Expo: The Conference

Dear Constant Reader,

One of the wonderful thing about The Expo is The Conference, ably coordinated by Scandal from Bohemia and before her, Betty Blaize. It has developed into 4 tracks of classes over 2 days: movement classes, lectures, hand-on workshops, and panels. All sort of topics are covered from fan dancing and shimmies to taxes and contracts.

Despite having gone to bed quite late the night before, I was up bright and early Saturday morning to join my fellow Babydolls for the first class.

Boston Babydoll Boot Camp (Evie Sphinx): Evie regularly tortures us for 10 or 15 minutes at rehearsals. This was an entire hour of calisthenics. We did fast footwork across the floor. We did squats, pushups, dips, planks. I don’t even remember what all we did, but I was exhausted and sweating.

Stripteasing in Panel Skirts (Toni Elling): Miss Elling is a master of working with panels and she brought some from her collection for us to try out. Now I need to make some half-circle chiffon panel skirts…

Maximizing the Power of Hands and Gloves (Joe Paul Williams): This entire class focused on the movement of the hands, wrists, and forearms. We learned the relationship of the parts of the hand to other parts of the body, the symbolism, and mind-body-spirit connection. We never put on a single glove and yet I feel my glove removes are forever changed for the better.

Power in Silence (Paco Fish): By silence, Paco meant the silence of the body — stillness. I remind other dancers (and myself) to embrace the power of the pause and this class brought that home again and again.

Elements of Staging for Classic Burlesque Group Work (Joe Paul Williams): Using simple shapes on the stage, we created a Follies style group number in no time at all. We also explored the differing power of serial, parallel, and oppositional movement. I noticed, again, how much Joe’s teachings have influenced Betty and that it was reflected in our most recent choreography.

Stalking the Stocking (Jo Weldon): I always enjoy Jo’s classes, but I was hoping to pick up some tips for Your Lovely Legs! The class was, no surprise, both fun and informative. The high point may have been Mimi Mischief’s stockings trying to make her go down to the basement.

And that was Saturday.

Sunday morning, I skipped Betty’s Boot Camp to be prepared for my class.

Homemade Beauty (me): I’m pretty fanatical about my skin care (see my drawer full of Xerion Skin Science products sometime), but I also like making stuff myself and saving money. In this class we made a face scrub, a foot scrub, and bath fizz (like a bath bomb, only not compressed into a ball) with ingredients you can mostly get at your average supermarket. I may run it again at B.A.B.E.

Fan-Task-Tickle! (Bobby Barnaby): On the care and feeding of fans: how to make them, store them, mend them, transport them. Happily, Bobby prefers bamboo stave fans, like me.

FANatics Anonymous (Bobby Barnaby): An actual fan dance class. Always fun to play with my fans. Bobby uses the other grip, so it was occasionally challenging to translate the moves.

Drop-in Class (me): B.A.B.E. runs these all weekend for people who have only come for the Exhibit Hall and shows. They’re very basic introductory classes. The rest of the instructors were off in Dahlia Fatale’s Fosse jazz class.

I allowed myself a lot of down time this year. By which I mean that out of 16 class periods, I was doing something class related for only 11 of them. I regret skipping Blitzen von Schtupp’s Tantalizing Shimmies and Italian Burlesque: Sophia Lauren Style with Sophie Champagne, but I had to conserve my strength and brainpower at least a little.

Here’s a little picture of me and Toni Elling in her panel skirt class: She’s graciously allowed me to wear one of her skirts. I look a tad disheveled, and I’m going to put the blame on Evie and her calisthenics and not for my inability to look in a mirror.


Published in: on 10 April 2013 at 12:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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BurlyCon: Classes (Sunday)

Dear Constant Reader,

Last day at BurlyCon!

How to Wear & Tease with Kimono (Cherry Typhoon):
Here I am wearing my kimono (it’s a yukata that I made — let’s ignore that the sleeves are too short and focus on my lovely sashiko embroidery) and one of Cherry’s obis that I tied myself. Yes, it’s off-center. I prefer to think of it as en dishabille. The sad thing about this class was Cherry thought we had 90 minutes, but it was an hour timeslot, so we never got to the teasing part.

Showgirl Fan Dance (Jezebel Express): Fans, therefore I am there. The challenge for me in this class was that Jezebel uses a different fan grip than I do, which creates a different effect. I tried my best, but it was awkward. Eventually it clicked. I ducked out a bit early to prepare for my next class.

Caring for Your Costumes (Me!): This is one of my favorite classes to teach. It was small, but that’s to be expected late on Sunday afternoon. But it was also enthusiastic and attentive which is all I ask. Last time I was at BurlyCon (2 years ago), I also taught this class. Based on the feedback from that class, I expanded the stain care information & made it into a handout and brought a couple sets of my cloth storage bags for sale.

And then I skipped the last class session so Scratch & I could do some shopping. And then I collapsed.

Published in: on 21 November 2012 at 11:17 am  Leave a Comment  
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BurlyCon: Classes (Saturday)

Dear Constant Reader,

And my recap of my BurlyCon education continues:

Despite my best intentions of making to the Pilates class, I failed. Instead I had a leisurely breakfast with some folks from Canada.

Pin Up Hair for Burlesque (Miss Kitty Baby): I’ve taken this class before, but it’s always good to get a refresher, especially since hair isn’t one of my strong skills. By the way, Miss Kitty Baby is probably the the most bad-ass babe I know (a Marine *and* an Alaskan fisherman) and her hair is always fantastic.

Japanese Fan Dance (Cherry Typhoon): You know I love fan dance in all its forms, so I couldn’t let this one pass by. Cherry is a lovely instructor, despite some of the language issues. My shining moment was that I happened to have tissue paper butterflies with me when the instructor needed some. Ask me why sometime…

How to Mix and Mingle with Your Adoring Fans (Miss Kitty Baby): I’m really shy. I know you might not believe that when you see me strutting nearly-naked on stage, but it’s true. Kitty Baby guided us through ways to make your fans feel special while avoiding some awkward situations.

The Cheeky Reveal (Coco Lectric): In which we learn the 3 T’s and the 3 R’s. I felt the actual reveal portion of class was a little rushed, but I think she planned for a 90 minute class and we only had an hour.

Costume Courting (Amber Ray): Amber Ray is well known for her gorgeous costumes and this class was basically a show & tell while she recounted how she made each piece. We got to handle most everything and really see the details. Really inspiring stuff. Her Lotus costume is stunning both in design and execution.

Published in: on 20 November 2012 at 1:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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BurlyCon: Classes (Friday)

Dear Constant Reader,

Friday I awoke bright and early for one of the classes on my “can’t miss” list.

The Anatomy of Chair Dance (Lola Frost): I didn’t want to miss a chair dance class and Lola Frost was a great instructor, making this a total win. Even if it did start at 8:30 in the morning. Gotta love her vocabulary; one of the main moves was called “sexy dead bug”. Learned a new cabaret walk variation that I’m using soon. I was pleased to note that all the core work I’ve been doing has paid off — there was still muscle fatigue, but not until close to the end of class.

DIY Fan Making (The Shanghai Pearl): Three of my favorite things: feathers, DIY, and The Pearl. I didn’t actually make fans — my suitcase was full enough as it is and I brought fans — but I took copious notes.

The Slow Burn (Lola Frost): This was a class on moving slowly and with intention. However, I realized part way through that I was completely unfocused and needed some lunch, so I discretely tiptoed out.

Face! Stage Makeup to Get Your Point Across (Evilyn Sin Claire): Now I know the secrets of contouring! Evilyn did a fabulous demo where she only made up half her face, walking us through it step by step and product by product. The results were remarkable. Great handout too.

Guinness Book Fan Dance Choreography (Jezebel Express): This was to prepare for the Largest Fan Dance World Record attempt. Best part, Jezebel singing the choreography (just like Betty does). Forever more when the iconic notes of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony play, I’ll hear her intoning “now fan your crotch”. After running the choreography several times, my wrist were killing me. There’s a lot of fanning action and I was using big fans with bamboo staves, so there’s a lot of drag. I probably should have brought little marabou fans.

I’ll write of the actual record attempt another time.

Published in: on 15 November 2012 at 11:31 am  Leave a Comment  
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BurlyCon: Classes (Thursday)

Dear Constant Reader,

I believe in continuing education, which is why I adore events like BurlyCon and the Expo. One can take all the classes one’s little heart desires. It’s great to have access to teachers from far & wide. I love to learn new skills and get a new perspective on things I already know. So, I took a whole bunch of classes at BurlyCon (and taught a couple too).

I ended up taking 14 classes in 4 days — and I didn’t take a class every opportunity. Sometimes your brain just gets full and you need to recharge with a vegan cupcake. (Not that I’m vegan, but one of the troupes provides these fabulous cupcakes during their shift at hospitality and I’m a convert.)

I was going to write a little about every class in one missive, but I think my brain got full and I need to have a cupcake and break them up by day.

Thursday —

We arrived at the hotel around noon, and I was tired from travel (between the last night of The Wrathskellar with its attendant party and an early flight, I think I got about 90 minutes of sleep), so I made it a light day. I’d missed the first class session anyway.

Big Bad Boa (Coco Lectric): I was really looking forward to this class and I was not disappointed. Coco is so bubbly and enthusiastic. I love her terminology for boa positions (“bachelorette style”, “chicken style”). I learned a bunch of new tricks, especially some transitions, which is something I’m generally bad at.

Herding Cats (panel): Also known as “Troupe Management”, ably moderated by Champagne Sparkles of Cheesecake Burlesque. The panelists were Stella D’Letto of Stripped Screw Burlesque, Paris Original of Mod Carousel, Mimi ma Shuga of Hot Mess Burlesque, Jesse Bell-Jones of Sinner Saint Burlesque, and myself. I heard some horror stories from audience members that made me so grateful for the wonderful ladies (and gents) of the current incarnation of The Boston Babydolls and how well we work together.

I punted the last class period in favor of a little relaxation before the evening’s social whirl.

And that was Thursday’s education.

Published in: on 14 November 2012 at 2:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A Day with Princess Farhana

Dear Constant Reader,

You’ve read about my busy Saturday, but I also had a busy Sunday. Princess Farhana of Hollywood was in town and I was not going to miss an opportunity to take a class with one of the original members of The Velvet Hammer, the godmothers of the neo-burlesque movement.

Now, by “in town” I mean 2 hours north into New Hampshire. Just think of how early I had to get up! And I had had a show the night before. I am nothing if not dedicated.

The workshop was hosted by Raq-on Dance at their charming studio. (“raqs” is Arabic for “dance”. Cute, no?).

Our first class was called “The Naughty Side of Little Egypt” about the history of burlesque and the burlesque/bellydance connection (which many bellydancers would like to ignore). It was very entertaining, made more so by Princess’s digressions into stories about her life in both burlesque and bellydance (and the intersection of the two). Princess as a pink-haired teenaged punk stripper, lingerie strip-tease parties with the future Superstars of Bellydance, raunchy Cairo cabarets, the first Velvet Hammer show…

Then we broke for lunch, during which time I had sushi with Vivian Vice of Whistlebait Burlesque and one of her bellydancer friends. They drove almost as far as I did!

The second class was “Beginner Burlesque”. I know you’re wondering why I took a beginner class, but it’s really not as silly as it sounds. It’s what was offered. It’s good to refresh skills from a basic level; it keeps one from getting sloppy. I’m interested in seeing how different instructors teach. I don’t know everything; there’s always a chance I’ll learn something new.

I firmly believe that if I learn *one* new thing, a class was worth it.

Since the class was aimed at bellydancers, most of the instruction was in terms they’d understand (I remember that she described the movement needed for tassel twirling as “Egyptian heel drops”). We practiced walks (4 different ones, I think), occasionally pausing for a little bump & grind. She also demonstrated some floor work, especially how to get down & up (ass first!)

We played with boas a bit. I brought my big red & white turkey boa — I thought the ostrich one with the gold balls might be a tad ostentatious. Learned a nice, tidy way to discard the boa plus a good storage method.

Then it was time for stripping. We started with gloves and I had one of those headsmacking moments of a remove that was so obvious and yet I never thought of it.

We moved on to bras & panties, which caused a bit of a commotion, because those items hadn’t been mentioned in the class description. Most of us just took off our bras and put them back on over our tops (very sexy indeed) and pulled on our air panties.

Then it was show time, of sorts. Those who wanted to (and I’d say only half the class, maybe even less, participated), got to put everything together and perform. Once with Princess, once with her in the audience. The first song was “Lament”, which is completely my style and I know it inside and out, so I was able to let go and have fun with it. The second song, “Bumps & Grinds” is less to my liking and I don’t know it as well, but I think I was able to acquit myself well.

And then I had to race out the door and head back to Boston for rehearsal. To which I barely arrived on time. But I still arrived before Scratch, so I wasn’t late. And bearing gifts. Well, a gift. A “Belly Dance and Balance” DVD for Betty who likes to balance things on her head and other body parts. As one could see in The Wrathskellar last year.

Published in: on 29 August 2012 at 3:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

Expo: Classes

Dear Constant Reader,

One for my favorite things about the Expo is The Conference. I love to learn and to teach too. Scandal from Bohemia, the class coordinator, did a bang-up job bring in extremely talented teachers from all over.

I started off bright and early Saturday morning with Betty Blaize’s “Booty Bustin’ Bootcamp” — a high intensity hour of dance workout. When we run warmups at rehearsal, Betty picks one of 3 “shimmy songs” for the killer last part. In this class she used ALL THREE. That’s ten solid minutes of superfast layered shimmies. Whew!

Next up was “Showgirl Tips & Tricks” with Burgundy Brixx. She’s a fantastic teacher and I learned so much. Now I can bevel and tip and I know a surefire trick for being appealing on stage. If you have the chance to take a class with her, jump on it.

There was no way I was going to miss an opportunity to take a class with Joe Paul Williams, the Delsarte master. In “Putting it all on the Line” we played with motion — direction and shapes in space — always knowing how and why you are moving. As always, I feel like my mind has expanded. Everything is so simple, yet profound. If you are any kind of performer, you must take a class with him. It will change your life.

I was sorry I couldn’t make it to Super Dave D’aranjo‘s class on “Not Quite Music Theory”. He sent me his presentation afterwards and I was completely blown away by his explanations of music forms in a way dancers could understand.

On Sunday the theme was clearly “be more naked”. I made Barely There Pasties under the direction of Beau Blush of the Wortown Bombshells and learned the ins and outs of G-strings and merkins from The Shanghai Pearl.

I also taught a few classes, but that may be a separate note.

Published in: on 11 April 2012 at 10:26 am  Leave a Comment  
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