Practicing Improvisation

Dear Constant Reader,

Tonight we have our first show with a jazz quartet at Flying Embers!

When working with live music, you have to be prepared for anything to happen and may need to improvise. Betty happens to be a master of improvisational dance. But being able to improvise takes practice. I know that sounds a little contradictory, but it’s true. I was part of a commedia dell’arte troupe and we improvised entire plays from a mere tissue of an outline. We also rehearsed a lot. So that when we really needed to create an entire play out of nothing on no notice (someday I’ll tell you my September 11th story — it’s long, but worth it) we could do it and it would be one of the best thing we ever did. But back to the burlesque.

Last night Betty gave us a lesson on improvisation in burlesque. She discussed some of the situations one might end up in, like finding your place in the music when the arrangement isn’t exactly what you expected. She ran some exercises and we all contributed some ideas. The key, of course, is that the audience should never know anything is amiss. I think three out of the four of us at rehearsal last night have some experience with live music, but the practice was welcome, especially right before a show.

Want to see how we do? Join Betty and me tonight! Can’t make it? We’ll be livestreaming through FaceBook.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 15 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 January 2022 at 11:46 am  Leave a Comment  

Burlesque with a Band

Dear Constant Reader,

As you might recall, last month we performed at Flying Embers Taproom and Social Club. (If you don’t recall, here’s a reminder).

We’re coming back, every other Thursday, starting next week, and we’re going to have live music!

It’s going to be a relaxed evening. Listen to the fabulous jazz quartet, have some delicious beverages (how about some hard kombucha?), and watch a couple of burlesque acts over the course of the night. And it’s free! (tipping is always welcome!) Don’t forget to bring proof of vaccination! This is per the City of Boston, so please don’t give the staff a hard time about it.

The first night, January 20, will feature Betty Blaize and me! We’ll be mixing it up every show, so you’ll get a different pair of dancers each time.

This past Monday we got to rehearse in the space with the band for the first time. Big thanks to Ashley who gave up her night off to let us do so! The chance to work with a band for a series of shows is wonderful. We can play off one another, especially when we get to know each other’s style a bit more.

Betty is the best of us for this. She’s a skilled improvisational dancer and, as a musician herself, knows how to communicate what she wants to the band. It’s a joy to watch her. As it turned out, she brought two costumes (we’ll each be doing two acts per night), but the band had three songs ready. This did not perplex her at all and she did a costume mash-up for the last song.

We’re also performing in the center of the floor, so there’s potential audience all around the room. We’ve got to make sure everyone gets a good view. It was so helpful that Ashley and her friends sat at some of the tables to give us some practice.

I’m really excited for these shows! Please join us on the 20th and every other week thereafter!

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my 14 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 January 2022 at 12:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Teaching, Learning, and Relearning

Dear Constant Reader,

The BeauTease have a new crop of apprentices and we’re training them. Part of the way we do that is through exercises. However, all of us participate, not just the new kids.

It’s good for all of us. The troupe members can lead and guide and the apprentices don’t have to feel like they’re being flung to the wolves while everyone else watches. We all get to practice our skills and it’s valuable for the established performers to get back to basics.

We started with character exercises. The simplest version of this is that everyone draws a card on which is written an emotion. One by one, to the same bit of music, we walk across the floor and express that emotion. Then everyone watching tries to guess what the emotion was. We learn to be big and clear, to express emotion with the entire body. For some, it’s practice walking in time to music. This exercise can get more complex and involved, but we left it at the simple version.

The next one is Standing, Sitting, Kneeling, based on an improv game. We have one chair and 3 performers. Someone needs to be on their feet, someone needs to be using the chair, and someone needs to be on the floor. The goal is to work together and trade off positions while creating an improvised group routine. This exercise has sparked a couple of our group acts…

Factory Girls

Feelin’ Good

But no time for such things now. Our rehearsals are focused on our Secret (Santa) Show on Saturday, December 21. It’s a festive evening of seasonal burlesque at an undisclosed location only revealed to ticket holders! The apprentices will be making their striptease debut!

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 December 2019 at 3:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Act Creation

Dear Constant Reader,

The centerpiece of The House of Knyle mentorship was to work with Egypt on an act. This could either be an existing one or a new one. I toyed with the idea of seeing what Egypt would do with “Mina in Furs”, the number I workshopped at Stripper’s Holiday, but decided to create something new. This was late September.

I wanted to challenge myself, so I picked a song outside my usual style. Really outside. “Whole Lotta Love” by Hollywood Vampires. I like the Led Zeppelin original, but I love this cover. I think it’s the harmonica and the vocals by Alice Copper and Brian Johnson that do it for me.

But I just didn’t know what to do with it. I felt paralyzed with indecision. This song wanted someone to dance with wild abandon and flip her hair around. That’s not me. Act creation is so hard for me. Choreography is not one of my natural talents.

So, I put things off. October was crazy while Scratch and I frantically tried to get Miss Mina Murray’s Little Book of Burlesque Costuming ready for the printer. Then I got sick and spent about three weeks of November in bed. This was about the point where Egypt announced that we had the opportunity to perform at Burlesque Bingo in January. I knew I would have to get serious.

I decided what my costume would be (and that will be a separate entry) and grabbed a reasonable facsimile. I went into the studio before rehearsal and just moved to the music in front of a camera. This isn’t how I normally create a number. Usually I’m more in my head. I break the song down and make an outline. But I was trying to do things differently, break out of my usual patterns.

I kept working on it and feeling more and more despondent. I could picture how other people I knew would dance to this song, but not me. I was thinking I would just chuck it all and start over wth something more in my comfort zone. Maybe another gown-and-gloves strip or a fan dance. I announced my despaire to the other mentees. And that’s when things started changing.

The other ladies were very supportive and Egypt and I set up an on-line date to work on it. Then I showed what I had to Scratch and he said “It’s not as bad as you think”. All that gave me the boost to keep going on it.

Egypt and I spent an hour in the studio via video chat and worked on the act. She gave me some suggestions, some of which I took, some of which sparked different ideas. I remembered Scratch’s advice to me during Stripper’s Holiday to expand my horizons, but stay true to myself.

Over the next month, I worked on the act constantly. Fear of looking terrible on stage is a great motivator. Scratch and the other BeauTease gave me feedback. I sent progress videos to Egypt. I took the floorwork section out; I put it back in, but now completely different. Scratch edited my music so the song had a stronger ending. I finalized my costume. I’m very thankful I had the time to devote to it without needing to rehearse anything else.

As for how it turned out, you’ll have to wait for a future missive.

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 February 2019 at 4:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A Little Peek into the Rehearsal Process

Dear Constant Reader,

We’re currently rehearsing for our New Year’s Eve Spectacular and I’ve been sporadically documenting things with crummy cellphone photos that I post to FaceBook. Hopefully the photos will become more numerous, somewhat better, and more interesting in the coming weeks.

Here’s a teaser: What could possibly be inside that oyster, guarded by such charming nymphs in tailcoats by Vixens Ahoy?

If you’d like to see more, check out my FB album here.

And if you’d like to see the finished product in action, we have two shows on New Year’s Eve!


Published in: on 11 December 2014 at 11:07 am  Leave a Comment  
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Warming Up Again

Dear Constant Reader,

Please vote for The Boston Babydolls once a day every day! We only have a few days left!

Last night, at rehearsal Evie was raring to lead a calisthenic warm up. I begged her for no squats; my knee was bugging me. While we all stretched the conversation turned to kickboxing workouts. Someone thought we each probably knew enough moves to have a warm up, but no one person knew enough to lead.

And so we ended up playing Minsky’s with some violence. Evie started with those knee raises where you’re slamming your enemy’s head. I picked cross punches. D.D. went with some crazy jumping jack variation. Stella did traveling jabs. Betty drew upon Kalari for ducking and striking with a heel kick. Brigitte was feeling silly and had us all dance Gangnam style. And there was more. It was exhausting, but we sure were warm!


Published in: on 11 March 2013 at 10:21 am  Leave a Comment  

Expo-sing Ourselves

Dear Constant Reader,

Please vote for The Boston Babydolls every day! We’re down to the last days! Rally the troops! Tell your friends! Victory party if we win!

Every year The Boston Babydolls perform at The Great Burlesque Exposition. Sometimes we present a group number that we’ve done in our most recent show. Occasionally we create a brand new act just for The Expo, like last year. And like this year.

Scratch came up with the concept and the music, then Betty created a choreography. We’ve been learning it while we were performing in The Bod of Avon (usually we suspend rehearsals during a show). Last night Betty finished teaching it. Now we have 3 weeks to beat the hell out of it.

Our costumer is busily working away. Everything is being made brand-new for this act — nothing from our extensive closet. Rhinestones are on their way and I’m just itching to start making pasties. We’re all very excited!

If you want to see this thing of beauty, come to The Rhinestone Revue on Friday, March 29th. And that’s all I’m going to tell you about it.

And because voting is almost over, here’s a last little treat from our 2011 Victory Party. (Photo by Time Out Boston) That’s me, at the climax of my performance. The band held that final note for about as long as they could get away with…



Published in: on 7 March 2013 at 10:12 am  Comments (1)  
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Dear Constant Reader,

First, I just thought I’d mention that it’s time for nominations for The Boston Phoenix Readers’ Poll. We’d love to be Best Burlesque in Boston again and the first step is for you to nominate us. You can vote once per day per email/IP address. Thank you!

We are about to open our new show The Bod of Avon, so, as you might expect, have been rehearsing that heavily. However, the other night, we took a little time to work on some other upcoming events.

We’re reviving our July Project numbers. First we’ll be performing them at The Mardi Gras Ball (20th anniversary! 2 nights!) and then at a private event. Not only did we need to warm them up, but we had to talk about what changes we’ll make for each event. At the Mardi Gras Ball the stage (not very large to start with) is crammed with musicians, so we have to be fairly compact in our movements. The other event requested “bralesque” (i.e. not going down to pasties), so most of us need to revise our endings a bit to comply.

After running through everything for those shows, we were all a bit draggy and looking longingly at the clock. After all, we’d had a preview show on Sunday, a “Bod” rehearsal on Monday, and now another rehearsal on Tuesday. And Scratch had said we’d go out for drinks after. Then Brigitte said “Come on, bitches! Let’s do it!” (or something like that). And we nodded and all got into our costumes for the finale of The Bod of Avon.

It’s a 6-person number with some precision group moves. Lots of moving parts. It looks good now, but we know we can do better, so we ran it. Several times. Drilled it. Checked on small things, like positions of hands and feet. Made sure we were all closing our parasols in sync. Etcetera, etcetera.

You’ve voted us the Best Burlesque in Boston for several years now, and we work like heck to earn it. Even when we’d rather be having cocktails.


Published in: on 24 January 2013 at 12:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dear Constant Reader,

Primus, the book I was reading the other day was Everything’s Eventual: 14 Dark Tales by Stephen King. I’m a big King fan and think his short stories are some of his best work. (I’m also one of the Constant Readers of the Dark Tower saga, but that’s epic. How fortunate for me that this collection has a Dark Tower story.)

Secundus, we had one long, but hugely productive rehearsal last night. We started off with one of Evie’s evil, sweat-drenching, calisthenic warm-ups, to classic Bruce Springsteen tunes.

Then Evie and Devora went to work with our special guest, Richard Gilbert, a violence designer from Chicago, to create some fight choreography for their Danse Apache. And then he worked with Betty, Evie, and Stella for The Innocent’s initiation into the world of The Wrathskellar at the hands of The Countess and The Martinet. If you thought what was done in years past was disturbing, just wait…

The rest of us were not idle. Meredith, our costume designer, had brought sketches and showed them to us all. Everyone was measured and any existing pieces were pulled from stock. I can’t wait for the new pieces to start arriving!

Tertius, Brigitte and I warmed up “Mistress & Maid” from The Wrathskellar last year, which we will be performing at The 3rd Annual Salute to Bettie Page next Saturday. We’ll be modeling too!

We ran more than an hour longer than usual, but it was worth it. We have so much time, and so little to do! Strike that, reverse it.

Published in: on 16 August 2012 at 3:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Warming Up Again

Dear Constant Reader,

Vote for the Boston Babydolls!

About a month ago I wrote about an exercise we use for warm ups. Usually Betty runs warm ups for us but we all decided to give her a little break and the Babydolls have been taking turns leading warm ups.

So, far we’ve had burlesque/ballet combinations from Devora Darling, calisthenics and balance exercises from Evie Sphinx, and last night, an introductory tap lesson from Brigitte Bisoux. It’s been so much fun trying different things! Not to mention hurting different body parts. Betty usually kills us with shimmies, but Evie tortured us with squats.

Eventually it’s going to be my turn, so I had best figure out what I’m going to do.

Published in: on 5 March 2012 at 2:33 pm  Leave a Comment