As a fire dancer, I’ve had many opportunities presented to me, including the suggestion to perform burlesque. It’s very tempting, as good burlesque is funny, entertaining, and empowering. We’re all in this business together, and I respect the art form as much as I do any that challenges the performer and in some cases, the audience. I’ll admit that some of my gigs have been on the more flirty side, and for this I’m not ashamed. It’s simply a celebration of life, IMHO.
I haven’t been performing as much I used to and I didn’t understand the effect this has had on me until I realized that the most excitement I’ve had since I moved to the country was from running the nearest yellow light, which is about five miles away. So when I heard that there was a gathering of flow artists and dancers gathering just a couple of hours away, I registered for the event. It’s called Flow Camp, and there I had the pleasure of taking a workshop from a fierce woman who goes by the name Siobhan Atomica. She’s been a central figure in the Kentucky burlesque scene since 2008, not long after I began my own journey of fire arts.
Siobhan, introduced as “”The Lady that puts the ASS in Bluegrass,” was the MC for a burlesque performance at Flow Camp, and her stage presence was nothing less than captivating. Because I only know enough about this genre to be dangerous, I invited her to share from her professional perspective the top three reasons that she loves burlesque.
Burlesque allows people to combine all their creative, artistic, and imaginative passions into one sparkly package. Like to sew? You can make your wildest costume dreams come to life on stage. Like comic books? You can create an act based on your favorite character and bring them to life in a funny and sexy way. Like to dance? You can combine dancing with theatrical presentation to tell a captivating story that changes your perspective and the perspective of your audience. You can do anything you want! In the words of Paco Fish, esteemed burlesque performer, “There is no wrong or right way to do things, just differing levels of effectiveness.”
Since the inception of burlesque in ancient Greek plays that satirically poked at important social and political issues through theatrical presentation to people from all social backgrounds, burlesque has become an important fixture in entertainment and education to the masses. Not everyone can afford to go to the opera, and not everyone can be a prima ballerina, but almost everyone at some point can/will have access to see a burlesque show, and if you have a knack for performing, have self-discipline and drive, regardless of age, shape, color, or gender, you have the chance to become a burlesque performer.
Striptease is a satire of undressing (most people don’t spend 3 to 15 minutes taking off their clothes and then bumping and grinding in a choreographed notion to music every time they take off their clothing, but in burlesque striptease, that’s the name of the game.) Media and society teach us that it’s not okay to take our clothes off in public or to love our bodies if they are anything less than Photoshopped perfection. Modern burlesque rejects those notions. It’s a very freeing feeling to enjoy your body in all its “flaws” and splendor and to gain the confidence to share that enjoyment with a crowd of living, breathing people. It’s a special and magical moment. It’s theatre. It’s art. It’s living at its finest.
Peace, love, and fire,