I always hope for myself to feel challenged, inspired and to be achieving new heights with each new year. Reflecting back on 2012, I am proud to say that I feel happy with what I have attempted, achieved, and accomplished. The following lists my top 10 favorite April O’Peel moments of 2012 in chronological order.
1. The Pink Unicorn Cabaret
Attempting to try and fill a void in our community, myself and Violet Femme took on the task of producing a monthly drag and burlesque cabaret entitled the Pink Unicorn Cabaret. We wanted so badly to bridge the two communities and feature more theatrical performers from the Vancouver Burlesque community. Sadly, our show was short lived; unable to draw an audience after only hosting 3 shows. I learnt a lot about what I felt I needed to be a successful producer from this experience and as those who were there know, the shows were some of the weirdest and wildest MOST unicorn filled productions of enchantment I have ever been part of. Thanks to everyone who performed and attended! Maybe Vancouver will be ready for us another day...
2. Dirty Dancing
Our second helping of Dirty Dancing was held at East Van’s favorite entertainment destination, the Rio Theatre. I was more than thrilled to team up again with Blue Morris to curate an unforgettable tribute to everyone’s favorite 80s movie, Dirty Dancing. Highlights for me include our finale act with Ruthe Ordare and myself as Double Babys with the stunning Lola Frost playing our Johnny. Oh behave! I wish I could see this on video somewhere!
3. Vancouver Burlesque Festival
As a member of the 2012 Vancouver International Burlesque Festival’s Board of Directors, this year’s festival held a special place in my heart. I was a novice board member and had lived daily the immense pressure and responsibility of helping host such a large scale event for the year leading up to the festival. I was so happy to see it a success and all of my friends, peers and colleagues so full of happiness and love. I was especially proud too see the growth of my fellow performers as they pulled out all the stops to put on an absolutely spectacular festival. The culmination of so much combined effort was such a beautiful thing to be a part of. I also had the pleasure of performing once again at the majestic Vogue Theatre with both Screaming Chicken Theatrical Society and as a soloist. I could get used to that..
Photo by Derek Jackson
4. The Burlesque Hall of Fame
This was one off the bucket list folks! I had been chosen to compete in the Best Debut category as a soloist and with Screaming Chicken Theatrical Society for Best Group. I was proud of both acts as I felt they both displayed some of my best conceptual work. I was very proud of the Chickens for all the hard work they put into our act and for their stellar performance. My solo performance for Best Debut actually ended up being named “Most Comedic” overall! My weird and wacky rubber glove dress and Chicken routine earned me a place in BHOF history and I was even called out at the legend’s panel as a great example of Neo-Burlesque. I swear that I died and went straight to heaven! This weekend was definitely the brightest highlight of my career to date.
5. Neil E Dee's Danger Thrill Show
This year, I continued on as a feature performer with Neil E Dee’s Danger Thrill show. The fun never ended with a tour to Kamloops and Prince George, guest starring at Bizarriety and opening the show for world reknowned stuntmen, Hellzapoppin. I’m looking forward to working more with the wild and crazy Neil E Dee and his band of merry misfits this next coming year.
6. Tatas and Tiaras
When Madam Mae I approached me with the idea of co-producing a show spoofing the cult reality series Toddlers and Tiaras, I jumped at the chance to truly “burlesque!” Our event saw 10 contestants vie for titles like Ultimate Grand Champion Supreme of Beauty, Biggest Hair and Scariest Pageant Mom with a beauty walk, talent portion and personal interview. I was happy to host these terrific and talented non-toddlers and the show was in my mind the perfect combo of theatre, burlesque, and improv. What fun!!
7. Buxom Burlesque Revue
This summer saw my first ever headlining gig where they actually flew me (in a plane! a real flying plane) to the location. Way to make me feel cool guys! I couldn’t believe it! However, upon meeting Calgary’s very own Raven Virginia and the rest of the Garter Girls, it made so much sense! Here were the people who were inspired by me.. and who in return inspired me! It felt like I had met my long lost family at Tassel Castle and had a great time performing and teaching. I ALSO WENT TO THE ZOO! WHEE!!
8. Burlesque Assassins
This summer I also had the privilege of performing at the world premier of Burlesque Assassins with the ever loverly Lola Frost and Melody Mangler. I felt so honored to be asked and I had a blast watching this great film. Make sure to look for your chance to watch some of Neo- Burlesque’s best on a big screen. I was so inspired by Jonathan Joffe and his crew and so happy to see a feature length film featuring Burlesque the way I know and like it! The dance sequences look fantastic on film and Canada’s Queen of Burlesque, Roxi Dlite, was too funny! Great job guys!
9. Burlesque Long Form
Burlesque Long Form felt like the culmination of everything I have learnt about producing and performing all at once. An artistic challenge to myself and five of my favorite Burlesque peers, I asked if we would be able to create and perform a ten minute act and be entertaining the entire duration. The night was a smash success and I consider this one of my biggest and best burly achievements to date.
10. Nouveaux Tableaux
I had been blathering about this FOREVER! At last my vision finally found it’s legs, opening for the the Van Doll’s production of Paint and Pasties- the perfect venue! I had the idea to recreate Tableaux Vivants of classical paintings featuring nude women about 3 years ago after doing research on Burlesque history. It was a huge undertaking that I couldn’t do alone! Enter Via Rose and Morgan Bartlett who were equally as passionate about the project. Thanks to Morgan’s tireless efforts recreating the background of Rapheal’s Three Graces, and accompanied to live classical music curated and played by Miss Via Rose we were by all accounts able to host a tasteful showing of all that is feminine beauty. Many thanks to Villiany Loveless and Ruthe Ordare for showcasing their loveliness for our project.
10. 5 All My New Acts
This year I had a great time performing my greatest hits; Unicorn, Mime, Chicken, Jungle Hair, Crazy Cat Lady, Scarves, Kraken and my Leopard Bump and Grind. I was also happy to realize that I managed to add another 7 acts to the keeper pile! I’m happy to welcome to my repertoire- Leda and the swan, Batman, Lumberjack, Hamburglar, Ninja Turtle, Napoleon, and the Gone Baby Gone.
If anyone ever asks me about trying a new style and being concerned about their branding, I can’t ever tell them to stick to what they know. Maybe its better from a marketing standpoint but I think if what you represent is quality then you shouldn’t bar yourself from trying anything! I have had a very rewarding career thanks to my willingness to try everything and anything that I haven’t already. It brings me a lot of joy to succeed at things I didn’t know I could be good at- and has been the BEST way for me to learn.
This being said, I hadn’t done a fan dance. This, ladies and gentlemen, was my first! The largest barrier to this being that fans are usually quite costly so this became a project that would have to be something I waited and saved and worked towards. I am happy to say that I am so proud of what I have created and it was so fulfilling to see those months and months of dreams and ideas come together.
This act came to be because I think its tres hilarious that I want every bird to be my hat. BE MY HAT!! Obviously your feathers aren’t for flying.. no no.. they are for my hat. I worked up from this concept that I could create an act around feather theft. My dreams coming true.
I was also inspired by several iconic photos I had found in my research of Lily St Cyr and her Leda and the Swan act. Apparently this was a very popular type of act! I found pictures of Sally Rand, Rose La Rose and Faith Arlen all performing their version of Leda and the Swan. The story of Leda and the Swan have been a very popular means for inspiration in Burlesque and other art for years and years! It is a greek myth that tells the tale of Zeus seducing Leda in the form of a Swan. There are so many classical paintings of this story! Apparently this is because in the 16th century it was, confusingly, more socially acceptable to show a woman copulating with a swan than with a man. Ok then..
This piece has also been inspired by watching the legendary Kitten Deville work her magic with her fans (thanks youtube)! There is definitely something to be said about not having heavy, giant staves; you get to be much wilder with your movements! This relates better to what my vision of “sexy” is. I prefer to feel untamed but I do hope that by showcasing my dance background, the piece still had a certain amount of grace.
This piece was performed at Burlesque Long Form- My first go at producing a large scale event by myself. I was so happy with the turnout and people, let me tell you- you get what you pay for! Hiring the city’s best, whom I could trust implicitly to create something magical, was the best decision I could have made. This show came to be because I was so impressed watching Dita Von Teese and her accompanying acts Angie Pontani and Ava Garter during their tour in Seattle some years back. I was really impressed that they only needed 4 people (including awesome host Murray Hill) to put on a killer show. The idea of doing a 10 minute act seemed absolutely impossible to me at the time but I never forgot about their ability to entertain for an entire 10 minutes.
This act went really well in my mind for a first showing on stage. There are a few snafus (stupid leg ribbon of stupidness), but overall I am very pleased with the concept and execution. I was even happy with how I recovered from the issues that arose on stage. I feel (hope!) that I have managed to combine classic with comedy to create something uniquely April. I am in the process of editing the number to be under 4 minutes but in the meantime, I hope you will enjoy my version of Leda and the Swan. :)
My adventures in Burlesque Choreography!