A look back at BurlyCon’s record setting ‘Largest Fan Dance’.

Last weekend saw the close-out of Seattle’s 5th annual BurlyCon, ‘a community-oriented professional growth and educational convention for Burlesque performers, fans, and aficionados’. Each year the convention keeps getting bigger; you can tell by the increasing number of attendees in the annual BurlyCon class photo. Corralling so many burlesquers in line for a minute gets harder to do with each passing year.

One of this year’s BurlyCon highlights was the successful attempt to set a Guinness World Record for ‘Largest Fan Dance’. This feat was accomplished by 252 dancers in traditional costume, waving their feather fans to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony for a full five minutes.

The world's largest fan dance in action... ©POC Photo
The world's largest fan dance in action... ©POC Photo

The attempt took place at the ballroom of the Doubletree Hotel on the second day of BurlyCon. Volunteers stationed outside made sure all fans and costumes were on par with Guinness requirements before people were let in (specifically, fans had to be within the 12″ to 50″ range). As the eager participants walked into the ballroom, volunteers did an official head count, not including official volunteers, videographers, and photographers (of which I was one). Over the next half hour, people streamed in with giant fans, small fans, and everything in between.

Jo Weldon addressing the fan dancers.  ©POC Photo
Jo Weldon addressing the fan dancers. ©POC Photo

Led by Jezebel Express, the assembled burlesquers performed a 6pm run-through where everyone followed along to a video than had been posted on BurlyCon’s website in the weeks leading up to the attempt. People continued to stream in and find their places in the ballroom; the main factor, of course, was that at least 250 people had to participate. As the start time approached, I could see some worried faces wondering if there would be enough dancers to participate, but by 6:30 volunteers counted a total of 252 lovely fan dancers.

Jezabel Express leading the attempt.  ©POC Photo
Jezabel Express leading the attempt. ©POC Photo

Although the dancers successfully met the Guinness requirements for setting a record on the first attempt, a second successful attempt was made as a backup. The next official step in the record-setting process is to send all evidence to Guinness and wait for official confirmation.

The world's largest fan dance in action... ©POC Photo
The world's largest fan dance in action... ©POC Photo

The world's largest fan dance in action... ©POC Photo
The world's largest fan dance in action... ©POC Photo

Afterwards, I talked with Cherry ‘Killer’ Tomatoes, who was in charge of bringing this glamorous undertaking together…

POC: How did you get involved in this project?

Cherry: The Guinness attempt started when Waxie Moon made a joke about setting a fan dance record. Never one to turn down a challenge, soon after that Indigo sent off an application for setting the record to Guinness, and the attempt was set in motion. I became involved because I was a member of the Events Committee for BurlyCon and it was a good fit with my skill set.

Cherry “Killer” Tomatoes, one of the most essential organizers of the attempt.  ©POC Photo
Cherry 'Killer' Tomatoes, one of the most essential organizers of the attempt. ©POC Photo

POC: What were the things you had to do to make this happen?

Cherry: This project involved understanding the very strict guidelines set by Guinness for setting a record, then creating a plan. This was a massive, risky undertaking. We had to create choreography for a five minute dance that a large number of people could learn quickly and do simultaneously in tight quarters, which Jo Weldon and Jezebel Express put their brilliant creative juices into. We had to get at least 250 dancers registered, and assemble a large team of volunteers and officials for the event. Because of our tight non-profit budget, we did not fly Guinness officials out to witness the event, which meant we needed to gather official witnesses, stewards, timers, photographers and videographers to observe the event and gather evidence to present to Guinness as proof that we set the record. We had a plan for just about every second for the day of the event so that it would run smoothly. Not to mention the little hurricane that got in our way; we weren’t sure that everyone registered would make it in time due to travel delays and flooded neighbourhoods!

Miss Indigo Blue, never one to turn down a challenge.  ©POC Photo
Miss Indigo Blue, never one to turn down a challenge. ©POC Photo

POC: How did you feel when the record was set?

Cherry: When I found out that we set the record on the first try, I felt pure joy and intense relief. But what really got to me was announcing it to the room and hearing everyone in the room cheering.

POC: How long before this record becomes official?

Cherry: We will submit the package of evidence to Guinness this week, after which we’ll have to wait around eight weeks for the Guinness officials to review our evidence and see if they agree that we met their guidelines. We made two attempts (and did it perfectly both times) so I am very optimistic that Guinness will agree we set the record!

The world's largest fan dance in action... ©POC Photo
The world's largest fan dance in action... ©POC Photo

POC: How do you feel about your role in setting this record, or BurlyCon in general?

Cherry: This was an amazing experience for me personally. I think it was really special for BurlyCon to have this collective performance experience together, for us to accomplish this as a team and further bond our community. Nothing like this has ever been done before! I am really grateful.

I certainly felt a strong sense of community, which has always been one of the more appealing aspects of burlesque here in Seattle for me. And I felt it at BurlyCon while taking the different classes and attending the thought-provoking panels. I felt it during the meet and greets and the ‘Under the Deep Blue Sea’ Dance Party. I felt it as I met new burlesque friends from across the country. Even at the crazy after parties at different suites, acting crazy and playing games (like Cards Against Humanity) I felt it. I truly love being amongst the glittery, fabulous, outrageous men and woman of burlesque.

Written and photographed by Paul O’Connell (POC Photo).

Enjoy more fantastic articles and photographs at www.burlesqueseattle.com.

21st Century Burlesque
21st Century Burlesque

Quoted in major international newspapers and held in high esteem and affection by the international burlesque community, 21st Century Burlesque Magazine has documented the contemporary burlesque scene since 2007. Founded and edited by Holli-Mae Johnson.

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