Dieselpunk: Because Steam Wasn't Dirty Enough!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

We're Back!!!!!

After an extended leave, Dieselpunks After Dark is back dirtier and grittier than ever.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Lab teching my way through striptease school: Moonlight and Fire, the Debut of Mamo-chan

What happens when you attain one of your dream cosplays?  You come up with a new costume to fill that spot, of course!  Thanks to Black Mariah, I had done Sailor Mars, the first cosplay I ever wanted to do.  I was perfectly satisfied with portraying the character until I saw the 2013 live-action musical Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon - La Reconquista.  It differed from previous productions in having a woman play Tuxedo Mask, a.k.a. Mamoru Chiba or "Mamo-chan".  Yuuga Yamato came from the all-female Takarazuka Revue so she had lots of experience playing the dashing male lead.  I was smitten.  I wanted to have a fraction of her coolness, and by extension, I found myself wanting to be Tuxedo Mask.  The idea was further encouraged by discussions of a Sailor Moon cosplay group, which already had a Mars.
Yuuga Yamato in La Reconquista
Around the same time, I discovered a cover of the anime's theme by Platina Jazz featuring Douglas Unger, "Moonlight Serenade".  They added a tango touch while adapting the translated lyrics to Tuxedo Mask's point of view.  The song just asked to be part of a burlesque number.  Since I was working on my solo debut at the time, I filed that away in my brain.

By Mr. Photopix
I started to put a routine together at the end of last year with hopes of reaching out to shows with more classical themes.  Although I initially included the character's signature mask, I realized that I could make the outfit more generalized to appeal to a wider audience.  Yamato's Tuxedo Mask didn't really wear a mask either.  I could just save that for cosplay, which I did for All-con out of eagerness to be the character (sadly I was never at a con where the Sailor Moon group was happening).

No Mija Productions presents: Fuego Noche Tropicana might have been an unexpected show for the act, but I learned that you should always submit if you have an inkling of being a good fit.  This being a Latin-themed production meant that I did have to properly incorporate tango into the choreography.  Thankfully Youtube had a lot of helpful tutorials, and I mastered the basic 8-step for both the leader and follower, along with embellishments that could work in a solo routine.

By Mr. Photopix
Although the audience was not expecting the Sailor Moon theme, they seemed to love the act.  It's tricky business combining cultures but also a lot of fun when it comes together.  I definitely had a blast because everything had finally come together and I was living out another dream.  Since I was also in the closing group number by Fuego Danza Company, I couldn't hang into my tuxedo.  That was probably the evening's biggest challenge: going from anime bishounen (pretty boy) to a sparkly, feathery samba dancer.  Even with the feminine elements of my routine, I still aimed for a more androgynous look.

The group number was a fun way to close a great first show for No Mija Productions, and while I wound up having a very tired Friday morning in lab, it was worth every bit of my energy.  I came away ready to both do more with Fuego Danza Company (catch us at the San Antonio BurlesqueFestival) and with "Moonlight Serenade".

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Milkman Boylesque

San Antonio boylesque dancer Stephan will make you reconsider milk as a child's drink.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Lab teching my way through striptease school: Body Acceptance - Eyes

"Men seldom make passes
At girls who wear glasses." - "News Item" by Dorothy Parker
Recently I did a photoshoot with Musico Roots for her Esteemed project.  It made me confront my struggles with body positivity and gave me motivation to finally get around this series—called "Body Acceptance" because I believe we don't have to be positive about every part of our body, but we need to find some level of acceptance (modification included).  I've been wanting to write a post about being a severely myopic performer as well so I decided to start with my eyes and talk about both their appearance and their function.

Like many Asian-Americans, I grew up with kids making fun of me for my eyes.  If that wasn't enough of a blow to my self-esteem, my own family often commented on how I "would be so beautiful if it weren't for [my] small eyes" or how I should get double eyelid surgery when I got older.  Even now people think I’m sad, tired, or angry when my face is at neutral.

From Buzzfeed's
"25 Beauty Struggles Asian Girls Go Through"
Ami-rian / Getty Images / Cathy Ngo / BuzzFeed
I've never desired double eyelid surgery, but sometimes I wonder if it would make life easier.  On top of having small eyes and monolids, my eyes are droopy and my eyelashes slant downward.  This makes wearing contacts, mascara, and false eyelashes a perpetual struggle.  I've tried every trick in the book with falsies and curlers, but gravity wins in the end.  Buzzfeed hit the nail on the head with all my eye make-up struggles.  If surgery could get rid of some of these and spare me the agony of having an eyelash or three frequently in my eye, I would be thrilled.  At the same time, I doubt it would actually get rid of my insecurities.  I'd be better off going under the knife for vision problems.

That brings me to the source of my biggest performance nightmare: my rigid gas permeable contact lenses.  Before every show, I freak out about the possibility of getting glitter, an eyelash, or a speck of dust into my eye and causing excruciating pain and lots of tears.  RGP lenses are an updated form of hard contacts, which means I can constantly feel their presence (one can get acclimated to them, but my eyes don't like wearing them every day).  A tiny thread on them feels like being poked in the eyeball.  I've had a couple of close calls and one incident while kittening.  It makes me feel bad that I end up being this liability to producers and stage managers.

So why do I bother?  Well, I can only see clearly about 4.5 inches from my face.  Everything else is a collection of blurry blobs.  I'd rather not risk taking a tumble off the stage; plus, unfocused eyes make me look high.  My small eyes and monolids keep me from being able to insert soft contacts, and my vision is still changing so LASIK will have to wait. 

I laugh at irony of contacts being preferred because glasses obscure my face and reflect light, yet having RGP contacts limit my expressiveness due to the fact that the lenses actually shift around my eyeballs.  I make do with what I have by working to be a better actress and sometimes drawing in that double eyelid.  I also get my bit of critique in with my "Black Glasses" act.  The ending is a reminder that glasses in real life are not accessories that enhance or conceal a person's attractiveness.  They're a necessity for near- and far-sighted individuals to live a normal life.

I want to end with a note of acceptance.  Initially I struggled to come up with something positive to say because my eyes have been my least favorite trait since childhood.  A few years ago, however, I discovered the character, Kyoya Hibari from Katekyo Hitman Reborn! Not only is he a badass with a serious demeanor that I identify with, but he also had narrow eyes (that don't look closed like Brock from Pokemon).  Cosplaying him made me appreciate the eyes I have, and I'm excited about another future cosplay for the same reason.  This is partly why my aesthetic has shifted toward the masculine since big eyes and long lashes are often associated with femininity.

My droopy eyes have also forced me to master the cat eye.  It's the one aspect of make-up that I can do well, and obviously it has been very useful in burlesque.

On a final note, you can come see my cat eye (and my "Black Glasses" act) tonight in Denton for Glitterbomb:

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Fuego Noche Tropicana

Check out some Latin-themed burlesque at Fuego Danza Company and No Mija Productions' Fuego Noche Tropicana.

Click here to purchase tickets.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Lab teching my way through striptease school: Don't Quit Your Day Job, But Plan to Lose Some Sleep

"No man can taste the fruits of autumn while he is delighting his scent with the flowers of spring: no man can, at the same time, fill his cup from the source and from the mouth of the Nile." - Nekayah, The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia by Samuel Johnson

I recently found my quote binder, and I've decided that I could put it to more use by having a quote here so that's going to be a new thing.  I've also decided that rather than update you on random happenings in the past month or two, I would tackle another subject: juggling burlesque with a full-time day job and a second hobby-job (more on what that is later).  Although it is completely possible to do burlesque full-time (i.e. perform, teach, costume, and all things related), that is not an easy path and not one of my choosing.  Even if sometimes I do want to drop everything else for burlesque.
Somehow I manage to throw cosplay and cons in mix too.
I'm a little beat here because this was panel #5
Sunday morning at All-con.
As the title of this blog indicates, I work in a research lab.  Part of why I elected to not get a Ph.D. is because I want to have the time to have my two hobby-jobs: burlesque and blogging for a couple of sites.  Not saying that you can't do burlesque and grad school, but that's beyond my personal capabilities.  Due to professional concerns, I don't want to reveal too much about the blogging.  Let's just say get to write about things I like and cover fun events.  I call blogging and burlesque "hobby-jobs" because while I am doing them for fun and not income, I still have responsibilities that I can't ignore (see Dangrrr Doll's latest Burlesque Beat article, "8 Tips for Fostering Professionalism in Our Scene").

I don't mind being busy.  When experiments stressing me out, I can go home and work on a blog post or go to dance class and let the endorphins take over.  Recently I experienced a lot of frustrations with an event I had to cover.  There was a burlesque show after it, and I decided to go and be Hana Li for an hour.  I needed that break and seeing inspiring performances re-energized me.

I also got to meet Dangrrr Doll and Stella Chuu
at the aforementioned event and see Tifa Tittlywinks again.

On the flipside, trying to coordinate different deadlines is tough, and when something goes awry, everything can come crashing down.  Sometimes I'm not as focused during rehearsals because I have lab meeting or I have 100 photos to edit.  Other times, I'm rushing to get a costume finished that I end up late for work.  An extreme example would be my finger injury from two months back.  While carrying boxes in lab, I shut the door all the way on my hand.  No fingers were broken, but there was a lot of internal bleeding.  As a result I had trouble typing out a post and almost couldn't stage kitten for the Rocky show.  It's actually caused me to change a glove peel in a routine I've been working on because even now, my middle finger is still bruised and a little swollen.

Further complicating time management is the troupe factor.  I wasn't sure about being two troupes because of my schedule and dependence on public transport (which is yet another factor).  However, I'm trying my best and am grateful for understanding instructors and helpful troupemates. 

Life would be so much easier if I had a Time Turner, but I imagine that wouldn't get rid of the physical toll.  I have had to say "no" a lot during the past couple of months for both troupe and solo gigs.  It always pains me to do so because I never want to let people down.  However, as annoying as it is, the day job takes precedent, and before that comes my physical and mental health.  That's why I have to constantly remind myself to slow down and enjoy something completely unrelated like watching action sports or reading.  I should probably add "sleep" to the list of break activities, but hey, I'm still figuring this time management thing out.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Lab teching my way through striptease school: Making a Man Out of Myself

I have a lot of catching up to do.  Since the beginning of March, I've been preoccupied with shows, conventions, lab teching, and a nasty injury.   I'm mostly healed, but I still can't type with two fingers so blogging has been very low on my list priorities.  However, now that I have some down time, I decided that it was time to start catching up here.

By Robert Hold

Remember when I said that I was going to focus on refining old routines rather than work on new ones?  Well, that plan went out the door pretty quickly.  Sometimes inspiration and opportunity come together in a perfect storm that you can't escape.  It's what ­­­happened with my "I'll Make a Man Out of You" act for Panty Raid's Bare Necessities show.

I had gotten the idea­ a few months ago for another show.  Although I'd never really wanted to do Disney burlesque, the song was too catchy to resist.  However, the popularity meant that I really had to think this routine out.  It sat in the back of my mind until I saw that Panty Raid was looking for Disney acts.  I'd been wanting to return to Sue Ellen's so the timing was perfect.

Sort of.  Because I wanted to pay tribute to the training scene, I needed to brush up on both my drag and martial arts skills.  Although I had done drag only once, I wasn't too unfamiliar with adopting a masculine persona due to my crossplay background.  However, this time I wasn't portraying a youthful pretty boy—I needed to be a man.  Thank goodness for on-line tutorials. 

By Robert Hold
As for the martial arts, my younger brother was a black belt in taekwondo so I used to watch and mimic his practicing.  I joined him for camp one summer and took a semester of it in college.  Once you learn those moves, they don't go away.  Unfortunately, taekwondo didn't meld with dance so I studied kung-fu and tai chi videos.  Now I wouldn't recommend doing this to seriously learn martial arts, but it worked well for creating the illusion of a martial artist.  While I was practicing, I couldn't help but feel a desire to take classes.  It was interesting to see how my attitudes has changed since as a kid, I was "too busy" to join my brother in classes and thought my grandpa's tai chi was weird and boring.  I definitely have a new-found appreciation. 

The show changed my mind about Disney burlesque.  I'd always had an irrational fear of corrupting childhood memories, but now I know that burlesque just created new ones.  I gained a new fan with my martial skills so I was happy that the training paid off. 

Doing this act gave me insight on who Hana Li was as a performer.  It felt so natural to be in drag at first, and I enjoyed presenting dichotomies of masculine and feminine, serious and silly.  Panty Raid was the perfect place for me to explore this, and I'm thankful for that opportunity.

I also acquired a new sense of creativity from combining the two different forms of movement.  While I might not have been able to do a flying front kick stocking peel (things in your head don't always translate into real life once you consider skill level and physics), I came up with some new tricks that I hope to bring into other acts.  And I did learn a flying front kick, which is a great way to keep the audience members alert.

Check out some highlights by Kevin Huckabee:

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Bourbon Street Burlesque

Last month, the Texas Burlesque Peepshow put on a New Orleans-inspired event: Bourbon Street Burlesque.  Hosted by Ben Wisdom, the night included classic burlesque and live music.
Sugar McQueen
The Lyric Laveau Band

The Pistolettes brought in some New Orleans bounce, and May May took everybody on a gender-bending journey.
The Pistolettes
May May

There was also burlesque done to live music, as members of the Viva Dallas Burlesque Showgirls teamed up with The Lyric Laveau Band.

Sweet T
Headliner Jolie Goodnight combined the two with her signature sing-and-strip routines.
Jolie Goodnight
It was a fun opportunity to re-live the excitement of Mardi Gras.

Click here for more photos.
Flickr-restricted images can be found here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Spring Fling Burlesque Review

La Divina Productions presents our annual tribute to all thing springlike and beautiful in the the Spring Fling Burlesque Revue, Friday March 27, 2015 at The Kessler. The show features burlesque legend Shannon Doahand Vancouver's very own Ruthe Ordare, best soloist in the 2014 Texas Burlesque Festival. Also performing will be Ruby Joule Burlesque Lady Divina Donna Denise and others.

Time: Doors Open 7:00pm Show Starts 9:00pm,

Ages 21 & up

WHERE The Kessler 1230 W. Davis St. Dallas, TX 75208

Monday, March 2, 2015

Lab teching my way through striptease school: Dallas Burlesque Festival '15

Things have gotten busy again.  Even though I swore off new routines, inspiration and opportunity came together to create a perfect storm.  I couldn't pass off the opportunity to perform in Panty Raid's Disney-themed show this Friday, Bare Necessities.  Please come out if you're in the neighborhood.
Now, let's travel back to a couple weeks ago when I was just coming off a pulled back muscle and eager to help out at the Dallas Burlesque Festival.  Since lab work has gotten hectic as of late, I decided not to take Friday off and instead enjoyed the second show as an audience member.  I was sad to have missed the first one, but the day job comes first.

Even though Dallas Burlesque Alliance Showcase contained a lot of familiar faces, there were several acts I had never seen before.  I felt really lucky to be in a city full of talented performers, and it made me want to work harder so that I could represent Dallas well too.  I was stoked for my fellow Dallas School of Burlesque CATS for not only opening the show, but also going home with the Class Act award.  Unfortunately I couldn't stay long to party since The Companion had come after work to pick me up.

Saturday morning, I got up early to go to the Ruby Room for Ginger Valentine's workshop.  It was fun to learn a new routine for Valentine's Day even if I couldn't show it off until a later date.  I still had some time to chill at home so I watched a film about freeskiiers Sarah Burke and Rory Bush.  As with all things action sports, it inspired me to take on any challenges thrown at me.  It was probably a good thing that I had some adrenaline pumping since we pick-ups artists had some heavy lifting to do. 

The show went really smoothly, much of that thanks to great camaraderie with my fellow kittens and the stage manager Jess for being on top of everything.  She was amazing.  I also have to give a shout-out to May May and Mr. Mariah for providing some extra muscle for Elle Dorado's "ice".  Never did I think I would be putting together a synthetic figure skating rink.  Having been a fan of figure skating since I was a little girl, I was stoked to see her live.

There were so many amazing acts.  I liked seeing the different dance and performance styles, ranging from Shelbelle Shamrock's breakdancing to Grace Gotham's samba to Angi B. Lovely and Stormy Gayle's circus arts.  Kitten N' Lou had me silently cracking up.  I also had the honor of helping escort the legendary Tammi True on-stage for her to wow the crowd. My favorite moment was not a performance, however, was Penny Ruffles' surprise proposal.  Those of us backstage didn't get to see it, but we all got excited when El Vez said, "Little black box".  Backstage was overflowing with happy emotions.  Many congratulations to Penny and her man!
Saturday Showcase Pick-Up Artists:
Helena Isis, me, Classi Chassi, and Penny Ruffles
The after-party featured a lot of cool tunes from Trigger Mortis, and I couldn't help but join in on the dancing for a bit.  I was getting tired though so after chatting for a bit, I headed home.  I was still worn out on Sunday, and due to having lots of errands, I wound up missing the guest workshops.  Hopefully there will be another chance to take them.  Another excellent Dallas Burlesque Festival was in the bag, and I felt reinvigorated by all the inspiring performances.