Karmen Sutra presents her BurlyCon 2012 diary…
My name is Karmen Sutra. I started as a burlesque dancer in Seattle, WA by attending Miss Indigo Blue’s Academy of Burlesque just barely over a year ago. Having exhausted the majority of classes at the academy and looking for more ways to get into our wonderful community, I fell into the planning committee for BurlyCon. Next thing I know, I was appointed the Volunteer Coordinator for the whole event! While I had never attended the convention, I was up for the challenge. And so the months flew by and next thing you know, I’m waking up in the Double Tree Hilton at 7am, Thursday morning.
When attendees saw me running around with my glitter embellished clip board like a mad woman, they commented on how hard it was to ‘herd kittens’. But I had one of the most enthusiastic team of go-getters. Being new to BurlyCon and the burlesque scene, most of them didn’t know who I was, but the majority of them were in the same boat as I was and were an incredible help throughout the convention. Never once did I feel like a mama cat, but instead like I was one of the pack.
Thursday morning was full of anxiety, but only for a moment. As we had anticipated, Hurricane Sandy had entered the worst and many of our presenters and attendees were delayed or unable to come. But you would have had no idea it was going on. There were few changes made to the schedule that were easily adapted and everything was back to normal by evening.
This year, we tried something new! Birds of a Feather Caucuses were time slots and rooms where people could gather to meet, network and familiarise themselves with others in the same category. They were based on where you lived, how long you’ve been performing, physical attributes (performers of size, colour) and social classifications (polyamorous, those who don’t drink). Two lovely ‘birds’ by the names of Czech Mate and Sabina Soubrette had giant feather headdresses on to escort those getting libated in hospitality to the rooms where the caucuses were held. The Highway 99 Blues Club hosted the Blue Velvet room with a full bar and an awesome staff. The room was dark and romantic, and loud with excited people meeting and greeting. Everyone was excited about the opportunity to network. Anyone who attended the East Coast caucus had an amazing time in a cramped room full of singing and clapping together, while others had hosts to help one another connect.
Friday was an intense day for attendees and especially staff. Not only did we cram classes back to back, but we set a world record! Enter the Guinness Book of World Record’s Largest Fan Dance Attempt. Cherry Killer Tomatoes is a goddess. She worked her little booty off for several months, begining with a small idea presented by Miss Indigo Blue at a commitee meeting back in Spring. Cherry set up every small for the attempt, from timers to verifiers and officals. We had 252 scantily clad burlesque performers, producers and friends with fans of varying sizes doing a choreographed dance to Beethoven’s 5th. And damn if we didn’t hit that record on the first try! Standing at the door until the very last minute, I convinced about seven people to quickly strip their jeans and run in the door at the last second to get in there and help us out. I ran in the door just as they closed and helped to set the world record. That was probably the biggest sense of camaraderie I felt the whole weekend. Those who were unsure and jumped in last minute, I thank immensely. Everyone had a great attitude and were enjoying it! I only hope we have some similar type of bonding event since we won’t have to set that record again.
The night was followed by an Under the Deep Blue Sea dance party, sponsored by the House of Gorejess. We barely had time to break for dinner when quickly shifting the ballroom from official timing gauntlet to watery glittery goodness. Everyone that showed up looked phenomenal! There were sailors and mermaids, sea nymphs, sea kelp, sharks and even a few jellyfish like myself! The bar was hosted by Absinthe Marteau and featured some of the best (perhaps TOO good) absinthe cocktails I have ever had. This of course resulted in some epic go-go competitions on stage and rounds of drinking games not meant for the weak.
Saturday morning had the typical post-party aura of dehydration, sleepy eyes and slower paced hallways. The line at the Starbucks kiosk was significantly longer and many still had blue glitter smudged around their faces. But once classes got going and lunch came around, the buzz was back and energy restored. About midday, I had the opportunity to sit and chat with Lottie the Body, BurlyCon’s Legend of Honour this year. I had a moment that I am so fortunate to have had, especially being as new as I am. Lottie, first of all, is one of the most crass and sassy over-80 gals I have ever met. One moment she switches from demonstrating a grind, telling you to work what you got and get paid for it, to telling you how important it is that you take care of yourself and your family. She is incredibly passionate, and that balance of fun and spirituality is obviously what got her through her amazing feats that she conquered throughout her life. If you had the opportunity to hear her speak during the convention, I guarantee there was something she said that resonated with you, and should do so throughout the rest of your burlesque life.
Lottie accompanied me to Dirty Martini’s Bump and Grind class that afternoon. Ms. Martini makes me star struck. I get completely verklempt and being within two feet of her made me forget what my hips were supposed to do! But her personality and teaching skills were so calming and personable that I was able to fully enjoy and actively learn from her class.
That night, we hosted David Schmader as he narrated the joke-of-a-burlesque-movie Burlesque with Cher and Christina. A room of a few hundred ladies in jammies and lingerie, sharing an inside joke and some popcorn really is a hilarious and carefree moment.
Sunday morning was a lot like Saturday morning. I, a member of the House of Gorejess, helped in hosting hospitality that morning, complete with breakfast food, mimosas, and coffee with Baileys! The stray attendees between classes and with nowhere else to go mosied in and enjoyed themselves.
Sunday being the final day, we had our closing ritual. Some very inspirational words were said by Legs Malone about being true to yourself and finding your inner spirit, be that religious or not. Attendees were no longer so as everyone in that room became equal and we all shared an overwhelming sense of togetherness and love for one another. There’s not much else to say about this ritual, as it was more of the energy of community that we shared than words I can put onto paper.
Since BurlyCon, I’ve continued to connect with many new people I met, I continue to hear of hilarious stories that happened during the weekend and the staff is energised and already talking about 2013 (November 7-10, save the date!) and working on how to make it bigger, better and so much more shiny.
To all my volunteers, thank you so very much for everything you did. It was incredible hard work and you guys really did make a huge impact. To the BurlyCon staff, thank you so much for allowing me to take part in such a large way and for mothering me into our burlesque community. To the presenters, thank you for battling with scheduling, and pulling together some of the best classes that any of us who attended could have had. To those that attended, thank you so much for holding nothing back and showing me how much fun you can have! Until next year,
Much Love, Karmen Sutra
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.