An Italian in Chicago: Stripper’s Holiday 2014 report from Miss Vampfire…
I first heard about Stripper’s Holiday in 2012 and I was immediately intrigued by it. Just the thought of taking classes with one of the best performers in the world, living at her place with other ladies from all over the US, sounded fabulous to me.
I emailed Michelle L’amour in 2013 sending some videos and talking a little bit about myself and my goals and she got back to me in a very short time. She offered me a spot in the Holiday but unfortunately I couldn’t go. This year I got an email from her again and as I was already planning my trip to Viva Las Vegas and the dates were so close, I said YES.
I was so excited by it and didn’t know what to expect. Everyone was telling me it was a great experience and that I wouldn’t be the same performer again: they were right.
On Tuesday April 22nd all the girls arrived from different corners of the US and I was the only one from Europe. Michelle lives in a very interesting and arty neighbourhood of Chicago, which looked very European to me. Her apartment is in a beautiful vintage building, and is decorated with a great taste: lots of gorgeous paintings and photos all around, rooms full of light and a stunning view of Chicago’s skyline from the upper deck. Where I see beauty, I feel at home!
This year Stripper’s Holiday featured Freya West, Shan de Leers, Lady Jae, Ms. Redd, Blaze, Sheila Starr, Cha Cha Velour and me.
By the evening we were all there, waiting for Michelle to come back from the studio and waiting for dinner cooked by Franky Vivid, which all of you have probably heard about! We had delicious tacos, drank plenty of wine and chatted until late. Then everyone found her spot for the night and went to sleep, knowing that the following day we were going to need a lot of energy!
I woke up to the sound of jazz music coming from the record player and a nice smell of food! Our breakfast consisted of eggs, sausages and coffee. That was very unusual to me since I normally have a cappuccino and cookies in the morning, but I ate all of it and it was delicious! I was scared of Michelle’s workout (I told her!) so I wanted to feel strong.
Having breakfast with all the girls, chatting and laughing, felt like one of those old showgirls movies such as Gold Diggers of 1933, where these dancers live together and go to shows and rehearsals every day.
After breakfast we drove to Studio L’amour. The studio was lovely, with many signed burlesque legends’ photos hanging on the wall and Michelle’s trophies from BHOF.
Before starting the class, Michelle asked everyone of us about our goals, what we needed to work on and what we hoped to accomplish during Stripper’s Holiday. This may sound like an easy question but the answer implies talking about your weaknesses and you have to be very strong and mature to be able to do that.
After an intense warm up we went on to do some choreography exercises. Michelle gave us a few easy steps and encouraged us to perform them changing the style, according to different kinds of music. Then, trying to explain the attitude we should have while dancing, she came up with the key concept we talked and laughed about the whole week: PUSSY CONFIDENCE! If you want to know what Pussy Confidence is, you have to come to the next Stripper’s Holiday!
After that, we had a quick lunch break and started to get ready for our solo act review. I was scheduled to perform my act on this first day and was a little bit nervous, as was everyone else because that was the tough part!
When it was my turn to perform, I was definitely feeling shy but not scared. I am usually not afraid of being criticised and I considered it a blessing to have Michelle L’amour reviewing my act; I actually hung on her every word and asked many questions. This was really eye-opening for me. She didn’t mention what I considered to be my weak points at all, and she made me think about other things that were new to me. This is so important because too often we focus on the wrong things and we build this completely wrong idea of ourselves – and what we believe, we end up becoming! I felt very grateful and inspired after Michelle’s review and couldn’t wait to go home to work on my act.
When all the reviews were over, we began learning our group choreography, which this year was a very fun leg show, Crazy Horse style (well, we wished we looked like that!). Then we drove home where we found delicious pasta (yes, pasta!) cooked by Franky waiting for us on the table.
More chats, wine, popcorn and a silly movie to laugh the night away until sleep time.
After a nice breakfast with apple muffins home made by Michelle herself, we headed up to the studio and began with Michelle’s workout.
Then, we had a fan dance class, something that everyone was waiting for! Michelle is a gorgeous fan dancer and she explained to us the basic hand positions, beautiful arm movements and some tips to showcase the fans and our body at their best. I had never had a fan dance class before and I just wanted more and more, but we had to break up for lunch and start preparing for the second group act reviews.
The act reviews went great, with everyone coming up with new ideas for costumes, movements or just pushing their character further with a renewed and more inspired energy. Michelle took notes during all performances and really knew how to have your act look much better, just by suggesting little changes in the moves or attitude.
Right after that we began rehearsing the group choreography in our costumes: a black set of panties and bra, black thigh highs and red gloves. All the choreography was meant to be performed laying on the floor, playing with legs and arms, and the accents in the music. We messed up a little bit, but Michelle was confident that we could make it for Saturday’s show, so after rehearsing it a few times, we packed our stuff and went back home
After a nice dinner and a few glasses of wine, Freya and Shan slipped into their fun animal print leotards and Michelle ran upstairs to wear hers, and we all took crazy and sexy butt pictures that you’ll have to corrupt me to see!
The third day of class was super fun, with Michelle teaching us all of her crazy and sexy butt moves in a class that she calls ‘Booty Lab’. It’s unbelievable what this woman can do with her booty! I managed only a few of the moves but I had a great fun just trying to do something that I never did before!
Burlesque in Italy is still quite new and since we don’t really have a striptease culture, it’s not always understood. Therefore I think we feel the pressure to be always elegant, sophisticated and classy and sometimes we miss the chance to explore all of the wildest and sexiest moves, fearful that the fun and ironic part of it is misunderstood.
When we were done with our booty, we had the final act reviews, with every girl showing her act after the work done with Michelle. It’s been a pleasure watching everyone growing and improving and to see the (pussy) confidence boosting!
We rehearsed and polished our legs choreography and finally we headed back home for a quick dinner and to get ready to see the Chicago Starlets show at the Everleigh Social Club. It was a lovely evening where we also had a chance to talk to each other outside of the ‘boot camp’ atmosphere and just be relaxed, share drinks and know each other a little bit more. Being from Europe and not speaking my language was tiring at times, and I couldn’t always understand the other girls’ jokes so I had a few moments of shyness, though I loved being in the company of all of them.
On Saturday we had a day off to do whatever we liked or just relax and get ready for the show in the evening. I wanted to see Chicago so I got a cab with the lovely Lady Jae from Houston and we went to the city! While she was visiting one of the highest towers, I went for a walk to explore the streets. It was sunny but very cold and windy so I was frozen very soon and got back to meet her. We knew about the famous Chicago stuffed pizza so, though I think really good pizza can only be found in Italy, I absolutely wanted to taste it! We went to Giordano’s and shared a huge stuffed pizza – very different from the Italian, but really delicious!
We took a cab back home where everyone was already in ‘show mood’. In every corner of the apartment there was a girl dancing with her earphones on, or rhinestoning pasties or revamping costume pieces. We got ready for a VIP cocktail party at the Social Club and then headed to the City Winery for our show!
Before the performance, Franky made a brief speech thanking us for being part of the show. Franky is adorable and to see Michelle and him working together is a real pleasure. They have kind hearts, they’re smart, talented and have great ideas.
The show was amazing and every girl was genuinely happy for the success of the others, something that always makes me feel good and proud. Michelle performed her beautiful Sally Rand fan dance that really moved me to tears! After the show we took a lot of pictures with fans, friends and with each other.
Once back home, the party wasn’t over yet. We shared a few more glasses of wine and talked with Michelle about our experiences and stories about burlesque. We were all feeling very emotional, maybe because the tension was coming down or because the time to say goodbye was getting closer. We chatted until six in the morning! And when the first light of the morning was shining from the window we went to bed to get a few hours of sleep before our departures.
I woke up and had a piece of the delicious banana bread made by Michelle the day before and waited to know what everyone else was doing, as my flight was in the evening.
All the girls decided to go for a brunch at the City Winery with Franky and Michelle. Then we kissed goodbye as some of the girls that were driving to their destinations and we went back home until our flight time.
Michelle drove Jae, Sheila and me to the airport under a rainstorm! When it was time to say goodbye we were standing in the rain, and Michelle joked about how romantic it was. She gave us a pink envelope with our name on it, promised we would keep in touch and in a minute I was alone at my terminal, overwhelmed with emotions.
I was sad to leave and also happy to go home (I had been in US for two weeks) and while I was waiting for my flight I started thinking of all the things I learnt and how lucky I was to have had that experience. I found the courage to read Michelle’s card and a few tears went down my eyes for the lovely thoughts she had written to me.
Michelle really took my heart, with all her passion, intelligence, talent and will to share all of this with others. She is strong, tough and honest, yet sensitive and open-minded.
The last sentence on her card said: ‘Keep putting love and beauty into the world’. I’m sure this is what she believes in and what she tries to teach in this unforgettable adventure called ‘Stripper’s Holiday’.
Visit www.MichelleLamour.com for more details on attending Stripper’s Holiday.
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.