Interview: Felicity Furore – Blossoming British Burlesquer
21st Century Burlesque Magazine has documented the contemporary burlesque scene…
Felicity Furore is the first of three outstanding newcomers to British burlesque we would like to introduce to the international community. Ivy Wilde interviewed her recently in London…
24 year old Felicity Furore has been performing for two and half years from her London base. Studying Costume Design at university, it was only after her degree was done and she moved back home that she decided to put all of her savings into a burlesque course. She hasn’t looked back since.
Did you always have a love of performing arts and theatre?
Ever since I was three or four I have been drawn to the way things looked and costume in particular. I believe the first thing I ever told my parents I wanted to be was a French maid because I really liked their outfits. Then it was a can-can dancer, after that a fancy dress shop owner, which led onto a fashion designer, then finally a costume designer. Clothes in general inspire me; I want to wear beautiful things all of the time. Costume Design was as near as I ever got to being on stage. I’d attended dance classes when I was really young but I stopped when I was five as I had to dance with boys – I was scared and cried!
What drew you to towards burlesque?
I started collecting corsets as soon as I had a waist. I remember buying my first steel boned when I was 16, but I’d bought plastic when I was 14. I went to my friend’s French themed party and laced it so tight that the seams split! The aesthetic of burlesque has always been in my thoughts since I can remember. I remember watching Moulin Rouge and loving the colours and style of these beautiful costumes and my love just developed from there really.I’ve always loved vintage style; I remember going to a fancy dress party when I was 13 as Marilyn Monroe, which was possibly a bit odd for someone of my age! I’m not sure where I got this obsession with the 50s from; my parents or friends weren’t particularly into that kind of thing. I am just drawn to it, that kind of beautiful, pristine femininity.[pullquote width=”300″ float=”left”]When you find yourself in a cast full of people that have been your inspiration since you started out and now you’re alongside them, it’s incredible and you can’t really take it all in.[/pullquote]
I was interested in doing a burlesque course while I studied at university but I couldn’t afford it. Then I graduated, moved back in with my parents and suddenly found myself without a job and without any friends living near me. I got into a bit of a rut and I thought why not try burlesque? I’d always fancied it, it’d be a good thing for me personally, there’d be people I could meet with similar interests and I can make my own costumes. So I put all of my savings into a burlesque course and went for it. There was a graduation show at the end of the course which was at Madame Jojo’s and the rest just followed on from there.
One of my biggest highlights this year was performing in Polly Rae’s Soho Burlesque Club this summer at the Hippodrome Casino. I went to meet friends afterwards in Soho and I remember running through the streets but it really felt like I was floating. When you find yourself in a cast full of people that have been your inspiration since you started out and now you’re alongside them, it’s incredible and you can’t really take it all in.
How would you best describe your style of burlesque?
Sassy! I’ve had a lot of development in the two and a half years been performing and I still feel in some ways that I’m finding my style. I love the freedom of classic burlesque so it tends to be less narrative based than it used to be. These days I’m more confident in my movement so I like classic showgirl dancing but with a character edge.[pullquote width=”300″ float=”left”] I had a lot of confidence issues before, particularly in body confidence and they have practically gone. I’m a lot more assertive now.[/pullquote]
Fashion and music have always influenced me. I love different types of music and live theatre is amazing for randomly sparking something in me. I was part of a play earlier this year which was set in Argentina and ever since I have been massively inspired by Latin music. I’ve also taken up flamenco classes. The attitude of the dancers is great; strong, powerful, slightly aloof, I love it! I love attitude, anything with attitude inspires me. Other people inspire me, other cabaret performers – I love clowns. Comedy is such a skill and if you can do it well it’s amazing. Burlesque has its roots in comedy and satire and I like to remember that.
With that mind, how do you set about creating an act?
My acts develop over time but they usually begin with a piece of music. I really love accents in music and pinpointing those to punctuate with moves, so if I find a piece of music with good accents I’m super excited and have to make an act to it. I don’t strictly choreograph my acts, though; in one of my acts I still have a whole minute which is freestyle. I love the freedom it gives you to play off the audience. You can find out what works and what doesn’t work and you can let an act reach its full potential; the audience will enjoy it more if you tailor it to them.[pullquote width=”300″ float=”left”]My advice to everyone is to be nice. It may sound simple and obvious but if you’re not nice to people then you’re not going to get anywhere. [/pullquote]
I’m still a costume designer at heart so I absolutely love coming up with a look for each new act. My costumes are my pride and joy and I can spend hours out shopping for fabrics and trimmings. The only problem is that, even with my degree, I have decided that wearing them is more fun to me than making them. Luckily I have lots of great contacts from my university days which is very handy.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given so far and what would you give to others starting out?
The best piece of advice I’ve been given is let go and don’t be afraid to be ugly. I’d spent months on my routine for Cabaret Roulette and when I got to the dance studio it didn’t feel right, so I scrapped the whole thing and came up with my Austin Powers act in the final few days before the show. I called up Vivacity Bliss for advice and she told me to go for it, be the character and not to be scared to be ugly. When I started working on my Slimer (from Ghostbusters) act I took the same advice on board. It might not have technically been pretty when I was rubbing gingernuts all over my face but the audience loved it!
My advice to everyone is to be nice. It may sound simple and obvious but if you’re not nice to people then you’re not going to get anywhere. People will be willing to help you if you’re nice to them and I put my success down to people supporting me, propelling me forward and helping me with what I need to improve on – and that’s all from being nice to people. Everyone wants to work with someone who is nice.
What’s next for Felicity, any big plans for the future?
I’d love to perform internationally, especially in America. I went to Viva Las Vegas last year and it was amazing. I’d love to see it from the other side and experience it that way. To perform in Vegas would be high on my list. If there’s any goal in burlesque I’d like to achieve it would be to perform at the Burlesque Hall of Fame, and to be accepted at that level by the community and my peers would be astounding. It’s not about competing for me. It’s about being picked for something that showcases the talent in burlesque because it’s such a community based industry, just to be accepted in that sense is the honour.
How big an impact had burlesque had on your life?
In terms of changing my life it’s had a massive impact, and now I tend to not have much of a life outside of cabaret! I love it so much so why would I bother? I’m out doing shows, having meetings, making costumes at my shared studio space or eating out with other cabaret folk quite a lot.Personally I am much more confident. I had a lot of confidence issues before, particularly in body confidence and they have practically gone. I’m a lot more assertive now, I learnt that when you can take your clothes off on stage, the other things in life don’t seem as scary.
The community in burlesque is so supportive. I know I wouldn’t be where I was without the help of the lovely people involved in the industry. I have got so much more than I expected from everyone; most of my best friends are performers and I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.
Felicity Furore interviewed by Ivy Wilde.
21st Century Burlesque Magazine has documented the contemporary burlesque scene since 2007. Founded and edited by Holli-Mae Johnson.