Yes I seriously called it that!! Did you get it?? Like Sunday Bloody Sunday but more haha?? Oh nevermind.. but annnyywayyyy.. once of my finest accomplishments to date has been the masterminding of our entry into the Burlesque Hall of Fame entry for the 2010 pageant. This was one of the largest and most elaborate undertakings I have ever attempted. We wanted the number to be available to anyone who was interested in heading down to Vegas aka another all inclusive number. Little did we know that over 30 members of Screaming Chicken would end up in Vegas this summer. Our number consisted of 23 performers from our membership!! You read me correctly... twenty freekin three. Insert migraine here. Ok it wasn’t that bad but there were definitely some challenges. Most of them involving scheduling, performer abilities, me spraining my ankle, and a last minute change in choreography. At one time there was to be a singing section but, c’est la vie, it didn’t pan out- this is were we learned to be adaptable and we created a new section of spoon-wielding-malt-shopping cute faces. Overall we made it through (somehow) and I’m pretty sure we did alright! Being accepted to compete at all was an honor and I’m pretty sure everyone had a blast performing for their contemporaries and heroes.
Now I had never been to Exotic World before but it was my understanding that the majority of the acts that are entered and that do well consist of a classic style. I had been doing lots of research on Burlesque history in the last year for my ABCDD’s of Burlesque blog and I had plenty of ideas I wanted to incorporate. The actual idea of an ice cream sundae number belongs to Melody Mangler; I just took the frame of the idea and interpreted it thusly.
We figured out awhile ago that the best way for us to do jumbo group numbers is to break the group into 3 or more sections. This way, no one will need to remember more than a minute or so of choreography and hopefully ensure the number will look nice and tight! My big vision was that we would have 4-5 groups representing different parts of an ice cream sundae and different elements of Burlesque history! A three minute homage to the past!
Now originally, we had some grandiose plans about a singing section. They were to be dressed as malt shop employees and singing in 4 part harmony with live accompaniment. OoLaLa! The song we used, had been chosen for the group by the talented songstress Nicky Ninedoors; “My Sugar is so Refined” by the Hi-Los. I had been having the worst time trying to find something that had to do with ice cream and had a vibe I felt I could create to so I was SUPER grateful that she had found something. Unfortunately plans fell through for our singy types so I made the decision to use canned music and slot the malt shop kids into the already choreographed number! This was... tricky. I was a little less inspired with their group in terms of Burlesque history due to this development. Ima all like “uhhh.. you can have giant spoons!!! ya!!! thats what we need... giant prop spoons to eat the sundae with...” In retrospect I can say that this element had definitely been inspired by the giant prop everything trend that is currently so popular so really, it ended up being a nice combo of old meets new! Perfect! I also must give ample credit to the infamously adorable and innovative Joanie Gyoza for building us our spoons!! THANK YOU JOANIE!!!! I LOVE YOU MORE THAN A NARWHALE LOVES THE ARCTIC SEA.... WHICH IS ALOT.. CUZ HE WOULD DIE IF HE DIDN’T HAVE IT.. SO YA..ITS ALOT!!!!!
The first group to enter originally would’ve been the Ice Cream girls! I had this vision of how we could use flip skirts to create the image of ice cream scoops. If anyone was asking me.. I thought this was pretty fecking clever. But really..I say vision. Not skill to make. I like me some dancey dancey. I HATE me some sewy-sewy. For these imaginings to take place we desperately need the skills of Andra the Diamond Minx. Andra took charge as our costuming director. And she was AMAZING!! Oh my god the hours she put in.. and the patience she had working with us! She managed to direct even the most useless of us tailor types into becoming functioning Sergers (I USED A SERGER!!OH EM GEE!!!) as the Coop became some sort of really pretty sweat shop. The element of Burlesque history I had been influenced by with the Ice Cream ladies were Zeigfeld style showgirls. Lots of pageantry and elaborate costuming. Classy ladies!!
The next ingredient in our sundae just happened to be the sauce! I had wanted to showcase bump and grind golden era movements combined with a Bellydance aesthetic, both important parts of BurlyQ history. A mutant combo of bump and grinders with scarves basically!!
Next came the Bananas!!! Turns out we are making a banana split!! Boo-ya!! This seemed especially obvious to us as Screaming Chicken already had their own resident banana group! The bananas usually consist of meself, VaVa Vunderbust, and Joanie Gyoza. The bananas are always up to their banana-sleeves in high-jinx and tomfoolery during Taboo Revues!! Their wacky styles seemed a perfect element to incorporate in order to pay homage to the wocka-wocky style of the baggy pants comedians. We didn’t realize it at the time but it ended up being even extra more perfecter (I know.. perfecter is not a word.. but it was!!) when we found out that Vaudeville comedians were often ranked as “Top Banana”, “First Banana”, and “Second Banana!!!” How perfecter is that!!?? It ended up working out better in terms of man placement to have the ultimate Super-vaudevillian Sex Luthor take my place as a banana. Altho I was sad to see the bananas having fun without me, he did a super awesome amazing job!!! All the bananas gave great face!!!
Now what sundae is complete without whipped cream and a cherry on top!? The casting in terms of these parts was pretty easy. Combine our tallest member, Duncan Teabags, as the whip cream man... with one of our most petite and not to mention ginger, Voodoo Pixie, as the cherry on top... and we have ourselves an Ice Cream Sundae!! I wanted our final picture to be a throwback to the epic Tableaux Vivants of yesteryear. Now... my one oopsie was that I didn’t realize we could just ask them to lower the curtain on our final pose and be done with it. I DIDNT KNOW!! sigh. And one of the items on the judging criteria was:
Entrance to and Exit from Stage: Don’t forget that first and last impressions count!
That is copied and pasted right from the flipping application people!!! So I orchestrated this really nice exit for each of the groups, one group at a time, so it didn’t look like a complete clusterfuck of 23 people tromping off the stage. Like really.. it took me 3 minutes just to get them all on there! But this took an extra 30 seconds in a pageant that runs about 6 hours... everybody just wants shiz to get going right fecking now. Soooo unfortunately..we looked like assholes. Miss Astrid made fun of us. Fuck. IT’S ALL MY FAULT!!!! I’m sorry team. I thought it looked nice.. and really... our number was 3 minutes long.. everybody elses ran at least 5!! Waah, Waah! In my defense, I would also like to add that I saw alot of people schlumping off after their acts. We may have looked like assholes BUT at least we looked like assholes who gave a shit about their exit. But jeepers, lesson learned! To everyone out there who is wanting to enter a group or even a solo.. LEARN FROM MY PAIN!! Just get them to lower the effing curtain...IT IS AN OPTION!
I really wanted this number to be an Ah-Ha! sort of thing. I didn’t want people to know right away what was happening..but have it all fall into place as the number progressed! The issue with this.. was that some people would have no idea what just happened. One reviewer called our number a “fever dream.” NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!! I was devastated. I also think he might actually have been on mushrooms cause he describes Duncan as being on roller skates. Uhh.. no. I can see how you would.. no...actually I can’t. You are on mushrooms guy! There were no roller skates at any point! It does make for a better story tho. In another article however, they noted how it all fell into place for them... annnd she even said “Bing!” YAYYYYY!!!
I have to say that this number caused me alot of stress. I wanted so badly for us to do well. It was alot of pressure!!! And there were alot of setbacks.. alot, alot. Buuuut...ultimately I am happy with the overall concept of the idea. I am proud of how hard everyone worked and came together to create a really memorable experience. I also am grateful for the experience in that it taught me to be adaptable, how to be a better leader, the value of organization..and not to mention the extreme value in the help of your friends. Thank you so much to everyone who helped make the number a reality, to the performers for their beautiful performance and for putting up with me when I was being a freakshow! I love you so much and I couldn’t have done it without you!! Our baby might have looked like a hallucination caused by extreme fever to some, but it was our baby and I think he is beautiful!
Sooo.. all that said and done!! And I have no final video of our performance at BHOF!!! Boooo!! I am hoping its out there somewhere and that I can one day share it with you! You’ll just have to imagine it till then. History combined with the themes of fantasy, class, and inclusiveness within our group making our number a truly unique contribution to the pageant.
All Photos Courtesy of and Used with Permission from Don Spiro
Screaming Chicken Theatrical Society had been cranking out female burlesque performers through our signature program Becoming Burlesque for some time. But now... at long last.. it was finally time to see if there were enough man types out there daring enough to learn how to make it and shake it.
Lo and Behold the first graduating class of Becoming Boylesque! I ran this class with Boylesque champion, Evil Bastard in May of 2009. In just 6 classes we had turned the boys next door into a whole lot more! This was especially impressive considering the girls usually have an extra 2 classes to master their final group dance. They did an amazing job and have gone on to perform this number at a Taboo Revue and at the Vancouver International Burlesque Festival where they received a standing ovation!! Dang boys! Look at you now!!
Choreographing for boys is a whole nother ball game. Especially for untrained (mostly) hetero doods. I had to find a way for them to be able to dance but still look and feel cool and confident and possibly not too silly (at least until the end har har). Because I choreograph mostly for the female of the species, I had to make sure I was utilizing moves that didn’t come across too “girly.” I had to think about famous man dances and dancers and try to find a style that would be appropriate.
Now it was obvious to me at least that we wouldn’t be doing any Baryshnikov inspired pieces (at least not right away har har) and even Gene Kelly style soft shoe seemed abit ambitious for a first attempt at a group number... But then it occurred to me that I had desperately been wanting to do a Motown inspired piece for some time. The boy group dancing of that era would be the perfect fit in terms of simplicity and cool.
My inspiration for the first part of this number came from actual footage of the Temptations. You can see where I blatantly stole some of their moves for the boys. Evil Bastard suggested the second song of “Too Many Dicks” from Flight of the Concords and it proved a perfect contrast to the first song. I often use the ole switcharoo in choreography. First setting up the audience with a slower song establishing character-which in this case were super slick and suave manly men dancers. The switch occurs after they all start to compete for the attention of “My Girl,” and leads to some funny man dancing. As we teach in the class, comedy in Boylesque, is the fastest way to get the audience on your side. It can be really hard for a man to come across as “sexy” when dancing. It can be done, but its alot more challenging. Comedy is in my opinion a very major and necessary ingredient for most Boylesque routines. When you make your audience laugh, they will automatically like you because of it, and your job gets a whole lot easier. Besides, nothing is sexier than a good sense of humor, a dash of self deprecation and lets not forget about confidence!!! I was really happy with the end result and am proud to say that many, if not most of the boys from the class have gone on to enjoy successful performing careers within Vancouver’s Bur(boy)lesque community.
If you are manly or know someone manly who would be great at or interested in becoming Vancouver’s next Brolesque sensation, I will be co-teaching another session of Becoming Boylesque this October. I will be joined by the infamously dashing Boylesque ingenue Teddy Smooth and together.. we will guide... and teach you the electric slide!!! For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The second video is the one I used for blatant move stealing
Here is a link to their performance at the VIBF; they managed to replace dancer AND practice it up to tip top standards all by their lonesomes!! My doves have wings!! *sniff sniff
My adventures in Burlesque Choreography!