Dieselpunk: Because Steam Wasn't Dirty Enough!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Lab teching my way through striptease school - Merchandise Sales and Multiple Identities

My burlesque experience has seen me donning many hats: fan, photographer, student, (candy) cigarette girl, stage kitten, and even performer.  Therefore, I shouldn’t have been surprised that my first gig with the Ruby Revue (remember my audition post?) gave me a new role– merchandise girl.  I’m always willing to lend a hand, but I felt hesitant.  I was afraid I’d be a lousy salesperson.  Even though I had helped out at the table during the Dallas Burlesque Festival, I would be doing it on my own for the entire show.  Memories of my fourth grade class’ school supply shop came rushing back, and the thought of giving back the wrong amount of change was scaring than the thought of a bunch of people seeing me in my underwear.

The nice thing about being incredibly single-minded at times, however, is the fact that I can push aside those worries.  When doors opened, I entered “work mode” and tried my best to persuade patrons to buy a boa or a T-shirt.  Sales were slow at first, but as more people filed in, more items started to leave the table.  By the end of the show, I was so swamped by customers that my partner jumped in to help me keep track of what I sold.  He also probably attracted more people because he’s charming (and loud).  It turned out to be a pretty fun experience.

Wearing my Jet Girl cosplay
at the Clever Girl Cabaret:
Flirty Nerd show

There was one point when I felt so overwhelmed that I wound up giving out my real name.  Luckily the gentleman was familiar with many local dancers and asked how he could distinguish me from another dancer whose stage name was similar to my real name.  That gave me the opportunity to re-introduce myself.  The whole thing, combined with my experiences the previous night at The Midnight Ramble (another burlesque event), made me realize that my multiple roles in the community has created somewhat of an identity crisis.

You see, at The Midnight Ramble, I was just taking photos, which I post under my real name  Normally I keep to myself when shooting, but I had some people talk to me and I guess they deduced that I was connected with the dancers.  I started to wonder if I should’ve introduced myself as Hana since I don’t have business cards for my photography.  I have no intentions of making any money from my pictures, but it’s still nice to have everything together as a portfolio, especially since I do a little bit of journalism.  Things get even more iffy when you have burlesque crossing over with another of my hobbies, like cosplay or steampunk.  How do I introduce myself then?

A funny idea of using my glasses to distinguish between my two main identities (we’re not going to go into my steampunk and cosplay alias) occurred to me.  I’ve been told I look drastically different without my glasses, and I always wear contacts as Hana Li.  My glasses could be a Clark Kent sort of disguise for my burlesque self.  There are two problems to this plan though.  The first is that I can only wear rigid gas permeable lenses, and they’re not very comfortable.  One speck of dust and I’m tearing up like crazy because my eye hurts.  There’s a possibility that I would have to switch to glasses immediately after curtain call.  The other issue is that sometimes I do wear contacts when I’m photographing, and while I can always attend shows as Hana, people are not stupid enough to be unable to put two-and-two together.  Plus I’ve already uploaded photos of me with glasses on my facebook page.  Oh well, it’s still fun to think of myself as being a burlesque version of Clark Kent/Superman.

The next time you can see me with the Ruby Revue is on July 26.  I'll be on-stage for the Advanced Burlesque Tease class performance.  Hope to see you in the crowd!
Photo by Karlo X. Ramos

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Cap'n Tony's After Party #4: Who Wants Some Nuts?

Nuts! Hot Nuts for Sale! Anyone here wanna buy my Nuts?
Our good friend Lil Johnson got some hot nuts to serve up tonight for whoever want some. Nothin' like some good, salty nuts to go with that beer, right? Come talk to the Peanut Man...he's got all the nuts you can handle!
And of course I'm talkin' 'bout some fresh roasted peanuts here, 'cause what else I gonna be talkin' about here in polite company?

Get your Hot Nuts for sale! Only five cents!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Lab teching my way through striptease school - Student Stage Debut at Panty Raid

Never did I expect to be performing burlesque this past May, just a little over a year after I started taking classes.  Then again, I hadn’t expected to stage kitten at the Dallas Burlesque Festival a month after I decided to get more involved with the scene.  However, I couldn’t pass up the Academy of Queerlesque’s Burlesque Group class– not after Lillith Grey included asexuality in her definition of queer (something that doesn’t always happen).  Although performing at Panty Raid was optional, the instructor, Lily Lovely, was so encouraging that I couldn’t pass this chance up. The show, which was less than two weeks after class, coincided with Butchfest.  If that wasn’t a sign that this was my golden opportunity, I didn’t know when I would be ready.

The class consisted of five individuals with different experience levels and performance backgrounds.  We began with talking about stage names and personas, which helped me finally settle on a name (I'll elaborate more in future post).  Lily then had us channel our personalities through our walks.  Although burlesque walks were nothing new for me, I’d been focusing so much technique that I wasn’t sure what to do at first.  When it was my turn, I reminded myself of the dancer I wanted to be–someone tough and punk rock yet still graceful and flirty– and I let that be my guide. 

pre-show shot
Choreography came easily for me; the improvised moments required more thought and practice.  I had to figure out how to convey my personality in a way that would fit the song, “‘Cause I’m a Blond”.  How could I keep the rocker persona in my head while conveying the dumb blond stereotype depicted through the lyrics?  Eventually I decided that I wanted to be the tomboyish surfer chick version of Regina George from Mean Girls.  I tape myself so that I could work on facial expressions.

My other challenge came in costuming.  The outfit was pretty basic: bikini top, skateboard shorts, and heels.  I lucked into being given a swimsuit with ties (something I’d never buy for myself).  I would've liked it to be less frilly, but it matched my shorts really well.  The one thing I had to make was the wig from the yarn that Lily gave us.  Despite being a cosplayer, I'm not really crafty.  Fortunately my partner had some suggestions, and I had planned on wearing a bandana.

There wasn’t any requirements on how much we had to take off.  I wasn't sure I wanted to go down to pasties and panties (my substitute bikini bottoms since the ones that came in the top were too big).  Burlesque has helped me combat years of self-image issues resulting from bullying and two cultures’ standards of beauty, but I still had the irrational fear that people would be disgusted by my naked body.  I kept wavering on my decision until I came home from rehearsal and watched the X Games.  The “go big or go home” spirit of the athletes inspired me to take it all off.  I had to commit 100%.

Photo from Panty Raid's facebook page
Once I had that mentality, all reservations went away.  I even had a last minute idea of using a beach ball to tease the audience.  I arrived at Sue Ellen’s with a lot of confidence though I still felt awkward in the dressing room full of people I didn’t know.  There was a slight freak-out moment when I discovered that fabric tape doesn’t adhere to my skin as well as the glitter on the pasties to my bikini.  Thankfully, one of my classmates, Coraline Mae, let me use her Top Stick.  We ran through our routine one last time, and after enjoying the other performances, we were up next.  The crowd’s energy was infectious, and while I didn’t get the chance to grab a beach ball to hide behind, I was still enough of a tease for someone to shout, “We want to see your boobs!”  Little did they know that it would only make me wait a little more before the final reveal.  Lillith, who was emceeing, gave each of us a smack on the butt as we exited the stage.  She and Lily were beaming with pride, and I felt like I had done something great.  It was just over so soon that I wanted more.

I am so thankful for the opportunity I was given and for the kind individuals who were with me on this journey: Lillith; Lily; Effy; my classmates Cheyenne, Coraline, Nella, and Vita; and my friends who came out to support me.  The Panty Raid crowd was so welcoming and enthusiastic; it would be awesome to perform in another one.  I know I have a ways to go before I can do my first solo or be more than a student performer, but I took a giant leap with my debut, conquering a long-time phobia and learning to seize the day.  Life’s too short not to give things like this a shot.