Inspiration and Act Creation advice from Miss la Vida

One of the really cool things about my job is that I meet so many talented performers from all around.  Miss la Vida caused me to first stare in amazement then roll around the floor laughing and gasping for air watching her act,  Bigg Butts”  in her 2010 show  Naughty N’ Nice.  She never ceases to amaze me with her clever wit and sassy moves.  She frequently makes it to the US and participates in the New York Burlesque Festival amongst others and works really really hard to produce great shows.  She also teaches burlesque dance classes in Auckland.  Check her out of Facebook.  Here’s what she shared with me on inspiration and act creation.     

Miss la Vida - photo by Miss T Pin-ups

The thing I really love about burlesque is the autonomy it gives me. I can do what I want, however I want to and not be constrained by other performers’, producers’ or directors’ needs or opinions. If I want to do an act dressed as an elephant playing the piano, that’s what I’ll damn well do.

But how do you even get to the point of conceiving an act involving a piano playing elephant? Drugs? Alcohol? Insanity? Yes, but these aren’t always reliable or readily available. But more reliable sources of inspiration for an act are music and costume.

Music is so important. If you don’t really love the song you have chosen to perform to, there’ll be no passion or energy in your performance. You also need to be able to hear the song over and over without getting bored of it.

The choreography in my performances comes from listening to and reflecting the elements of the music e.g. if I hear a kick drum beat, I just have to do side or front bumps. The trill of a wind instrument tells me to shimmy. If you really listen to your music, it will tell you what to do.

A lot of my acts have been born out of listening to the lyrics of a song. My “Pulp FRiction” act, where I shoot my blow up man for being a misogynist, came from hearing the lyric “A woman’s place is in her home”. I heard that and thought – wow, how sexist is that! And everything else flowed from there.

It goes without saying that costuming is vital in burlesque, especially how it all comes off. Seeing the array and high standard of costumes during my two trips to the States last year, really brought this home to me and was a source of inspiration for my new act, “Big Butts”.

I pictured myself wearing a long gown with detachable tulle skirt and lace accessories and started designing. I thought about how it would all deconstruct, whilst at the same time, trying to look different and use items of costume in unique ways. For example, I designed fingerless sleeves, because 99.9% of gloves worn in burlesque are the traditional opera length gloves. I then decided I wouldn’t take my gloves off in my act, because everyone else does.

And here I touch upon a subject which I draw as my main source of inspiration and one which many performers overlook to their detriment: The desire to be different. Back in the day, the mantra was, “You’ve got to have a gimmick”. Dixie Evans was ‘the Marilyn Monroe of burlesque”. Satan’s Angel was/is “Queen of the fire tassels”. Gimmicks were identities, talents and qualities unique to the performer which set them apart from their contemporaries and provided a point of difference to sell themselves.

Because of the prevalence of Youtube, sharing of photos on social media etc, the temptation for today’s performers is to copy ideas off other performers without really putting their own stamp on their performance. Whenever I conceive of an act, I Google the idea to check there’s no other performers already doing it, and if there are, I drop the idea.

As a producer, I never put acts on in the same show that are similar, out of respect for the performers and so the audience don’t get bored. So, for example, you’ll never see two fan dances in my shows. I also tend not to put people in my shows who have copied another performer’s act as I’m not interested in working with performers who have no creativity and are willing to stab another performer in the back by stealing their source of income. You think that’s harsh? I know producers who will name and shame plagiarists via their Facebook status.

But what exactly is the definition of plagiarism? I’ve borrowed this quote from the rules and regulations of the Great Burlesque Exposition held in the UK: “Does this mean if you see someone do a cowboy act or an act with balloons or to a particular piece of music that you can never use that character, element, or song? Of course not. Take inspiration from anywhere you can, but respect both the hard work that other performers have put into their acts and yourself enough to create something new.” I couldn’t agree more.

And this point is so important in a country as small as New Zealand. It’s perfectly acceptable to perform to ‘Harlem Nocturne’: it’s a song on a CD that 80% of burlesque performers must possess and is therefore ‘game’ to be used and so there’s bound to be another performer in the country dancing to it as well. However, if you saw a performer with a particular gimmick or talent, for example, singing, performing to “I Wanna Be Loved By You” in a black diamante encrusted gown and red underwear, and then you decided to do all that for your ‘new’ act, that makes you a plagiarist, a backstabber and deleted from my Christmas card list.

So the best advise I can give you as your source of inspiration is to be different and be true to who you are and your unique identity as a performer. And if you don’t know what your identity as a performer is, try drugs, alcohol or insanity to find out.

Miss La Vida xxx

Plagiarism stretches to burlesque classes as well. A good way to piss off a burlesque teacher is to perform their choreography as your new act. If you want to do that, pay the teacher for their choreography, and no, paying to attend the class doesn’t count. I also advise not teaching that choreography or a specialised class concept, such as pinup posing,  as your own class. Most burlesque teachers are also producers and you’ll find yourself quickly out of work if you tread on their toes. Teach your own style, your own concept and have respect for the person who helped you get to where you currently are – steps off soap box and goes back to thinking of piano playing elephants.

Looky Links – - >

Miss la Vida’s website   Info on NZ Copyright  

Competition results and Frolic Lounge pics

Congratulations to Carys Lloyd who wins the Miss la Belle’s hair pretties.  Will be getting that to you shortly my dear.

You will remember a month ago I told you about Frolic Lounge at Fringe bar and many of you came (thank you).

Here are some pics from the very first Frolic Lounge student showcase.   Many thanks to Toya Heatley for the awesome photos. As you can see the evening was fun filled with beautiful girls and emcee Sadie von Scrumtious’ clever wit.  Also could not of done it without the fabulous stage manager Amy Jansen-Leen.   The feeling of seeing lovely women finding their place of outrageous confidence is indeed amazing and they all did me very proud. 

Thank You Wellington & Wonderful Weldon

Gold Fringed amazing outift - pic by Richard Just

Wow, what a big weekend.  And I write to you whilst nursing a mild hang over – due to Glamiltonains Mr B Frank and the emerging vixen Rosina Lee, along with the cute Ginger Snaps keeping me out till 2am.  And really the relationships, the meeting of new folk you only had facestalked, and the visiting of old friends was the theme of the weekend.  

We were so truly honoured to have the beautiful and knowledgeable Jo Weldon here, along with Jonny Porkpie, who ripped the plaster off our somewhat shy kiwi persona’s and instructed us to get down with our naughty self.  Whilst some other’s highlights for the weekend was booby squishing with Jo herself in tassel class, or getting the advice to ‘make your v@gina talk to the audience’.  Mine was seeing Jo perform at the after party wearing the amazing gold beaded fringed outfit 2 meters away.  Which I had seen on facebook only.  So that had me blubbling like an idiot as she is my rockstar idol.

Whilst that indeed a real treat,  the weekend offered many great experiences, laughs and smiles, and fabulous booby hugs.  My weekend started off at Wildilocks on Cuba St – where James trimmed and Kaz styled mine and Amy’s hair into fabulousity for the Premiere of Behind the Burly-q movie at Watusi.  We were treated to performances by Ms Girdle-Buster, Sadie, Jonny Porkpie and Rachel Rouge.  Which is always a delight to watch them perform – no pressure – in front of Jo Weldon.  Jo gave us a great talk about the legends in the doco, which had us laughing and crying. Great movie – I recommend it.  The weekend then was full of fabulous workshops and corsets galore.

Other amazing things were all the well wishes everyone gave for my birthday, sweet treats from Martha’s pantry from Miss Tittle-tattle, the Glamtilton crew, seeing some of my lovely students come by, wonderful Cilla who minded my stall.  Stall buddying with Rachel Rouge who showed me such kindness and also put on such a wonderful Dr Sketchy.  Ms Girdle-Buster writing such lovely words in card she made me cry.  Burlesque performer Ginger Snaps kind words.  Hanging out with all burlesque performers local and wider, and getting to know them all, seeing Eva Strangelove and Anastasia performand getting a candle lit bum waggle in the face from Courtney l’amour *bliss*.   

Thanks to Rachel Rouge for the use of her images.   Thank you Catherine Prescott for bring Jo and Jonny, and thank ya’ll for the cool weekend.

There are still a few pretty hair flowers, fishnet dance tights and stockings  and Amy Jansen-Leen Millinery hats for sale – please contact me to enquire.  

Looky links – - >  

Jo Weldon on Good Morning  

Rollicking Frolic

Well hello dolly.  No Mondayitis for me – still reeling after the weekend.

Burlesque Babes

Saturday’s student showcase Frolic Lounge was a huge success – thanks to all who came to support the lasses.  Indeed they did a ultra fine job.  I hollered until my voice gave out, and delighted in their stage presence and was blown away at how they expressed such fierce self confidence.  I was truly honored that these fine women took to the stage with such panache and enthusiasm, and were a great support to each other.  There was a couple of costume malfunctions (due to the humidity and heat) but they handled like professionals and had the crowd roaring.  I look forward to seeing it all happen again!  Believe me there shall be more, and I am certain that quite a few of Saturday’s performers will take to the stage again.

Big thanks goes out to Amy Jansen-Leenwho was the stage manager with the mostest!  To Sadie von Scrumptious our delightful emcee, Rebecca Grace (stage kitten extraordinaire)  and Toya Heatley our skillful photographer (images coming soon), Syd and The Fringe Bar.  And you fabulous folks (with a special mention to those who missed out some of the Sevens to be there).

Well after that fantastic evening it would be hardly believable that it could get any better – but YES it is with this weekend seeing the Great NZ Burlesque Expo with Jo Weldon (dazzling dame from NY) and Jonny Porkpie.  She is hosting a raft of workshops – check http://poledanceaotearoalimited.dnserver.net.nz/Jo_Weldon.php for more info.  I too will be having one workshop – will tell you more tomorrow!  Not only is Jo here but a host of stalls and exhibitions are on.  Tickets cost $25 for a day or $40 for a 2 day pass. Tickets at http://www.eventfinder.co.nz/2011/feb/wellington/the-great-new-zealand-burlesque-festival-expo.  Come by and vist me at my stall – I have showgirl goodies and pin-up essentials for sale.  The Atrium is (Between Blair Street and Allen Streets) and Expo is from 11am – 10pm on Saturday and 11am – 6pm on Sunday.

You will be able to examine Jo along with the Harem Honeys up close at Dr Sketchy Saturday the 12th at 4pm at Mighty Mighty http://www.drsketchy.com/site/comments/coming_up_in_wellington_jo_weldon_and_harem_honeys .  So bring your art supplies!

I’ll be posting again this week so check back for updates.

See you there.  x x x

Looky Links – - >  Toya Heatleys blog      Digitalpix

Steampunk Burlesque

Here's the crazy headpieces I made for a party - Pic by Angela Wells

What is Steampunk?  www.scifipedia.com defines steampunk “is set in an era or world where steam power is still widely used—usually the 19th century, and often set in Victorian era England—but with prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy, such as fictional technological inventions like those found in the works of HG Wells and Jules Verne”.  I explain it not so detailed as that but as fashion trend taking Victorian clothing, adding the Industrial age with fantastical steam machines, with a twist of travel.

I started off trying to do a ‘Busty’s Lusty List of 10′  for steampunk but fell short a bit.  I have some great links to how to’s for costumes and some performances.  Can you add yours to get the list up to 10?

  1. Steampunk costumes
  2. Sparky Strange and Chassy VanKlass
  3. Some costume bits tutorial
  4. Louise Black on Etsy – great cameo corsets
  5. Miz Sharky
  6. Lovechild Boudoir on Etsy

Burlesque the movie – review

Last week I tallied up what other folk were saying about Burlesque the movie, and I went to see it on Sunday with a group of Burlesque loving gals.  So.. here’s what I thought 

  • Predictable lines of dialogue

    Ali's green dress, worn during the song 'Bound to you' sung once Ali and Jack have consummated their relationship. Also probably one of the brightest coloured outfits considering all the rest are black or white

  • Confusing character traits
  • A well used story line you could of spliced several films together and saved yourself the hassle
  • Where’s the female nudity?
  • Loved seeing Cam Gigandet (Jack) nude, in fact he was the only nude or nearly nude person we got to see a full shot of.

It’s no surprise that indeed the costumes, dance moves (although some were very strange) were fantastic and the actors  indeed good looking (check out Cam).  And sure maybe you weren’t expecting any great dramatic acting/story line….woah I guess that’s really it.  Sure perhaps I wasn’t to expect anything great and just see it as a piece of mindless fluff film then yes, fine, suited a couple of hours of checking out of my brain.  But with the cost of films these days I would rather get some value for my money.  

Now you may recall I was a bit dubious about the singing.  There definately are two songs where I was drumming my fingers and thinking about whether Christina was wearing any underwear under the green dress.  Ms Rouge indeed confirmed Ali was wearing some (and what eyes like a hawk she has).  In fact the film was kicked off with a completely unbelievable-way-too-produced song, which could of been a bit rougher and then gotten better later in the film, but did have us giggling from the get go, but didn’t quite keep that momentum up. 

In the past I loved seeing Moulin Rouge on the big screen as I wanted to see the costumes up large, and boy was I fulfilled. I saw that film at the Lighthouse Cinema and it was almost like I could walk onto the film set.  Yes it is a cheesy musical, and indeed I don’t have a fondness for musicals.  But I was not disappointed by the storyline, characters, costumes, dancing, theatrical performances and over the top everything  (they could of cut out the love song on top of the Elephant, but I could tolerate it as the rest was superb).  So Burlesque the movie,   Characters – yes I take Sadie’s point  last week about Cher as weepy diva (we only ever see her complaining, or goofing about with the wardrobe mistress Sean); Costumes – yes (some really lovely ones, but where’s the colour?); Dancing – the dancing was great but full on modern (I’m talking the likes of ‘Bring it on’), including some crumping styles; Theatrical performance – someone made the comment about Cher’s botox must of made it impossible for her to cry, Steve Antin couldn’t you of flicked some water on her face or something?  I guess it did hit ‘over the top’ as you had to super suspend reality to actually believe not only the story line but the relationships that make a story (eg love interest, motherly boss, cat fighting).  Although yes the cat fighting was believable, the dating the really rich guy without putting out wasn’t, nor was the forgiving of Nikki (as Sadie suggests).  

Was it good? no.  Was it bad, sort of.  The reviewers comment about it maybe being the comedy of the year – was mostly right, however it wasn’t funny (or bad) enough (even if you count the lyrics ‘Get your a$$ up and show me how you burlesque’).  There were so many places where comedy could of been used to full advantage (dick in a box anyone?).   Was it representation of what I call burlesque, no.  It did however, make a burlesque out of movie. 

 What do I reckon? Some folk who love Cher/Christina/Cliche’d films will adore it.  Hire it out on video and watch on a really big tv screen.  

Oh and I looked for a shirtless Gigandet for you, but I think it’s possible a body double was used for the close ups! 

 
 

  

The fabulous pearl costume

 

 Looky Links – - > 

Von Teese questions Burlesque film      Dress pic from Hollywood Movie Costumes  Braided Christina at the Premiere of Moulin Rouge 

Burlesque the movie

I have been watching the Internet for months now on folks review of ‘Burlesque’ the movie.  Of which it will be released in New Zealand on the 15th January.  Folk are commenting on it at day job and asking if I will go see it, excited, interested and all that stuff.  Yes I shall reserve my final judgement upon viewing the film, but so far here’s what I’m thinking.

Cher – yes, great, haven’t seen ya in ages.  Christina Aguilera – not my cup of tea, and sorry my brain totally goes to the episode of Family Guy where Peter was her Manager ‘offensive to all five senses’. Sure, her Candyman song is catchy and wonderfully styled (and made better by seeing gorgeous Venus Star perform her amazing hoops to this song). 

To start off my research on movies to watch I tend to check out the normal spots such as Rotten Tomatoes, and see what other folk on Facebook say about it.  Rotten Tomatoes gives it 37% which is bad – but still says 75% of viewers liked it.  Some of the reviewers comments are great though

  • “Burlesque manages what seemed impossible: It is filled with half-naked dancing girls, yet it’s still boring”   Newsday.com
  • “Expect sequins, sparkle and camp fun, just don’t go looking for sensual thrills”  Birminghampost.net
  • “Try to make ‘Showgirls’ for 12 year olds and you please no one. What a tease” Timeout.com
  • “Intentionally or not, it might be the comedy of the year.” Empire magazine

It’s pretty hard to know if it will be good or not, as there definitely seems to be a mix.  I have heard it described as ‘Coyote Ugly meets Chicago’, or that it should of been named ‘Jazz’ or ‘Showgirls 2′.   Jo Weldon put up a vid on her Facebook page from Crazyhorse “I am a good girl” and we all got to see Christina’s version too.  I wanted to share that with ya’ll but it appears the original (with enormous high kicks) is no longer on YouTube (drats). 

Here’s burlesque perfomer Darlinda Just Darlinda  interview on her opinion on the movie.  She said there’s lots of sparkly costumes and amazing jazz dancing which will thrill us all, Scott Ross who interviews her says see it if you want to see Christina sing for two hours.   Darlinda Just Darlinda’s Review of Burlesque the movie. 

All that considered and with my earlier mentioned opinion on Christina, I’m not aching to see it at all.  However Dalinda’s mention of sparkly things does make me want to see the dance moves and costumes.  I wonder if I listened to my own music at the movie theatre, would it detract from the ‘dialogue’ and ‘storyline’?  What about you, have you any thoughts on it?

 Looky Links – - >

Trailer for Burlesque    An interview with Jo Weldon - she loves the campiness       Candyman on Youtube

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About Miss La Belle

Hi. I'm a Wellington burlesque dancer and dance teacher. I enjoy having a great giggle in class whilst I teach lovely lasses to dance and to enjoy feminity. Vintage dresses and lingerie are my passion. I love chocolate but dislike pumpkin. I love coffee but loathe licorice. In 2010 I won Miss Burlesque New Zealand with a housewife turns pirate act. You can follow me on Facebook.
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