Back in March 2014, performers from all corners of Australia convened on Melbourne to take part in a world record attempt for 24 hours of continuous burlesque performances. Burleskathon ran from 12pm noon on Saturday the 22nd to 12pm noon on the Sunday the 23rd and was organised to the tiniest detail by Dolores Daiquiri and Elena Gabrielle. Lola The Vamp recently sat down with them to hear all the gritty and glorious details!
Lola The Vamp: So, kids, how did you come up with this crazy idea?
Dolores Daiquiri: The idea for Burleskathon came about at a gig that Elena and I were both performing at – Tease Mania at The 86. We were all chatting about various shows while we were getting ready – typically having a laugh about various things and silly show ideas we could do – and we had a lighting bolt idea. We thought, why not put on the longest burlesque show non-stop in history?
LV: I can’t imagine the preparation process. Can you walk us through how long the organisation of Burleskathon took?
DD: Wow, the preparation was intense! It had to be organised to within an inch of its life. Elena and I had many, many meetings and conversations about how best we could manage such a task. Luckily, we are both perfectionists and both had skills we could throw into the mix.
First, we had to work out how many acts we needed to fit within the 24 hour period. Then we had to ask performers who could be involved and who would do more than one act. Once everyone was confirmed with times we set about organising the EXTREMELY long formats.
Elena and I spent hours and hours on the phone and via facebook/email working out the formats. She would sort out the music while I compiled the formats with times and performer. We had to change things a million times. Luckily for us we get on very well and worked as a team. No one got too stressed and we laughed about it often. When we had an issue we worked it out.
I think to do something like this you need to be patient, a team player, organised, available and persistent. I think the whole process took over 6 months.
LV: Performers flew in from across the county to be involved. What I really loved about the event was a very strong sense of performers working with each other to achieve something. The feeling of camaraderie and excitement was palpable. It didn’t seem as though people were trying to one-up each other. Which came first – was this a happy by-product of the concept or an intention that led to the creation of Burleskathon?
DD: We were so thrilled and touched with the support for this event. Everyone worked together so well and the camaraderie and enthusiasm was wonderful to be part of and witness. We actually wanted to do something fun for the burlesque community to bring everyone together. Our intention was to create community, diversity and provide the space to create with a different concept.
LV: I know some interstate performers felt the door had been opened to them, that they were welcome where it may have been difficult to get a gig in another state before. I’ve seen greater connection between the states since this event, and also seen the profile of some performers rise dramatically due to the touring opportunity.
DD: Burleskathon was about supporting anyone who performed burlesque no matter experience or style of performance. It was about bringing everyone together to share the stage, to network and to feel a sense of belonging.
LV: How did a show run for 24 hours, logistically speaking? Did you work in shifts or was were you both on for the full 24 hours as producers of the show?
DD: We worked off really long formats that ran in four hour shifts. Elena and I worked together for nearly 36 hours without much sleep. We both communicated very well to get it done. However I was in charge of getting everyone on and off the stage and coordinating everyone, and Elena was in charge of music/video. Basically though we did what we could to make it work.
LV: Did anyone – staff or audience – stay the full 24 hours? Were there drugs involved?
DD: There were quite a number of performers who stayed the full 24 hours – they were very enthusiastic! Silly hour was from 3am when everyone was delirious and it was quite hilarious at times. I remember sitting on my chair at one stage staring into space with no expression. Many performers did this when exhaustion set in. However we soldiered on! No drugs that I knew of. Mostly energy drinks, lollies and alcohol.
DD: Plenty! Everyone had their own way of staying awake. Power naps were on the top of the list too.
LV: Was there a nap area for weary showbos?
DD: Yes we had a room set aside but not many used it. Some slept under tables in the change room or put their head on a bench. I think I had about one or two hours sleep. Elena not much more. Some slept on the couch or even the floor.
LV: It sounds like a burlesque slumber party!
DD: It was awesome. A highlight for me with so many wonderful stories. Everyone chipped in and helped out. So many people volunteered to do extra acts when we asked. Seeing performers jump in and out of their costumes was funny. I think quite a few performers performed over six times or more. Artists even had to dance to other people’s music if it was not the right song – such troopers! Also, we couldn’t stop so there was plenty of improvisation! Such a great challenge for everyone.
LV: Did you notice a flow of energy over the event? Were the performances more or less energetic at certain times?
DD: Energy was up and down as the night went on. We had moments of going through the motions due to everyone being tired but then huge bursts of energy. We got really silly towards the end of the 24 hours. Lots of high energy acts then! Because performers came and went there was a constant change. Some left to get sleep and have a shower, others just kept going and had little naps or rest periods. The energy would change when we had shift changes or finished a block. We would then tick that block off and go for it to get through the next one.
The format section was very popular to look at! Everyone wanted to be ready to go and not disappoint the team. It was great to see such support and the positivity was a wonderful morale booster.
LV: What were the peak times for audience? Are we all missing out on an untapped market for 3am/9.30am burlesque?
DD: The peak was late afternoon to about 1am, after that is was mainly performers. The best time for audience attendance was from 8pm to midnight. Some stayed with us the whole night though.
LV: How did you select the right venue? Were there different considerations than there would be for a usual burlesque show? One of my favourite parts was the portrait of Queen Elizabeth gazing down on all – both audience and performers – from the stage. Is she the new queen of burlesque?
DD: We had to find a venue that we could use for 24 hours so a hall came in handy. We had to be mindful of noise pollution and other restrictions. Our lovely Queen is now our unofficial patron of burlesque. She was featured frequently in photos. Too funny!
LV: So no tantrums from tired showfolk?
DD: A couple of performers got so tired they had to leave to sleep in a bed, but they returned. It was a blur at times.
LV: How confident were you of getting through the event without contravening the rules? What were the most difficult to adhere to for a burlesque show? Were there any unexpected technical issues? (Also, welcome Elena, who has just joined us after flying home from interstate shows.)
Elena Gabrielle: I think it was the no-gaps-in-performance rule. We weren’t sure if that was whether the music had to keep playing or if performers could still perform a capella.
DD: I was really confident. We explained everything clearly and kept on checking in with everyone about the rules. they had to be strict so it all ran smoothly. Everyone realised this for the most part.
EG: We also had to film the entire show from start to finish and trying to get the performers to stay on the stage (if they went into the audience they would go off camera) two performers did this which freaked me because the officials couldn’t see anyone on stage and the criteria was there must be someone onstage dancing at all times. I think I was very nervous because I didn’t know how strict the Guinness World Record judge would be.
LV: Could you describe how it felt to complete 24 hours of tease? The image of you both is utterly heartwarming!
DD: AWESOME for me. I was proud and elated. I could not believe we could do something like that and pull it off. What an achievement. I was thrilled to do this with Elena too as I could not ask for a better person to share this with.
That feeling when we got to the final three minutes was gold! Perfect.
EG: Haha! At this point I was delirious after performing all morning but I think for me it was pure joy; it was the big release of so much stress and hard work. And to be able to bring together so many people for one goal, it really felt like I’d won an Olympic gold medal. And is was an awesome chance for Dawn and I to really have a special moment of fun together! (I too couldn’t have asked for a better person to share the experience with!) Plus mimicking each other to We Are The Champions was the cherry on the cake!
LV: If someone were to beat your record next year, would you do it all again to defend the title?
EG: In a heart beat! But I don’t think anyone will be silly enough!
DD: YES we would defend our title, but I am not sure if anyone will do it. It’s hard work and tough.
LV: Do you think Burleskathon is a quintessentially Australian kind of show? If so, how?
EG: I definitely think it is. I guess because our scene is so small in comparison and we all don’t take ourselves so seriously, we can get up on stage and have a laugh and do a 24 hour burlesque show! The stage wasn’t an epic theatre space with lighting and all the bells and whistles; it was a little hall in the back streets of Collingwood.
The beautiful thing I love so much about our Aussie scene is that performers are willing to travel for gigs. I see it all the time with other shows too. Maybe it’s because we are such a big country we want to make it seem closer, and this is just one way. I also mentioned it to people in Edinburgh this year and lots of performers from all over the world said the same thing – Burleskathon probably wouldn’t happen anywhere else. I just love our industry and the talent and the drive performers have.
A short documentary is currently being produced, and both Dolores and Elena have continuous projects on the boil. Following stints at Sydney, Edinburgh, and Melbourne Fringe, you can catch Elena at Perth and Adelaide Fringes in 2015. Dolores produces and performs in Salon Boudoir as well as being the Boss Lady of the hugely successful Australian Burlesque Festival – the largest touring burlesque festival in the world. Catch them if you can!
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.