Well… What does one say? Donald Trump is President Elect of the United States of America. What effect this would have on the BurlyCon weekend, I honestly wasn’t sure. I did know I was glad to be spending the weekend following the Election with the Glitter Family. Within a space where we could all hopefully find some healing, along with our learning and fun.
The moment I walked in to the room at the Hilton, I felt just a tiny bit better about life. I was rooming with a total of three other Austin performers: Gemmi Galactic and Zenyth Gale, who had already arrived, and Amelie Amhose, whose plane had been delayed.
My main interest was in having a chance to get settled in to the room before classes started. I’ve been to Seattle before and plan to come back again next year, so the fact that my roommates had already done their sightseeing was just fine with me!
BurlyCon: Thursday (11/10/16)
I am a naturally early riser. My body clock is set to go off at around 8am CST, which means that around 6am PST I was fully awake.
Luckily, by 7am, Amelie was experiencing the same phenomena and we decided to explore breakfast options. Once finished, we met up with Gemmi and Zenyth for a quick Trader Joes run to stock up on weekend essentials, and then it was off to Registration!
Speaking of which, efficiency has been the name of the BurlyCon game both years I have attended. Although this was a conference of roughly 600 attendees, the Registration process was fast, easy, and pain free. Not to mention, the BurlyCon bags were NICE this year! Velcro closure and everything, heeey!
Now it was off to classes. My aim in class selection this time around was to become more fearless in my movement, and to also take a wider variety of classes than I did last year.
First up, was ‘Stop, Drop, and Roll’ with RedBone.
Holy Sweet Jesus! We were told (warned) that the warm up would be a bit more extensive than usual, since it was the first class of the Con. In that moment, I felt like a Rockstar just for making it through the warm up!
The class itself was a variety of transitions from standing to the floor. Many people (myself included) are confident in both their ability to cover ground on stage and their floorwork, but lack a range of transitions from one to the other.
Even beyond the content itself, what made this class most worth taking was RedBone’s attitude. She believed I could, so I believed I could. Of course, ten minutes after class ended, my legs no longer believed in anything…
Afterward, I was ready to sit down for a few minutes! ‘Bombshell Hair’ with Bettina May was the perfect choice. This class was exactly what I was hoping for! As someone growing my hair out to donate, I don’t color treat or use heat processing beyond a blow dryer. Since my hair is naturally thick and stick straight, getting those showgirl waves or pinup curls can be tricky. Bettina provided exactly the tips I need for success!
One of the biggest advantages of attending BurlyCon is networking. One of the best places to do this is a Caucus. I attended the Producers Caucus moderated by Sailor St Claire on Thursday, the Queer Caucus moderated by Lady Tatas on Friday, and the Performers with Disabilities Caucus moderated by Jaqueline Boxx on Sunday. Each one was profoundly different, yet each experience was valuable in feeling more connected to my various communities.
I am eternally thankful to the BurlyCon board for including 12-Step Meetings in their programing. Last year, I walked in the room, six months sober, having never attended a meeting before and with no idea what to expect. This year, I attended both nights they were offered, feeling completely at home. For me, there are no words for how it felt to sit in a safe space among those who know the struggles unique to addiction, without judgement.
After the meeting, I stopped by the Vintage Meet and Greet, full of burlesque campers with their opportunity to dress to the nines! Although I had full intentions of attending Peer Review, my body had other designs. A wave of exhaustion let me know it was time to call it a night.
BurlyCon: Friday (11/11/16)
Friday morning found me ‘Giving Good Face’ with Salome Cabaret’s Tiger Tangerine. To be completely honest, I was not even planning to go to an 8:30AM class on Friday. This had seemed interesting, but it was sooooo early! But, since I found myself wide awake at 7am, and Amelie was going anyway, off I went to learn about the ‘Science of Giving Face’. I am now truly convinced there is nothing Tiger’s face can not do. I also have a regular date scheduled with my bathroom mirror, so that maybe someday MY face will do some of those things!
‘History of POC in Burlesque’, taught by The Irresistible O, was one of the classes I felt most drawn to on the schedule. I love learning about history in general, and feel like it is important to get a more representational view of this art form.
The class covered the history of People of Color in Burlesque from 1767 through present day. I left with a book full of notes, very much awake and ready to work. I am truly grateful for the work that The Irresistible O has put in to this class, along with her naturally engaging style of presentation. This BurlyCon, three classes made a shift in the perspective from which I view both burlesque, and life in general. This was the first of them.
Coco Lectric and Indigo Blue then officially kicked off the weekend with The Keynote. Although many of us had been taking and teaching classes since Thursday, we had not yet received the official Burlesque Blessing (officiated by The Burlesque Bishop, of course), recognised the members of the BurlyCon Board for all their hard work throughout the year, or heard from our Special Guest Legend: Gina Bon Bon.
Now it was back to classes!
The first thing to know about ‘The Tease’ with Jo Weldon: it was PACKED. Most us were sitting on the floor, and there were literally people standing in the hallway to hear what Jo had to say.
Having attended her lecture last year about the false dichotomy between classic and neo burlesque, it’s no surprise to me that this was the second of the classes which changed my perspective this year. I left with a fundamentally different view on the word ‘tease’, for both better and worse. This class also managed to get Danzig’s She Rides stuck in my head for the following three days!
I used some downtime on Friday to check out Vending. There was a truly wonderfully curated range of merchandise available this year. I ended up purchasing some Elektra Cosmetics Glitter (of course!). I just barely stopped myself from spending next month’s rent on Steampunk goodness from Damsel in this Dress and some epic hilarity from the Sock Monster.
It is my opinion that everyone should participate in the BurlyCon Class Photo experience at least once. I feel especially privileged to have been there this year, since Indigo Blue taught us camp songs and salutes while we waited through the choreographed process of finding visible space for nearly 600 people in one photo.
Once the photo was taken, I danced my way to bedtime at the Hot Summer Nights Party!
BurlyCon: Saturday (11/12/16)
Have you ever felt like you just NEED a piece of information someone else has? That is how I felt about taking Tigger!’s ‘Fuck ‘em in the Heart (p2)’. I was hesitant, because I hadn’t taken part 1, but several people said how much they liked it, so in I went.
This was the third perspective changing class of the weekend.
A fellow art junkie and theater nerd, Tigger! speaks in a language my heart hears. This wasn’t hurt by the fact, during the last exercise of the class, he blindfolded himself to demonstrate how a character can discover a space.
Instead of sticking to the safety zone of the teaching area, Tigger! immediately went for the seated class, which resulted in him falling on me, full contact, before moving on to the next group of people. It was epic, and showed me that yes, the right audience WILL catch you, if you’re brave enough to fall!
Those who attended BurlyCon may be aware of what happened when I attended Jaqueline Boxx’s thought provoking class, ‘Body Language for Burlesque’, on honoring your body in the moment.
At the very end of the class, I experienced a seizure.
For anyone reading who is unfamiliar, I am epileptic, so this was not something entirely out of the blue. A safe space was created by the burlesque community within the class. The issue was handled beautifully by everyone and by the Operations team, namely Red Delicious, who stayed with me through the ordeal of dealing with the paramedics.
I do want to stress, for clarity, that everyone’s experiences with disability are different. That mine should by no means be taken as any kind of standard. Once things settled down, I got in touch with family, had some food and water, I was ready to get back to class!
Come hell or high water, I was not missing the ‘Racial Equality in Burlesque’ panel. The Irresistable O was moderating, and although designated panelists were Lillith Grey, Ruthe Ordare, and Jeez Loueez, things truly picked up momentum when the floor was open to the experiences and questions of everyone in the room.
Personally, I kept my mouth shut, ears open, and pen writing during this time. I am truly glad to be able to look the notes I have, and ways they can make me a better active Ally moving forward.
Heading back to the hotel room for some downtime, Amelie and I decided to meet up with some other Austin folks for sushi in downtown Seattle before Peer Review. As soon as we got to the restaurant, I had a second absence seizure. Between frustration over these episodes and sheer exhaustion of the day, I had to forgo Peer Review, and called it an early night.
BurlyCon: Sunday (11/13/16)
My first class of Sunday was ‘Merch and Promo items’ with Salome Cabaret’s Siren Santina. Wow! Siren knows her stuff, which ranges from t-shirts and stickers to flip books and beyond!
Never in life did I think I would utter the phrase, “I can’t wait to study that Power Point” but it’s true! Siren’s reference materials are a game changer for me, as a performer just beginning in the world of creating my own Merchandise. I’m not going to lie, at times this class was a little overwhelming. Knowing that all the resources were available online made me able to sit back and enjoy her style, rather than needing to frantically jot everything down.
After all the sitting, it was time to shake things up a bit. What better way, than with ‘Burlesque Walks to Latin Music’ with this year’s Guest Legend Gina Bon Bon?
I love taking classes with our Burlesque Legends! Gina Bon Bon’s Latin dance class was a fun mix of movement and stories. She showed us a variety of different walks, along with some fun and sexy floorwork. Gina also had some amazing advice on balancing the work/home life as a performer. Namely, she summed it up as being the most beautiful woman in the world when you’re on stage, but remembering that when you’re off stage, you’re just the same as everyone else. So be nice!
In between class and the close of BurlyCon, I took advantage of the GlampSite, aka a giant sparkly pillow fort in the middle of the convention lobby. I also took some time to visit the BurlyCon Library, to see some of the books and articles on display. Basically, I built up some quiet reserves for what was ahead…
The Closing Ceremony was emotional in a completely different way for me than last year. I still have my action card from last years’ closing ritual, and think about it almost every show.
Listening to Lilith Grey talk about how there have always been artists in times of great struggle, I felt called to action, rather than drowned in fear. Hearing various snippets of conversation, I know others had a spectrum of reaction to her words, but I feel like my path of choices and experiences through the weekend left me with a readiness to return to my community.
Sunday began the process of departure from this sacred space we had created for ourselves. Many performers left shortly after the ceremony. Some, like me, stuck around for an additional day or two to enjoy time with friends and Glitter Family.
Whatever our details, we have been armed with knowledge to make us not only better performers, but better people and community members. For me, that is what makes BurlyCon so special and necessary. As Tigger! put it, “I’m Stripping to Change the World!” This con gives me not only the tools to do that, but also expands my network of fellow WCS (World Changing Strippers, of course!) to whom I can give and receive support at any time.
Thank You to every single person who put time and effort in to making this event possible, from the Board of Directors, to Operations, to the Volunteers, Security, Donors and Sponsors. You are amazing, and I will absolutely see you next year!
Visit BurlyCon to find out more about the 2017 convention.
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.