Dieselpunk: Because Steam Wasn't Dirty Enough!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Monday, December 22, 2014

Cabaret and Gay Berlin

2014 saw the return of probably the most famous musical set in the diesel era, Cabaret.  The Broadway revival features the return of Alan Cumming as the emcee and currently stars Emma Stone as Sally Bowles.

Stacey Sipowicz, Alan Cumming, Emma Stone, Benjamin Eakeley,
Andrea Goss, and Kaleigh Cronin of Cabaret.
By Pari Dukovic/ Vanity Fair

Earlier in the year, Mr. Cumming gave an interview with Fresh Air about assuming the role for the third time and the underlying messages of the musical.  Click here to listen.

Also on Fresh Air was author Robert Beachy, who wrote a book about the LGBT scene in Berlin during the 1920s and 1930s.  Gay Berlin recounts the real history behind the decadent Weimar subculture that inspired CabaretYou can listen to the interview here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Monday, December 15, 2014

Lab teching my way through striptease school: The Politics of My Body and My Art

As I worked on creating new routines and improving old ones, I had planned to write about some things I had learned on this burlesque journey.  They mostly centered on self-esteem and accepting one's body even if one doesn't always like certain aspects.  However, recent events have pushed those posts aside.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to skip dance class to go downtown and join a protest hosted by Mothers Against Police Brutality in response to the Ferguson grand jury's decision.  I've been keeping my burlesque Facebook page free from most political statements.  It's something beginners are advised to do, particularly when opinions are polarizing.  Not that I haven't touched upon politics— just looks at a couple of my posts in the past.

As I had gotten tired of just sitting around when I saw the invite to the protest, I have decided that I cannot stay silent any longer.  After all, a burlesque classmate was the one who invited me to the protests, and dancers like our illustrious Queen has made a post about Ferguson and the bigger problem at hand.  It made me realize that the burlesque dancer known as Hana Li is part of the same identity that includes the social justice warrior (I wear that label proudly although I consider myself more of a rogue).

The fact that I am a woman is political.  The fact that I'm a woman of color makes it more so.  Being a burlesque dancer means that I take my politics to the stage, and it's something that I have tried to include in all my routines.  Even something seemingly innocent "Black Glasses" has hidden messages addressing certain social issues (in that case, the politics of being a female geek).  I am constantly inspired by dancers who do tackle issues head on in their routines or are willing to openly speak about it, like Tangerine Jones, The Shanghai Pearl, and the ladies of Brown Girls Burlesque.  They push me to try harder to start a dialogue, and as happy as I have been with the local community, I think we should continue to keep the conversation going and let our audiences know that they are part of it.

I know that I have a good deal of privileges too.  It's become particularly evident in the past weeks.  Therefore, while many of my politically-inclined statements involve the racism I've faced as an Asian, I cannot let my darker-skinned sisters and brothers be overshadowed.  Their voices should be heard; their lives matter.

I'm linking "Race and Burlesque" again because if you want to know where to begin as a member of community, this is a start.  Learn the history, read the interviews, and know that we still have a lot of work to do.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

1920s Nudist

Source: Swann Auction Galleries. According to the site:

Outstanding collection of photographs, albums, letters, and ephemera tracing the lives of a husband and wife who were life-long nudists. Approximately 1,700 photographs, mostly silver prints with some Polaroids and color prints, sizes ranging from 2x3 to 8x10 inches (5.1x7.6 to 20.3x25.4 cm.), depicting Lyman and Affie Barry and friends hiking, tree climbing, playing Scrabble, swimming, camping, eating, relaxing, and taking photographs. Two 4to leatherette albums, 10 binders with photographs in archival sleeves, and various ephemera including address books, Eastern Sunbathing Association newsletters, news clippings, correspondence, and ID cards. 1920s-1990s

Estimate $5,500 - 7,500

Captain Lyman F. Barry and his wife Affie were part of the pioneering generation of nudists in America. Lyman was from New Jersey and fought in WWII; his military diaries are archived at the New Jersey Historical Society.
While many nudist organizations used professional photographers, this is a fine example of amateur photographs taken by someone intimately familiar with the members of the movement. Most of the activities depicted are standard and casual, but some poses give hints that Lyman and Affie were likely bisexual and possibly swingers.

Seeing a person nude at 20 years of age, at 90, and everywhere in between, is quite unusual, and this unique collection captures many of the moments of the Barrys' fascinating lifestyle.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Viva Dallas Burlesque presents DC vs. Marvel

Nerdlesque took off this past year, and now you can ring in the new year with some of that geeky sexy fun.  This is also the last burlesque at the historic Art Deco style Lakewood Theatre.  Click here for tickets.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Speakeasily - Burlesque Talk Show

According to the web site for Speakeasily,

It's TV on the Internet! It's the only burlesque show that comes to YOU!

Mistress of Ceremonies Odessa Lil and her part-time co-hosts Klingon Vanna White and Shecky Davis Jr. get up close and personal with the most provocative burlesque, comedy, variety, drag, and fringe performers. In just two seasons, Speakeasily has taken the world by storm with its wacky comedy, scintillating and artful performances, and quality in-depth interviews.

It's been said that Speakeasily is the BEST burlesque comedy talk show on the internet...we also happen to be the ONLY burlesque comedy talk show on the internet! These two facts may be related!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Lab teching my way through striptease school: The Road to Queen

A little over two years ago, a burlesque fan boarded the light rail in her cosplay, prop meteor hammer and camera in tow.  I was determined to check out the Quentin Tarantino-themed burlesque show in my Gogo Yubari costume.  Little did I know that it would play a huge part in getting me into the Dallas burlesque scene and set me on the road to competing for a crown.

Villains and Villainesses
By Mr. Photopix
When Appaloosa Red announced that there would be a sequel to the Tarantino tribute, Pulp Friction, I knew I had to submit an act.  I chose O-Ren Ishii instead of Gogo because I'm not a fan of the Asian school girl stereotype (even if Gogo is a subversion) and I wanted a challenge.  I decided to play upon her mixed heritage since I could relate.  As an American-born Taiwanese with Chinese ancestry and a love of Japanese culture that people mistake for being my ethnicity, I wanted explore the layers of identity and show that there's more than what meets the eye.  To make the concept more O-Ren, I decided to represent the cultural identities as personas she adopted for assassinations.  It helped tie all the looks together because regardless of what she's wearing, she's still a badass.

Of course, this complex idea meant another complicated costume—or rather, three costumes.  To my great fortune, Black Mariah had an old kimono and I was able to use the ties from my yukata.  I decided to get a real obi, which led to me having to learn how to tie it and figure out of it without being a tangled mess.  Equally questionable was my choice to use a G-string that I happened to have (yay lingerie sets).  It saved me from buying another costume piece, but I had my apprehensions about baring that much.  I reminded myself of the insecurities I had already overcome and went into Pulp Friction with the "Go big or go home" mindset that had gotten me this far.

Pulp Friction
By DV8Photo
I really have to thank Appaloosa Red for having this high maintenance routine in her show and the stage kittens for lending a hand.  Despite a little mishap, I had a successful performance and probably the best obi removal I could ever wish for.  I was happy to have been able to show a different side to Hana Li, and I was inspired by all these different interpretations of Tarantino films and characters.

The PistolettesA Go-Go were in Pulp Fiction as the Crazy 88s, and they wound up talking me into auditioning for the Texas Burlesque Peepshow's Villains and Villainesses show, which was also a competition for Evil Queen of Burlesque.  They had the idea of having me enter with them like in the movie and then do my solo after their routine.  I hadn't planned to audition due to a friend's wedding being the same day.  It was an afternoon wedding so with some help, I worked out a schedule that allowed me to do both if I was cast.  It sounded good in theory and The Pistolettes and I were selected.  Then I had a week of the worst luck ever— which included my bus to the Texas Theatre not showing up.
Villains and Villainesses,
with the Pistolettes A Go-Go
By Samuel Hsu
The Companion, who already skipped some of the reception by waiting out in the cold with me, came to the rescue.  The Pistolettes were also extremely helpful in getting me ready to go, especially Coco Dependent who worked magic on my wig.  Things seemed to be looking up, but the bad luck reared its ugly head again.  There was a technical error (it's theatre; it happens), but we made it work.  And I really do mean we since the stage kittens and The Pistolettes played big roles.  This was a test of my capabilities as a dancer, which could use some improvement yet I should not doubt.

Villains and Villainesses
By Mr. Photopix
I hadn't really thought much about the competition aspect until I saw photos of the crown.  Then the reality of being a contender for Queen sunk in.  In a way, all the unrelated stresses I had to deal with kept me from becoming too competitive.  Being among such talented dancers was enough of an honor for me—a big congratulations to Blaze for becoming our first-ever Evil Queen of Burlesque.  I did my best with what is only my second solo act, and even if I'm not Evil Queen, I still got to be the Queen of the Crime Council.

More photos can be found in my "Performances" album.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922)

"A historical view of witchcraft in seven parts and a variety of styles. First, there is a slide-show alternating inter-titles with drawings and paintings to illustrate the behavior of pagan cultures in the Middle Ages regarding their vision of demons and witches. Then there is a dramatization of the situation of the witches in the Middle Ages, witchcraft and witch-hunts. Finally the film compares the behavior of hysteria of contemporary (1921) women with the behavior of the witches in the Middle Ages, concluding that they are very similar." (Source: IMBD)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Villains and Villainesses Burlesque

Extend your Halloween fun by attending the inaugural Evil Queen of Burlesque competition

The competitors are Blaze, Femme Vivre Le Rouge, Goldie Candela, Hana Li, MayMay, Pashionata Fair, Siren SaintSin, and Vivienne Vermuth.  There will also be performances by the Dallas School of Burlesque Dancers, Pistolettes a Go-Go, and Iris Le'Mour as Maleficent.

Click here to purchase tickets.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Lab teching my way through striptease school: Finding My Fire at the Latin Burlesque Festival

Joining Fuego de Samba was a happy accident.  One day I decided to try samba class at the Dallas School of Burlesque.  It was fun, but due to scheduling conflicts, I couldn't return for a while.  A month later I found myself with some free time and dropped in again, right in the middle of rehearsals for the Latin Burlesque Festival.  Suddenly I was a part of the troupe.  I felt like an interloper at first.  There was a lot of catching up to do, and I wasn't sure I could embody the fiery spirit of the dance.  However, Lily LeCroix put her faith in me and I pushed myself to master the fast footwork and convey more confidence.

After weeks of rehearsal and hours of costuming, we made our unofficial debut in the 2014 Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade.  I say unofficial because not all of the troupe was present and we didn't perform.  We were in full costume though.  It was good practice for getting used to the headdress and the feathery bustle.  I had a lot of fun in the parade, but I still had apprehensions about doing the troupe justice.  And the Latin Burlesque Festival was only five days away…
Fuego de Samba
By Samuel Hsu
To make things worse, a sore throat threatened to take hold of me that week.  I couldn't figure out if it was allergies, an on-coming cold, or too much exposure to E6000 (it's not fun being a perfectionist sometimes).  Thus performance day got off to a rough start, and work kept me later than intended.  As if that wasn't enough stress, I had a freak-out moment with my contacts that wound up being a lens needing more rinsing and my eyes more moisture.  On the plus side, I got some last minute make-up inspiration from a Sephora e-mail.

Thankfully everything came together for the performance.  Fuego de Samba was the surprise opener for the Latin Burlesque Festival, and everybody loved it!  The routine never felt exhausting until we were finished, and with adrenaline rushing, I was a bit winded.  Ali and I didn't have much time to chill or celebrate since we were the stage kittens for the night.

By Mr. Photopix
Unfortunately, that was when my bad luck caught up to me again.  I got a bit of glitter in one eye just as we were going to pick up for the following act.  As much as I tried to ignore the pain, it was too intense (any discomfort you get from having something in your eye is magnified 100-fold with rigid gas permeable lenses).  I rushed to the dressing rooms while Black Mariah stepped in.  The timing could have been worse, and I'm thankful I was able to fix everything without missing too much.  The rest of the night went smoothly, and it was such a pleasure to help out all these amazing dancers, including the legendary Kitten Natividad.  She was so sweet and humble. 

By Musico Roots
After the show, several of my troupemates were hungry for pizza so The Companion and I drove MayMay and Jay Scarlet to meet with everyone.  This little pizza join wound up getting a late night invasion of burlesquers.  Even though most of us changed into casual clothes, we still had our stage make-up so it must have looked odd.  After lots of laughter and nerdy discussions, we called in a night and prepared for Night Two.

I had wanted to take a couple of the workshops on Saturday, but that specter of a sore throat reared its head again and I opted to stay in.  Since The Companion had gone to a video game tournament, Jay was my seat buddy for the show.  It was competition night, and the judges had their work cut out.  I predicted that Eva Strangelove and Justin Credible's bullwhip paso doble and Fat Bottom Cabaret's energetic group number would get recognized because they're impressive no matter how many times you've seen them.  Then there was our dear MayMay who took drag to another level in an Addams Family duet with Buck Wylde (I look forward to more duets from them) and her Pan's Labyrinth solo routine.  That Faun costume blew everybody's minds.  I had no idea who was going to be Queen because everybody was on point.  It was cool seeing different forms of Latin dance be reinterpreted for burlesque from both competitors and the headliners.  In the end, Tiny D was Queen of the Latin Burlesque Festival with Bianca Dagga as Princess—double win for NYC!

After another night of celebrating with all the dancers, I thought about how fortunate I was to have stumbled into samba, as well as burlesque.  I was honored to be a part of something really important for the burlesque world.  I'd been going through a rough month where my insecurities got the best of me.  I'm more awkward and serious than wild and sassy, but I've learned that I can make it work even in a flirty, energetic samba number.  Now I'm starting to think about how to add some Latin flavor to my brand of burlesque because I definitely want to submit something to next year's Latin Burlesque Festival.

For more photos, check out my facebook album.  Also, if you think that cupcake looks delicious, you can usually find them at the Texas Burlesque Peepshow performances.  All proceeds go to Rowdy Rory's surgery fund.