Enjoy this report from the Great Canadian Girlesque Expo 2014, courtesy of the fabulous Gal Friday…
I am, admittedly, not the best traveller or most adventurous person, though I’m getting better at it. Also, weirdly enough, I get anxious at big events or in large crowds. Perhaps that’s more common than I realise, though – to love working a crowd and being surrounded by people when you’re in your drag. But as Gal, just plain ol’ Gal, I get a bit wallflowery. This is a big reason why I’m so thrilled to be asked to write about my Toronto adventure! Maybe this will trick my ready-to-be-anxious brain that I have a mission, a goal! To not be afraid of this sometimes overwhelming thing we call burlesque…
After a bit of a wait and a ton of questions (let’s kick off that anxiety, shall we?) at customs, I’m finally in Toronto, a city I’ve only skirted through once before. I’m greeted by Teddy Mickey who ends up being the greatest thing ever. A true gent, he really took care of the US contingent, getting us to and from classes and shows. I can’t thank him enough for being so helpful.
My first night there and I learn I’m rooming with Ruby Joule. SQUEEEEEE! I really love her and was so excited to get to spend more time with her. She was very generous with her Epsom Salts and indulgent in my walking around sans pants and overall sleazy hobo behaviour. We ended up doing a late night search for food, ending up at a crepe joint where I’m sure I terrified her with the amount of waffles, ice cream and fruit I was able to consume, all coated in powdered sugar and caramel sauce, of course. Hashtag ‘for your health’!
January 18th: Saturday Brunch
Such a nice way to kick off a weekend! Everyone is dressed up but relaxed, ready to throw down some food and catch some show. It feels similar to Superbowl Sunday but with stripping, so much better than Superbowl.
The Canadian Wolfman hosted, and boy oh boy, what a charmer! He was delightful with his verbose prose style of hosting. I’m such a sucker for word play, alliteration, puns and the like. Wolf was definitely tickling all the bones in the house (of the funny variety, ya pervs!) He’s a positive force and very loving in his intros, making each performer feel like they were the star of the show. Dancing in the daylight is a major fear factor for most of us and the performers worked it in fantastic style. There was lots of kitsch and playful sexiness, as well as some darker fetishy numbers (Blood ice cube bath anyone? Count me in!) There was belly dancing, twin hula hoop asseling… and it’s only brunch time!
In the car on the way back to the hotel for show prep, Teddy drove us past the Victory Burlesque Theatre where April March herself had performed years ago!
January 18th: Saturday Night Show
Being in a show usually means you miss a lot of it, though I snuck peeks often and watched what I could. It was a full house and the energy was great!
I had the great fortune of sharing a room with April March and had the chance to talk with her and fall in love immediately. Her love for all current burlesquers is apparent and she was rich in her generosity. At one point The World Famous *BOB* mentioned how excited the audience was to see April, and she firmly replied, ‘They’re excited to see us all!’ Her advice and words backstage were all positive and helpful. It was very inspirational! Being around that kind of energy, the energy of an experienced showgirl, is a great feeling. But even better is the energy of a woman who has been through so much and is just tickled pink to perform again.
Maybe that’s the real catch: that, as dancers, we’re only truly at ease with ourselves as beginners (when it’s all new and exciting and there’s no insane expectations) and at our golden age, when all the drama is left behind and what is left is the pure joy of dancing. Of feeling our bodies move beautifully. Our salad days are wrought with a lot of highs and lows, doubts, career fears, etc. I think this is one reason it’s important to look to our foremothers, to see how much you could eventually mean to someone and inspire them. You’ve got to do you, because someone out there is going to look up to you because of what you represent.
April March’s performance? Sublime. She really brought down the house. Every move was smooth, beautiful and graceful. She truly held everyone in her palm. It was exceptional.
– April discussing her costumer, Grant Philipo, and how he told his assistant that to get the correct size of April’s panties she’d need to ‘measure the twat’. I laughed so hard. It was the quote of the week, for sure.
– *BOB* hosting. The woman is wine – better with age. *BOB* just gets funnier, yet more powerful and sincere all the time. Her growth as a performer is beautiful to witness. She was so polished when I was just a burlesque baby and yet she has gained even more gleam on her diamond-sharp skills. I appreciate a woman who knows her craft and also knows what she needs to do to be at her best. She’s a true professional, yet approachable. She’s not World Famous for nothing.
My act? Everything that could go wrong did. My bra wouldn’t come undone, so I pulled it down over my legs… where it got stuck in my fishnets and refused to let go! And… it was the best time! I don’t mind glitches, it makes room for improv! Also, it made me laugh hysterically which is good in my book! It was truly a moment of ‘everything went wrong but it all felt so right!’
Sunday Class: Floor and a Helluva Lot More
Fun, fun, fun! I had such an amazing class on Sunday! I was very touched to have so many people sign up, especially so early in the day.
Later in the afternoon I had a really lovely time bonding with *BOB* over lunch, then had Bettina May help me fake pompadour my hair for the Sunday night show.
Sunday Night Show
I tend to get that ol’ anxiety over dressing for an event. I want to dress up, but as a total tomboy and hater of discomfort I knew wearing heels all night would make me a sad panda. I ended up deciding that I would dress casual but with a NYC tomboy rocker flair and be the gentleman to all the ladies that night. It might sound silly but it’s my comfort zone and I went with it. I wore my favourite crystal skull tank and tight booty jeans with my Bettina-created pomp. Because I wore my moon boots I was able to lend my arm to the ladies walking through the snow in their Polly’s and stilettos, and I was able to hustle to the grocery for snacks and sodas for us all. Because I went with my instinct on how to dress I ended up being very comfy all night and was able to relax and let loose.
We’re back at the Mod Club and, snacks in hand, ready for action!
I feel bad for not taking notes during the performance, but I wanted to be present in the moment. I did get some pictures and definitely saw some really beautiful work. A big stand out for me was Tiffany Carter; she always is. I love her and think she just might be my naughty spirit animal. She’s so darling and loving, then put her onstage and she’s a fiery force! That woman can throw sexual energy at you so hard it leaves you lying in a puddle of satisfaction. Then you go backstage and it’s all hugs and laughs. Tiffany is pure magic.
The Mansfield Brothers were a muthafuckin’ delight! What they delivered in humour, sass, and heart was completely unexpected. They made many new fans that night and I’m sure reminded old fans why they’re loved in the first place.
I’ve seen Obyskura once before and, much like that time, really loved her use of spectacle and theatrics. It was a unique moment in the program and I mean that in the most dazzled sense.
Dolly Berlin‘s name suits her; she is a true doll in every sense of the word. An extremely sweet girl in ‘real life’ and such a beauty. She was polished, classic perfection on Sunday!
Bettina May did something new, at least something new to me. As stunning as always, she slowed. it. down. Slowwwww. It was delicious. The outfit was beautiful but it was the moves. On point. I love, love, love when it’s not any particular move that grabs you but an essence, the overall feel, all the moves melding together in a slow liquid that makes you go ‘what the fuck just happened?!’ because you’ve been flayed alive. That’s power. Bettina used her power. It was, as a friend, a proud moment. As a performer, a perfect way to close such a fantastic show.
Not only was it a thrill to watch Ruby Joule leave a trail of thrilling sensuality across the stage, but it was an utter joy to spend quality time with her. Onstage her moves are polished and even in her graceful poise she’s tapping an erotic nerve. I’m not sure if the number she did was new, but I can say that seeing this aspect of her overwhelmed me in the best way. My fellow redhead filled the space, all presence and smoulder. Goddamn… Even more of a delight for me was how fun and hilarious she is. A lady of my own heart, she can crack wise and still remain the lovely dame she is.
Monday January 20th
Today *BOB* and I would fly out together, so we decided to spend the day puttering around the gigantic mall near our hotel. When deciding what stores to visit we were both very ‘meh’ until we spotted a Claire’s Boutique, whereupon we both squealed with happiness and spent a chunk of time looking at unicorn earrings and glitter-covered pens. Then off to a shop where I could buy last minute souvenirs and look at moose keychains and maple syrup.
Lunch and mall wandering with *BOB* was another one of those joys that you don’t expect when you travel somewhere to perform. It’s real time spent with a friend you don’t get to see as much as you’d like. Bonding time that ends up staying with you, in your heart, long after the thrill of the performance has passed. She and I shared a lot that weekend, and although she’s always been one of my burlesque heroes, she became an everyday one too. Her life and her attitude is really inspiring and I came home feeling very grateful and loved.
Toronto is a beautiful city! My friend Dylan, a Canadian, always called it a ‘cleaner, friendlier New York’. Though I love my filthy home city, it was certainly nice to spend time in its less-cunty sister city. I’m sad there wasn’t an opportunity to do more, but the frigid weather really held back the desire to wander around and have adventures.
Mysterion really did an outstanding job in making sure we were taken care of. He sent the amazing Teddy (as previously mentioned) to drive us around and be awesome overall. It was not only a relief but an opportunity to learn a bit about the city itself. The entire staff and crew were just fantastic, especially Cerise Noir, stage manager extraordinaire. I truly felt taken care of and my needs considered the entire trip; it was very impressive.
– Even if the border agent is about ten years younger than you, you’ll revert to being a kid and ‘ma’am’ her to death.
– Bags of milk. Ketchup chips.
– Canadians really are that friendly… and I fucking love it.
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.