result and then press it in half length-wise.

  • An iron. As you move the tape maker along the strip, press the tape as it comes out the narrow end to set the fold.
  • That’s it! You’re all set to make yards and yards of tape in no time.

    M2Like this costuming tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Burlesque Costuming.

    These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

    Published in: on 2 August 2019 at 3:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Friday Tip

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Happy Friday! I can’t believe I’ve never shared this tip with you before. It’s some of my standard advice to my students.

    Discard your costume pieces to the sides or back of the stage.

    You want to keep your performance area clear. You don’t want to be stepping over your costume bits while you move about the stage — or worse, treading on them. It’s potentially bad for you as a tripping or slipping hazard and definitely bad for the costumes. Also, it’s less distracting. The audience will be looking at you and not that abandoned crinoline in the middle of the stage.

    You may have noticed I didn’t tell you to discard toward the front of the stage. Part of that is visual aesthetics. As above, you don’t want the audience being distracted by clutter in front of your performance.

    Sadly, the other reason is that costume pieces so close to the audience can become a tempting target for souvenir hunters. I know it sounds nuts, but I have heard too many stories from performers about audience members grabbing pieces of their costumes from the stage and spiriting them away. It’s so heartbreaking to realize an expensive, one-of-a kind item is just gone. The audience member may think they’re being a fan, but they’re just a thief. Keep the temptation away!

    You could also take a page from our Legends and use a catcher to take your costumes after you remove them or perhaps have a decorative container in which to place your discards. These options also make life easier for the stage kittens.

    Photo of my discarded gloves at ABurlyQ by Eric Peters Photography

    M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

    These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

    Published in: on 26 July 2019 at 2:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Friday Tip

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Happy Friday! I hope you’re staying cool. Here’s your tip!

    Finish the ends of ribbons.

    Ribbons are so useful in costuming, but the cut ends fray easily and can dissolve into a mass of threads from one wrong pull. You could just tie a knot in the end, but it’s not that nice looking. Here are some attractive and easy finishes.

    Sewn: Fold the end of the ribbon twice, so the raw edge is neatly hidden and then stitch. No machine necessary — I prefer to sew these small hems by hand.

    Cut: Cut the ribbon on a diagonal (along the bias). I like the swallowtail shown in the picture, but a simple diagonal or an arrow shape work too.

    Sealed: Dab a little FrayCheck or fabric glue along the cut edge. I used glitter paint in the above example for a little contrast and sparkle.

    Melted: This is only for ribbons made from artificial fibers (most ribbons qualify). Hold the end of the ribbon near a flame. It will melt from the heat and neatly seal the edge. Don’t put the ribbon in the flame — we’re looking for melted, not burnt. I like to use one of those barbecue lighters for this method.

    Enjoy the clean finish on your ribbons!

    M2Like this costuming tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Burlesque Costuming.

    These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

    Published in: on 19 July 2019 at 2:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    In the Kitchen: Cherry Halo Pie

    Dear Constant Reader,

    It’s sour cherry season at The Manor! Well, it was sour cherry season — we finished picking the other day. As I write this, I’m listening to the birds chirping as they eat the last of the fruit still lingering on the tree. I’ve still got pounds and pounds of cherries to use, and I’ve been working away in the kitchen like mad for the past two weeks.

    I had the troupe and apprentices over to teach them how to make old-school G-strings (instructions are in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Burlesque Costuming!) and served them this cherry pie, from the 1953 cookbook 250 Superb Pies and Pastries.

    It’s very simple to make and the presentation is lovely. Bonus: you don’t have to deal with a top crust.

    You will need:
    Sugar, cornstarch, tapioca, salt, cherries, butter, heavy cream, and vanilla.

    First, make a pie crust for a 9″ pan. The recipe I used is below, but you could use your favorite recipe or even buy a crust. I promise I won’t judge.

    Mix up the sugar, salt, cornstarch, tapioca, and pitted cherries and pour into the prepared crust. Dot with butter. Bake at a high temperature for a short time then reduce the heat to moderate and bake until done.

    Let the pie cool and the filling thicken.

    Whip heavy cream to soft peaks, add sugar and vanilla and beat until stiff. Spread around the pie, leaving the center open, so it looks like a halo.

    Judging from the amount left over (none!), this one was a winner.

    Cherry Halo Pie
    1 1/4 cups sugar
    1 Tablespoon cornstarch
    2 Tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1 quart cherries, pitted
    1 Tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
    1 recipe Plain Pastry
    1 recipe Whipped Cream Topping

    Mix sugar, salt, cornstarch, tapioca, and cherries together. Line 9″ pie pan with pastry, add cherry mixture. Dot cherries with butter.

    Bake at 450F for 10 minutes; reduce temperature to 350F and bake 25 minutes longer.

    Let cool. Spread 1 recipe Whipped Cream Topping around pie, leaving the cherries in center uncovered.

    Plain Pastry
    2 cups sifted flour
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    2/3 cup shortening
    4 to 6 Tablespoons ice water

    Sift flour and salt together and cut in shortening. Add water a little at a time until mixture will hold together.

    Divide dough into 2 parts. Roll one out on a floured board. Line the piepan with it.

    This makes two crusts. Since the pie only needs one, you can freeze the other piece of dough until you need it.

    Whipped Cream Topping
    1 cup heavy cream
    1/4 cup sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla

    Whip cream until it make soft peaks. Add sugar and vanilla and beat until cream holds stiff peaks. If you have the time, chill your beaters and bowl before whipping the cream and always make sure your cream is cold. It will whip much faster if everything is cold.

    Enjoy!

    M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

    Published in: on 16 July 2019 at 2:02 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Friday Tip

    Dear Constant Reader,

    Happy Friday! Today’s tip comes from Scratch and it’s about intellectual property (IP), those intangible creations of one’s mind.

    When collaborating on a creation with someone, you can save a lot of heartache if everyone agrees in advance who can do what with the creation.

    If it’s an act, who gets to perform it and under what circumstances? If it’s a class, who gets to teach it? If it’s a recurring show at a venue or a troupe, who gets to use the name?

    It’s easier to decide about who owns something when there’s only one of it. A physical costume can only be in one place at one time, but what about the design of the costume? Does the designer retain the IP and can create another costume with the same design? Did the wearer purchase the rights to the design and can reproduce it? Was the design exclusive to this one costume and neither person can reproduce it?

    Here’s another example with something even more intangible, a dance: If you choreograph a duet with another performer and then perform it together, then what? Who owns the act? How can it be used in the future?

    Maybe the two of you agree that you will only perform the act together. Maybe you agree that each of you can teach the choreography to another dancer and perform it with them. Maybe you agree that the choreography can be taught to other dancers and does not need any members of the original partnership on stage. There are lots of options, but you both should decide on one and abide by it.

    I’m not saying you need have lawyers and contracts involved, but a solid understanding about who owns what before you start collaborating will save everyone hassle and heartbreak later.

    M2Like this tip? There are lots more in Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Better Burlesque.

    These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

    Published in: on 12 July 2019 at 3:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Hot in Topeka at Jayhawk Theatre

    Dear Constant Reader,

    I want to tell you about my latest travels, to Topeka, Kansas. Short version: it was fantastic and I’m very glad I went. Long version…

    I’m not entirely certain how I found the call for applications, but it came at just the right time. I was feeling rather down about my festival acceptance track record (way more “no” than “yes”) so on a lark, I applied. And was accepted! It wasn’t a festival, but a fundraiser for Jayhawk Theatare, a vaudeville house that’s in dire need of restoration, so I was very excited about the show.

    It’s not easy or inexpensive to get from Boston to Kansas City (the closest airport), so to make it work, I had a whirlwind trip, starting at 3:30am on Saturday and ending 3:30am on Monday. At least there was a nice symmetry to it.

    Anastacia Vulgar, the producer of the show, treated me like a rockstar at every turn. She arranged for transportation from and to the airport (over an hour away) and even put me up at her place. But it wasn’t just me; all the performers, most of whom were from out of town, were appreciated and got lovely perks: there was real food in the green room, someone else took care of selling our merch, we had an opportunity to teach, there was a very professional program (with mention of everyone’s Instagram), and even a little gift of some rhinestones. And I was paid so promptly I almost got whiplash.

    Jayhawk Theatre was built in 1926 and presented vaudeville and movies. In December of 1928, Dainty June and her act, including her sister, Rose Louise, performed on that very stage. Later that night June snuck out of her hotel and ran away with Bobby Reed, a dancer in her act, whom she had married secretly. Rose Louise went on, of course, to become Gypsy Rose Lee. The fact that I was on the same stage as those famous sisters was a bit overwhelming.

    The theatre is in rough shape. You can see how gorgeous it once was, but the painted decor is all damaged and the stage is basically bare. They’ve got a decent lighting and sounds set up, but I shudder to think of what the electrical is like. There are no theatre seats anymore, so there were chairs set up for the audience. The balcony wasn’t in use.

    The show was fantastic. If it didn’t sell out, it was damned close. The audience was so enthusiastic! There were 10 performers and like I mentioned, almost everyone had traveled quite a distance to be there. It was so good to see Twirlisha Devine, OD Kimani, Caramel Knowledge, and Jacqueline Boxx again and delightful to meet everyone else.

    I can’t do the show justice, but here are the performers, their acts (I got the names off the call-sheet, so forgive me of they’re not quite right), video when I could find it, and where they were from.

    Caramel Knowledge (Los Angeles, CA): Black Amour
    Tommy Gun (Flint, MI): Band Geek
    Miss Mina Murray (Boston, MA): The Stripteaser’s Education
    Mickie Sinn (Austin, TX): Break Up
    Lola Loquacious (Kansas City, MO): Masterpiece
    Valerie Veils (Tacoma, WA): Medusa
    INTERMISSION
    Twirlisha Divine (Bloomington, IN): Sugar in My Twirl
    Anya Neeze (Kansas City, MO): Desire
    OD Kimani (Madison, WI): Radioactive
    Jacqueline Boxx (Baltimore, MD): Blues
    Valerie Veils (Tacoma, WA): Glamour Cactus

    Our hostess was Violet O’Hara (Dallas, TX).

    My act, “The Stripteaser’s Education”, was inspired by Gypsy Rose Lee and her famous “The Psychology of a Stripteaser”. It’s a spoken-word piece and I wasn’t entirely sure how it would go over. Also I was nervous about using the microphone and about hitting my final cues. As it turned out, I nailed it. I might write a little more later about the act and the costume.

    After the show, most people went around the corner to a bar. I overcame my exhaustion long enough to put in an appearance and talk costuming with Valerie Veils.

    The next day was workshops. Unfortunately it sounded like most of them were canceled for lack of students. Burlesque is a pretty new thing in Topeka and the interest level just isn’t there yet. That did mean that Anastacia, Jacqueline, Twirlisha, Tommy and I could have a leisurely breakfast before it was time for my corsetry class. I had one very interested student who was a delight. I’m pleased with my presentation, but I’ve got a couple ideas to improve it even more.

    Then I had to bail on Caramel’s workshop on making showgirl headdresses to go to the airport. Tobias, Anastacia’s partner, was playing chauffeur for the weekend and rather than make him drive to and from Kansas City multiple times, I left along with Jacqueline Boxx, who had an earlier flight. However, because I had time to kill and I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to have real KC barbecue, we went to Q39 and I finally had burnt ends in their native land. I even managed to take the leftovers home for Scratch.

    Before I knew it, I had clicked my heels together three times and was back home with Albert A. Cat wondering if it had all been a dream. That might have just been the sleep deprivation.

    M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

    Published in: on 11 July 2019 at 2:03 pm  Comments (2)  
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