NOLA Burlesque Retreat 2018: Sunday-Monday

Dear Constant Reader,

I’ve been writing a report of my trip to the New Orleans Burlesque Retreat. You can read about what happened on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

The last day of the retreat! We were happy to sleep in a little and then excited to go to Dahlia’s flexibility class. I was going to ask her if anything could be done for my hip flexors, which don’t. Sadly, best laid plans and all that… There was a race in the park by the studio that morning. Mia Moore, driving us, did her best, but all the roads were blocked off and there was absolutely no way we could get even close. Eventually we admitted defeat and headed back to the apartment to make ourselves beautiful for brunch.

And then it was time for Legs and Eggs brunch at SoBou. Bella had arranged for us to all sit together and have a family meal, while she performed. Three times during the brunch, to the music of the jazz band, she glided around the tables in glamourous, but family-friendly costumes, occasionally removing an item of clothing, but never going down to pasties. Because there wasn’t room to really dance, she would move gracefully around the tables, spending a little time with the patrons. At one point, I realized that she was hovering her butt over a nearby table while the guests told her which cheek to move (“Right! Right! Left!”)

I discovered that the table next to our was filled with women from Boston who were having the BEST time. Two were from my neighborhood and two lived down the street from my studio. Small world. Maybe I’ll see them at a show.

Our instructors made a heck of an entrance in matching leopard catsuits, complete with tails and ears. Also, it was the day after Jen’s birthday and the actual birthday of Miss Audacious. Not only did the restaurant send over complimentary desserts, but there were birthday spankings. In the photo you can see a double-smacking by Sweetpea (the leopard-clad ass between the birthday girls).

After brunch we had some time to kill and several of us went back to the apartments to pack up and check out. Back at the studio we were going to have a workshop on Brand Building, but there really wasn’t enough time to delve into that important topic. Instead, we had a discussion of what we liked about the retreat and what could be improved for next time. I think we all agreed that there was a lot of value to the retreat in many ways and that some improvements could be made in transportation assistance and in schedule balance. For a first time event, it was very good.

After saying goodbye to everyone and thanking our instructors, I grabbed my big-ass suitcase and trundled off to Jackson Square, there to meet my hostess for the evening, Marrus (you know who she is; everyone knows Marrus). I relaxed and admired the mules while she got her car and packed up her art. The photo is of Claudia the Mule-icorn. Apparently mules like peppermints.

We had dinner at The Country Club and sat on the veranda, which was delightful. The conversation wandered all over the place from frivolous to incredibly serious and the food was terrific. I got a little tour of the beautifully painted dining rooms and the pool, although we didn’t swim.

The next morning I went with Marrus to set out her art on Jackson Square and then tour her remarkable gym. I had a little wander around the French Quarter until it was time to grab a cab to the airport. I always love to visit Fleur de Paris (and marvel at what a steal my hat was *mumble* years ago — I can’t afford any of their current offerings). And I picked up some pralines (and got schooled on the pronunciation — “prah-leens”) for the troupe.

The flight home was utterly uneventful and Scratch picked me up and took me straight to a rather cranky Albert. His favorite toy went missing right after I left and apparently I am the only one who could find it. And so I did.

It’s good to be home, but very soon I’ll be heading for Los Angeles and Michelle L’amour’s Stripper’s Holiday.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 16 April 2018 at 2:02 pm  Leave a Comment  
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NOLA Burlesque Retreat 2018: Saturday

Dear Constant Reader,

I’ve been writing a report of my trip to the New Orleans Burlesque Retreat. You can read about what happened on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

Despite the late night, I still managed to make it to yoga in the park, on time, even. It was a perfect way to wake up and get energized for another long day. At some point I looked down and saw a golden rhinestone just sitting on my yoga mat. It looked like one from my Stardust costume, which of course was safely home in Boston. Burlesque magic!

We stayed in the park for our next class, which was working with silk veils with Gaea Lady. There was no way we could have done it in the studio. I’ve been dancing with veils for a long time, but watching her in performance, I had no idea how she manipulated them in those amazing ways. The secret is in how the veils are constructed. My shoulder was so sore by the time we were done, but I wanted more. I should have taken a picture of how beautiful we looked with all that silk flying around. Many of the tourists certainly did.

This time we had our delightful vegan lunch, again made possible by Gaea, upstairs at Mr. Gregory’s, a nearby cafe. The photo is of the view from the balcony.

Our first class of the afternoon was Hosting with Lola van Ella. I’ve been impressed with her hosting skills (especially for a show I was in), so I was looking forward to what she had to say. I host from time to time and I was happy to get some pointers. She ran a great exercise that looked like a lot of fun, but we were running out of time, so I opted to let some of those with less experience get the practice.

Cultural Appropriation with local artist and activist JackSun was another fill-in class for the stranded Perle Noire. I admit that I was a touch worried because this topic often engenders finger-wagging and blame. I was so wrong. Jackie was an excellent lecturer and the thought-provoking concepts were tempered with humor and insight.

Sweetpea took everyone out into the shade in the park and gave us a shortened version of her Glitter Endurance workshop. She discussed healthy lifestyle choices, mostly focused on nutrition, so we can keeping doing what we do.

Bella offered to cancel the last workshop (which had been TBD). We all thought that would be a great idea and wearily went back to the apartments to rest before the evening’s activities. She also punted yoga for the next morning.

Many decided to go to Whiskey and Rhinestones, but I had other plans. An old friend of mine was in town from the West Coast for an academic conference. We met at Bacchanal (as recommended by Artemisia). I wasn’t aware of how incredibly popular the place was, especially on a Saturday night. There was a long line to get in and I was starting to regret the decision, but the wait wasn’t terrible. Once inside, we stood on the balcony, vaguely listening to the band, enjoying our wine and cheese, and catching up on our respective lives. It was lovely to see her and hear about her latest research (I’m not sorry I left academia, but sometimes it’s nice to visit). I’m looking forward to seeing her again when I visit L.A. later this month.

It wasn’t too late when I got back, but Miss Audacious and I got talking and before I knew it, it was 2 in the morning. Yikes! At least we could sleep in a little before our first class Sunday morning.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 11 April 2018 at 2:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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NOLA Burlesque Retreat 2018: Friday

Dear Constant Reader,

I’ve been writing a report of my trip to the New Orleans Burlesqeu Retreat. You can read about what happened on Wednesday and Thursday.

Friday morning came early. We grabbed our yoga mats and stumbled out the door to the park near the studio. It was lovely doing yoga there in the cool morning. A beautiful start to the day.

We began the day’s classes with a panel on production with most of our instructors answering questions (a couple of them were occupied elsewhere, but I’ll get to that). So many burlesque performers have to produce their own shows, so it was helpful to get several perspectives. We’re fortunate that we have a producer and I don’t usually have to worry about things like this, but it’s good to be knowledgeable all the same.

After that we broke for lunch. Gaea Lady and Dahlia Fatale had been busy in the kitchen (hence not on the production panel) whipping up a substantial vegan luncheon. We took our plates to the courtyard next to the studio to enjoy a little fresh air. Courtyards are one of those things I really love about New Orleans; they’re not something we have in New England.

Back to work with Sexing the Stage with Sweetpea. This was a terrific class, but absolutely mobbed. In addition to all the retreat participants, one of the bachelorette parties from Whiskey and Rhinestones the night before was in attendance. There was a lot of work with eye contact, touching, and energy. Breathing is so important on stage.

Then we got to sit for a bit for Stage Tech with AJay Strong. Although he touched on a variety of tech issues, his forte is audio. We discussed a variety of audio issues and factors. A lot of people were interested in getting more in-depth information about audio editing and playback.

Dahlia Fatale absolutely kicked our asses with Floorwork. I knew she would, but I was even more impressed because she was filling in for Perle Noire whose flight out of NYC was canceled by the same storm that was worrying me. We did some work on transitions (always necessary!) and ran through a challenging choreography. Dahlia was very good about providing modifications for some of the moves.

Our last class of the day was Intentional Performance with Gaea Lady. To begin we had to state an intention (for the class, for the retreat, &c). Mine was “Be better”. It’s a philosophy you’ve probably hear me espouse before. Later when we broke into small groups, we had to elaborate on our intentions. I chose that one because perfection is unattainable, but you can always be better, even if it’s in very small ways.

I decided to skip Whiskey and Rhinetones, which would have required racing out almost as soon as we got back, and opted to get ready for the Instructors’ Showcase at midnight in a more leisurely fashion. Also, my brain was very full and needed a bit of rest. I was delighted to learn that Siberia was across the street from the venue. Some of my flatmates, Jen and Maureen, and I had some delightful Russian food there, like the lovely pierogis in the photo.

Then we walked over to the Allways Lounge to see our instructors’ strut their stuff. Bella hosted the show and announced that because of the peculiarities of the venue, the performers can take it ALL off. Sweetpea started with a high-energy strip. The moment when she removed her bra and wasn’t wearing pasties was so powerful. Gaea came next with the same act I had seen the night before, only now under her veil, she was wearing only jewelry. Lola sang Tori Amos’s “Leather”, giving emphasis to the opening line. The microphone wasn’t working for her, so eventually she just flung it dramatically away and continued unamplified. Then Bella introduced herself and did something beautiful with a boa. I was delighted to see many of the moves she had taught us the day before (was it only the day before?). Dahlia did a contortion routine while smoking a cigarette. The high point of which was when she parked the cigarette between her toes while lying on the floor and then brought her foot up behind her head to take a puff.

Then there was a brief diversion while Sweetpea and Gaea introduced a little game to the audience. They would hold a plastic cup somewhere against their anatomy and if an audience member could sink a wadded-up dollar bill into the cup, said audience member would receive a shot from Dakota Crow, the lovely stage hand. Also clothing would come off. After that amusement, the show closed with a rather blasphemous group act with AJay (as a priest), Bella, Lola, Dahlia (as the congregants), and a large tub (for the baptism).

It was a fabulous show, but I was more than ready for bed. Yoga was going to come early in the morning…

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 9 April 2018 at 4:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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NOLA Burlesque Retreat 2018: Thursday

Dear Constant Reader,

If you’re just joining me, this are my adventures at the first New Orleans Burlesque Retreat. You can read about the first day here.

The retreat proper began on Thursday, although not too early. Since workshops didn’t start until the afternoon, most of us out-of-towners headed to the Ruby Slipper Cafe, a short walk from the apartments. All my good intentions went out the window with a biscuit loaded with cheddar, candied bacon (yes, you heard that right), and fried green tomato. It was just a delicious as it sounds.

Sally Stardust, Murphy Lawless, and I went to Trashy Diva for a little shopping before classes startted. Fortunately for my wallet, anything I liked wasn’t in my size. Murphy got a very glamourous and versatile dress that sorely tempted me, but alas, not in my size. I did pick up a little something for the troupe — a pair of ruffly panties for The Lost Girl so she can stop borrowing Betty’s (which she bought at Trashy Diva about 10 years ago).

We arrived at the New Orleans School of Burlesque, ready to start learning! It’s a small room with a wall of mirrors, right across from Louis Armstrong park. There’s no bathroom there, but there is a friendly bar next door that didn’t mind us trooping in and out between classes. Besides us out-of-towners, there were about half a dozen locals and a few people who dropped in for a class or two.

We started with a dose of burlesque history. I thought it was a great way to start things off. We have to know where we came from to know where we are going. There wasn’t a lot that was new to me, except for some New Orleans-specific history, which was great to learn.

Next was Total Confidence with Lola van Ella. We did a lot of exercises: walking, making eye contact, giving and receiving energy. My favorite was that everyone had to do a very short solo scene in which you encounter a rock. People were so creative! Everyone had such different ideas about the rock and what they did with it.

Lastly, Bella Blue taught us a short choreography with boas. It was beautiful and challenging. There are some moves that I’m absolutely using at some point. I was frantically taking notes, but at the end Bella performed the routine so we could video it for personal reference. So much more useful than my hasty scrawl.

We all hastened home to relax and get ready for our evening out. The lovely folks from Beauty Butler/Elektra Cosmetics invited us all over for dinner. They have two sphinx cats, so I got a little feline fix. I’ve never met a hairless cat before, but it’s like snuggling a velvet hot water bottle. And so sweet!

There was also glitter for sale at a phenomenal discount. I really should have bought some Bolt Balm, but I was wracked with indecision about color (so many colors!) and ended up buying nothing. I regret it.

Whilst there, the BHoF notifications went out and Bella Blue learned she was finally, after 7 years of applying, competing for Queen of Burlesque! I’m sure the neighbors were wondering what all the screaming and squealing was about.

After our kabobs and homemade beignets, we headed off to Whiskey and Rhinestones, Bella’s show every Thursday-Saturday night. I gather the audience is mostly tourists and it was packed! There were at least two bachelorette parties and some birthdays. We stood over by the bar to watch the show, since every table seat was sold out.

The performance area is a corridor down the center of the room, with the table seats on either side, very much like a classic runway stage. The audience is encouraged to tip, either directly into the tip jar, or by balling up their bills and tossing them onto the stage. I was surprised at how exciting and lively that made things. We don’t usually have tipping at our shows, but I’m hoping there’s a venue where it’s appropriate for us to try it out.

The performers that night were three of our instructors: Sweetpea, Gaea Lady, and Bella, of course. I swear Sweetpea (photo at right) was channeling Blaze Starr. Her look, her moves, her eroticism. I was completely captivated. Gaea was a walking advertisement for the veil workshop she would be teaching later. The way she manipulated the silk was simply breathtaking. At the time I had no idea how she did some of the moves. Bella, of course, was fantastic. She closed out the show with “Roxanne”, the act she would be doing at BHoF. It was even better than when she brought it to The Expo a couple of years ago.

After the show, I was completely exhausted, but Audacious convinced our group that a bite at Dat Dog was the way to end the evening. I wasn’t convinced until I saw they had duck sausage. Because I had no idea what toppings would go well on it (and there were SO MANY to chose from), I asked for “Chef’s choice” to dress my dog. The chef appeared to choose bacon, onions, chipotle mayo, Creole mustard, and bbq sauce. Fine by me.

And then I collapsed into bed very late for an early morning and a full day of workshops.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 4 April 2018 at 2:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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NOLA Burlesque Retreat 2018: Wednesday

Dear Constant Reader,

I recently attended the first ever New Orleans Burlesque Retreat, organized by Bella Blue. The participants spent four days living together, taking classes from a number of talented instructors, going to shows, and generally learning a whole heck of a lot. It was an amazing opportunity.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that I am all about the continuing education. There were participants with all ranges of experience, from over a decade of performing to some who had yet to set foot on a burlesque stage. The instructors had a variety of different knowledge. It was marvelous. One of my former students once told me she was done taking classes. “Why should I pay for something I can learn from YouTube?” She’s missing out on so much! Human interaction is part of the learning process, both between you and the instructor and you and the other students. One cannot learn in a vacuum. [rant over]

The retreat started on Wednesday. I was extremely anxious because ANOTHER Nor’easter was predicted to hit the East Coast (that would have been the 4th since March started) and knowing airlines as I do, I feared my flight would be canceled. Fortunately the storm didn’t make it up to Massachusetts until long after I was gone.

We were staying in Mid-City, a part of New Orleans with which I was completely unfamiliar, in a pair of apartments that slept 6 each, sharing beds. I got there early and picked the room with only one bed simply because it had a nightstand on which to put my glasses. And somehow I ended up in solitary splendor, since we were ultimately only eleven. I admit I felt a bit guilty.

The first order of business was that we all marched over to the Whole Foods to stock up on edible necessities. I was entertained at seeing what my fellows considered essential foodstuffs (myself: baby carrots, blackberries, and tiny cheeses. Also oatmeal, but I had brought that with me).

In the evening all the instructors joined us (with bubbly, elderflower lemonade, and fresh fruit) so everyone could introduce themselves. We all had to share what we hoped to get out of the retreat and what we hoped to bring to it. I knew only a few of the people attending, so it was really nice to meet everyone else and learn a bit about them all.

It wasn’t too late when the evening broke up and a few of us joined Miss Audacious, who was meeting up with her friend Juliette Electrique (in town for The Southern Sideshow Hootenanny), on an excursion to the French Quarter. After starting at Cafe Beignet, we went to the Olde Absinthe House in Pirate Alley. We had a lovely time trading stories, posing for ridiculous photos (see right), and drinking Death in the Afternoon (absinthe and champagne). Unfortunately, the door guy decided we were a lot more fun than sitting in a corner not checking IDs (we were the only patrons) and invited himself and his cigarettes to our table and sort of took over the conversation. I was annoyed and also cold and tired, so an exit was the best strategy. I gather my companions left soon after to find a different spot for another round.

It was surprisingly chilly that night — I’d never been in New Orleans when it wasn’t stifling hot. The weather the whole time was on the coolish side and made me glad I’d grabbed my snuggly hoodie as I walked out the door in Boston.

Next up, our first day of the retreat.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 4 April 2018 at 2:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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In the Air

Dear Constant Reader,

As I pen this missive (thanks to the modern blessing of in-flight wifi) I am winging my way to New Orleans for Bella Blue’s first ever Burlesque Retreat. My departure was uncertain as yet another Nor’easter is bearing down on the East Coast. Fortunately, I got out ahead of the storm.

My hope is to share with you my adventures as they are actually happening, instead of my usual habit of reporting back after the fact. We shall see — the schedule is jam-packed with workshops all day and shows at night. I may not have a spare minute. However, if I fail here, you can still keep up with me on Instagram.

I’m very excited for learning from all the fabulous teachers that Bella has assembled, seeing my fellow students (some I know already, most I’m looking forward to meet) watching some excellent burlesque, catching up with some dear friends (both native and coincidentally in town), and of course sampling the delights of the Crescent City.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page.

Published in: on 21 March 2018 at 12:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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