Before I gave an interview on what I teach, someone whom I admire very much said to me, ‘Go get ’em, don’t be stingy with your knowledge. What you have to offer is valuable, be generous.’ It was sound advice from a leader I trusted. It gave me the insight and strength to not only be strong in my character but trust what I had to offer was of worth. You see, when you are teaching, you are not meant to know everything – you never will. What makes you a good teacher is the ability to share who you are, where you have been and what you have learned. It’s your perspective and how you present it that makes you a good teacher.
Through my years, I’ve had so many crushes on my teachers. Ones who inspired me, who pushed me, who were kind to me. Ones who drove me to be better, to strive and to achieve. I’ve have teachers so strong that, even now, I hear their voices as I transition poses in a yoga class led by someone else. That gentle, knowledgeable voice – the one that triggered a gem of awakening in me. That moment of connection I felt with myself, made simply because of what they shared of themselves so generously.
I’ve also come across the other kind. The ones who hold their card close to their chest. Hoarding knowledge for themselves to keep some illusory step-up on everyone else. Like if they shared it, they would become obsolete. It’s a sad state to be in. A teacher not realising how sharing not only unlocks their personal potential but allows the elevation of others around them. To teach, you have to take what you have been taught and mix it with your own process. To find your own process you have to stop and pick it apart, ask the whys, compare it to your experience and then share it with another. Then it truly takes form. This is the alchemy of a true teacher.
When I opened my email late this summer there was a welcome letter of acceptance from BurlyCon. Both the classes I had proposed had been accepted. I was going to be teaching and attending my very first BurlyCon!
I quite literally jumped up and down and made a noise worthy of a four year old on a playground. It filled me with a sense of pride, humbleness, excitement and responsibility. I was to be teaching and learning amongst my peers and mentors. Among the very new and the very established. Among those I had learned from and those who were looking to learn from me. It was an amazing feeling.
Having never been to BurlyCon, I had no expectations. But I did have a lot of excitement as well as nerves. Being with hundreds of peers and leaders, I could only hope what I had to offer was valuable.
“I had the sensation of belonging to something bigger; everyone’s creative energy was starting to blend together. There was a natural camaraderie happening – one of learning, sharing and growing. One that only comes from a deep place of generosity.”
My process is to think of what I do as offerings, a kind of translation. I think of them as living thoughts conveyed through voice and body language. I was thrilled to deliver my concepts about our art form. I was also so very eager – so very hungry – to learn. And learn I did. I set off with two of my best friends – fellow teachers and performing comrades, Cherry OnTop and Burgundy Brixx – to Seattle for an unforgettable weekend.
What unfolded in the next few days was simply magical. Most people attending the convention were staying at the hotel, which in itself had a very charming layout and decor. Think seventies modern meets rustic cabin charm meets West Coast realness. There were several floors and many arms of corridors that mapped together. The walkways were all glass, allowing us to see out into the foggy air and a centralised outdoor pool and hot tub (we’ll get to that later as it was the scene of many innocent salacious crimes).
The classes were all held in two sections of rooms on the upper floors – one for movement and one for discussions or smaller crafting and costume type classes. Oh, and then there was the ballroom. Because where else would you hold a 55 person chair dance class, Ophelia Flame‘s full to the brim Slinking and Strutting seminar, or the 252 person Guinness Book of World Records Fan Dance attempt? Right?
Coming from Vancouver and having had a show the night before, we arrived in Seattle late afternoon on Thursday. We had just enough time to check-in, register, unload, and get Cherry set up to teach her ‘Tropical Punch Booty Shake’ class. I was also able to catch the last class slot of the day – I chose to sit with living legend Lottie the Body. She was giving a discussion on loving the self, and for those who know me, you know how appropriate that is.
To hear her perspective was such a joy. She called on us to ask questions with a loud, ‘Yes, my baby’ and a smile that lit up the whole room. Her laugh was easy and bright; it accented her colourful language and stories perfectly. When asked where her favourite place to perform was, she said proudly, ‘All over the world, or in a special man’s bedroom,’ to which we all erupted into a knowing laughter. I asked her what she loved about the stage and her response brought tears to my eyes: ‘It’s the feeling of being up there, the music that makes your head swim. I choreographed my soul to it and put it all together for them.’
Friday was a big day from start to finish. I was teaching two classes; the first, ‘Anatomy of a Chair Dance’, was at 8:30am. I was up at 6:00am with excitement, and went downstairs for coffee so as not to disturb Cherry and Burgundy. I ran into Jonny Porkpie and we shared a deep hug, a knowing embrace of starting classes that early. A hope that people rise and shine, a hope that they come.
Fear not, they came, and in droves!
How thrilling it was to make all those sass bombs get their core workout and sex appeal on with a chair in a ballroom at that hour!
I met back up with Cherry and Burgundy and we attended the keynote address. I was floored at all the hard work and endless hours of volunteering that went into an event like this. I can’t even begin to describe my gratitude for Miss Indigo Blue and the whole committee involved on every level. Jo Boobs, Dirty Martini and Julie Atlas Muz also took the mic to share bits of touching and honest wisdom with the community.
That afternoon was my second class, ‘The Slow Burn – Moving with Sensuality and Intention’. I was so nervous and excited to share something so close to my heart with people from my own community. I entered the large and empty room to find one of my very favourite lady crushes whom I don’t get to see nearly enough, The Golden Glamazon Sydni Deveraux. She was, dedicated as always, taking advantage of the space for rehearsal. After a deep embrace and excited words exchanged, she made her exit. Slowly the room began to fill and the walls became lined with both familiar and unfamiliar faces. When it was time to start, the space was beginning to look like an overcrowded high school dance. I invited them in closer and then, with shining eyes and a warm heart, boldly began the largest class I have taught to date.
The rest of the day and night was a blissful blur. I promptly raced over to Ernie Von Schmaltz‘s ‘Masculine Posturing Class’; I am always looking for interesting tips for my drag character, Alec. Alec ToWatch. I fell in love with everyone and their wide legged stances. Always make room for your imaginary junk – it’s quite big, don’t you know.
“I think burlesque is a vocabulary; once learned it is up to you to spin it into poetry. By taking and teaching classes you are committing yourself to this evolution, this revolution we call Burlesque. There will always be perspective, experience and skills to share and a convention such as this is a perfect platform for their circulation.”
I then took a small breather to have a relaxing swim and hot tub before the aforementioned Guinness Book Fan Dance Attempt. It was raining in that perfect West Coast style. Big fat drops that were cooling as I melted into the tub. I took a moment to feel how blessed I was to be here, in this hub of creativity. I was starting to feel the organic nature of interaction buzzing around me. I had the sensation of belonging to something bigger; everyone’s creative energy was starting to blend together. There was a natural camaraderie happening – one of learning, sharing and growing. One that only comes from a deep place of generosity.
Enter loud pop of a champagne bottle here.
Grab your fans and small outfit. We did it! A 252 person strong fan dance, officially setting a record. Enter outfit change and hot tub champagne session here.
I looked up from the tub to see a vision in the fog. It’s Alotta Boutte rehearsing her fan dance for peer reviews the following evening. A dark figure with white fans in the mist.
Enter costume change for an Under the Sea party here.
Insert much dancing, chatting, hugging, kissing of mermaids and the wrestling of fish…
Good morning, Saturday, so lovely to see you. Cherry and I acquired a strong coffee and headed to one of the two astounding classes of Legs Malone’s we would be attending that weekend called ‘Clearing the Paths to Abundance’. The room was full of us, full of support and honesty. Full of caring individuals united in fear and love. A unique thing happens in a class like that, when venerability is honoured. When someone nods their head acknowledging someone else’s struggle with a simple, ‘me too’, it suddenly dissipates. Together you called it out and now it’s no longer a secret. We are no longer separate, we are connected and therefore stronger. Legs has an incredible ability to guide and facilitate such growth.
After a big release of emotion it is always best to follow up with some ferocious movement. Who better to kick your ass, call you a pussy, and make you pop your booty than Jeez Louez. Or Jeezy if you’re lucky enough to call her a friend. This 90 pound soaking wet spitfire “Powerhouse of the Midwest” twerked us, jerked us and had us begging for more all over that grindy hip hop floor! Just what we needed.
Enter lunch. Enter hair-of-the-dog-frosty-cold PBR. Enter the afternoon.
I got to spend the next few hours of my day with some people I admire greatly. Mat Fraser for ‘MC Basics’ and Kristina Nekyia for ‘Bringing Sexy Back II’. Both of which were not only valuable but highly entertaining.
For the last session of the day, I attended a panel discussion that rocked my ‘inner hippy – outer hipster’ heart and soul. It was called ‘Burlesque as a Spiritual Practice’ and moderated by Kellita. To me, this was one of the most important things I did that weekend. Hearing a panel and a room full of people put words to something I have felt since before I started burlesque was greatly rewarding and fulfilling. It was a further articulation to my practice, my art and my intentions as a teacher. Cherry and I looked at each other, eyes aglow, eyebrows raised – a new fire was lit.
Back in our rooms we began to pack that evening in preparation for the next morning. All three of us were performing again on Sunday night at Kitty Nights in honour of Burgundy’s birthday. We would have just enough time to catch the first two classes before hitting the road. My choices were Legs’ ‘Healing the Relationship with your Body’ and Trixie Little‘s ‘Realness’. I have already described the amazing gifts Legs has, so if you ever get the chance to work with her I recommend you take advantage. Trixie is also someone I look up to. Her bravery as an artist astounds and delights me. I was hoping to take a movement class of hers but the schedule did not pan out. Instead, I was blown away by her admittedly impromptu unscripted class on realness. The things she shared in such a matter of fact way from her personal experience will stay with me forever. It might need another post. It was real, honest and should be heard by everyone in the business. Props, woman, you had me at Hello.
In our room, conversation flowed freely between us ladies about what had transgressed over the weekend. More than would be acceptable in a post such as this. Something was for certain – it was important, it was generous, it was necessary. BurlyCon lends itself to the evolution of the art form and the community. I think burlesque is a vocabulary; once learned it is up to you to spin it into poetry. By taking and teaching classes you are committing yourself to this evolution, this revolution we call Burlesque. There will always be perspective, experience and skills to share and a convention such as this is a perfect platform for their circulation.
I was going to miss passing my new friends and once unfamiliar faces in the halls at all hours. There were many authentic and organic connections made that weekend. BurlyCon provided a space for people to choose and navigate their own paths – the common thread being burlesque. Whether you were one day in or a 20 year veteran, there was something to take away from this incredible gathering. Thank you again to all the countless volunteers, sponsors, board members, teachers and students alike for providing and contributing to opportunities such as this.
Rock’N'Roll Flapper, Burlesque Performer, Bad Ass Dance Instructor, Ninja, Make Out Artist, Sass Master, Rebel with a Cause. Co-Director of The Vancouver Burlesque Centre and member of Sweet Soul Burlesque. Lola's thoughtful and eloquent articles have attracted a whole new wave of fans on 21st Century Burlesque. Stay tuned for more.