I’ll keep it simple…the first burlesque show I went to was in Melbourne, Australia, in 2009. After a few years away I finally got back to going to events in 2015.
Two years into a fun odyssey, what have I learned from this? What I’ve been doing for two years is fact-finding. I haven’t just been writing; I’ve been exploring. I’ve spent two years learning, experiencing and understanding. Sometimes simply watching and listening.
In the past two years I’ve learned about respect, equality, tolerance, love, loyalty, dedication, female empowerment, and the huge amounts of hard work that goes with performing and/or producing a burlesque/cabaret show.
But the biggest thing I’ve learned in the last two years is that these women (and men) are warriors.
Why would someone drive for six hours in bad traffic to spend ten minutes on stage and then spend another three-four hours driving home again? Why would someone get up at 3am to get on a plane and then spend the whole day preparing for just ten minutes show time? Why would someone drive through the wind and the ice and the snow for two ten minute performances? Why would someone travel from Scotland to Surrey just to host a show for an hour and a half? Why would someone have two jobs and still perform on a week night or weekend? Why would producers keep going when attendance numbers drop or a venue cancels on them?
Who the fuck would actually do this?
These are the people that do this. Every week. Every month. Sometimes every day. And the majority of them have full-time jobs and/or families as well.
But it’s not only the physical act of getting out to perform, it’s getting out to perform while ill, injured, low on money or simply having to adapt and overcome when life disrupts their plans. Or performing acts that show off their bruises, scars and the shit they’ve dealt with in their lives. The acts they develop and plan take a long time to create. So do the costumes. So do seemingly simple things like a song selection.
It’s not just the physical side – it’s the mental side as well. Being away from friends and family, away from a solid career. It’s a world made up of taken chances, gambles, challenges. Life is attritional. A performer is built out of endurance.
They work so hard and I love them for it. They’re a tough breed and I love that about them. It takes guts to do what they do. It isn’t about flunkies and a beautiful dressing room. It’s mostly about hurriedly putting on or taking off your make up in the back of a club. It’s about fixing your costume when it falls apart, finding last-minute performers when someone drops out, it’s about the rough and tumble. The glory might be on stage but that’s star dust on a bed of shattered moon rock.
In all honesty I questioned myself this year. I wanted to quit. Why do this? What can I hope to achieve? Is it really worth it?
My attitude has changed and the people I’ve seen and met and experienced have seen to that.
Sitting in the dark writing notes and enjoying the show is one thing, helping to draw people into seeing these shows and performers that I love is another proposition altogether.
Turning up looking fancy taking the hugs and kisses, is that enough? No. I’m embarrassed by the work I’ve put in during the last two years. I pay for my own tickets and travel but that’s the least I can do.
I’ve been through the looking glass with myself this year and what I saw was ugliness. What I see in the people I’ve seen and met in the past two years is beauty. Snow White vs the Devil…
When you take in everything that I’ve said above…why the fuck wouldn’t I do this? Why the fuck would I walk away? If I walk away now I’ll never have this again. But the opportunity isn’t about what I get out of it – the biggest set of questions that I have is ‘What am I actually doing with it? What can I do for other people? What can I do to help performers and producers? How can I do more?’
Ultimately it comes down to…where now?
This quote was attributed to the actor Dennis Hopper as part of an exhibition of his art and photography at the Melbourne ACMI in 2009. It sums up my life now just as much as it did when I wrote about it…
“After destruction, how do you rise from the ashes? And how far do you go?”
Read our slightly more jolly:
Those Righteous Freaks & Sweethearts (support your renegades in 2018!)
Revolution?…CoochieCrunch & Bristol Burlesque