Friday, 21 January 2011

Oddball Burlesque - Win our pants!


Think ODDBALL BURLESQUE's slogans are pants? Come up with your own Oddball Burlesque slogan and WIN OUR PANTS!

That's right! Come up with a slogan in the form of:
"If burlesque is X, Oddball Burlesque is Y" (see our Facebook group or our twitter feed for some examples)
and post it on the Facebook group page or tweet to @oddball_burly . The best slogan will win a pair of pants (clean of course) signed by the whole Oddball cast.
If you win we'll post your prize out to you so everyone can enter - not just those who are coming to the show!
So get your thinking caps on and win our pants!

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Follow me into the dark forest...

For a few blogs now I have been talking cryptically about the ‘new act’ that I am working on and I’m quite aware that I’ve not given much away. There are a few reasons for this, it’s nice to come out and surprise people and there’s always the worry that someone more talented will see the idea and end up producing a better act than me on the same theme (I know this is unlikely as, as much as people huff and puff about act stealing it seems to happen very rarely, in reality). The biggest reason for holding back on my ideas though, is that I have many more of them than I ever have time or money to bring to a finished act. And not all the ideas are good. Some of them are totally unworkable, or boring or generic and a lot of the time you don’t know which is really going to be a goodie until you get to a certain point in the process. In the past I talked on this blog about the idea of doing a crash fetish themed act and this is one example of an act I was really keen on, but which has ended up being shelved (at least for the time being). I just didn’t have a strong enough concept to turn it into a viable act and, although I could have kept flogging the horse, I ended up being consumed by other ideas which I felt more passionate about because the concepts were stronger. That’s not to say that the idea couldn’t resurface if I found myself inspired by or interested in it again. But at the moment it is one of many little seeds of acts that are hibernating until something kicks them into germination (or they just get forgotten all together).

With this in mind, I really didn’t want to jump the gun and talk too openly about my new act in the works until I was sure it would get past the preliminary stages, but it looks like it has. Aside from the concept (which is usually where I tend to start act wise, but I know other people work in different orders) I have my music selected and the best part of my costume finished. The choreography is loosely blocked but still needs work. I am hoping that this act will debut in the spring. In reality, if it wasn’t for Oddball taking up so much of my time and money I would probably have it ready by the end of February. So, I figured it’s time to stop being so secretive and to let you, my dear readers, know what I have been pottering away at.

I mentioned a few blogs back that I was considering making my performances more split down the middle as I love doing funny, bright coloured, silly acts but I also really loved the emotional process of creating the Jackalope and was blown over by the response to it. I didn’t want to have to pick a team and stick to it as I can see common factors to both styles, even if they are more to do with the way my imagination works rather than things that are immediately obvious. So rather than have the two styles together under one umbrella I have decide to mine the same rough area of influences that spawned the Jackalope and make two more in a similar mood/style so that the set can be viewed kind of as a triptych. That way, they relate to and make sense with each other for promoters booking me and audiences viewing. Or people can choose to contrast and pick one from that set and one from my more comic repertoire.

The idea of the triptych came to me in a surprisingly organic way. After producing the Jackalope I was bubbling to do something else in a similar style (once I had got over the initial exhaustion) so the idea for my new one sprang out of that and the third soon followed. They all had a strong running feel to them, in my minds eye I pictured a dark, murky wood or forest with little characters living little lives that were neither mundane nor particularly special. I have always been a huge fan of fairytales (the proper ones with blood and teeth and feathers rather than the sanitised versions modern parents offer their children), I even did my degree dissertation on the different forms and psychological interpretations of the Cinderella story, so it was these old stories that I found calling me to produce my next act. The act will be quite abstract, rather than the more narrative approach I used for the Jackalope and it is inspired by the Slavic and Russian folktales about Baba Yaga.

Depending on which sources you read Baba Yaga is sometimes used as a generic term for a hag-like witch but more often the stories refer to a particular character. And old witch with an impatient temper (in some stories cruel, in others more like a sage) and iron teeth who pushes herself along the forest floor in a pestle and mortar and lives in a hut that walks around on chicken’s legs. Ever since I first heard about Baba Yaga she haunted my subconscious mind and suddenly, like when I began working on the Jackalope act, I found I saw her everywhere (I don’t mean literally in the flesh!). I ran through many different ideas, even at one point toying with the idea of seeing if I could get a hut on chicken legs made (I didn’t go for this for obvious reasons!). In the end I decided I wanted to look at Yaga in terms of the woman who would become her (as I felt it would spill out from burlesque and into performance art if I played an old hag with none of the sensual qualities that I feel are an integral part of burlesque). I wanted to explore the idea of a woman having the power to see glimpses of her future and the powerful but terrifying creature that she would become. Essentially, the act is as much about the idea of destiny and bitter acceptance of oneself as it is about my folktale heroine.

I won’t go into all the details as I don’t want to spoil it and give it all away too soon, but I can say that the mood of the act I am hoping to create will be oppressive, slightly creepy but with a stubborn strength to the character. I want to make reference to Baba Yaga’s future in a metaphorical way and the hope is that, if people know my starting point, they will understand why I have used that particular imagery but if they don’t, I’m hoping they’ll still get a sense of the feel of the act and that it will stand as something interesting to watch even without that frame of reference.

At the same time as I am working on this one I have started work on the third and final piece of the triptych. I normally only ever work on one thing at a time but it has happened quite organically this time that while I have been working on costuming and choreography for Baba Yaga I also found my inspiration (and the perfect music track) for the third part of the puzzle so I have started loosely working on choreography (budget constraints mean the costume will come later!) and, as I mentioned in my last proper blog, filming it as I go. It’s amazing how much this is helping me and I’ve only been working this way for less than a week! I won’t say what the concept behind my third piece is just yet, for the same reasons I mentioned above. It’s still possible it could change or evolve so I’ll keep it under my hat until it gets closer to fruition.

So, with all this work on my dark forest of characters, what’s happened to the funny, silly, rubber-faced Emerald that you all know? Well, I’m still going to be making funny acts. In a way, I wanted to produce these three so that I am free to make my other acts as silly as possible, rather than trying to shoehorn the two styles together to make an amalgam which could end up having the best points of neither. I am working on an idea for my next comedic act, although it’s still in the very early stages of development, where it is still a funny thought in my head and some different ideas about how to progress it. It’s actually an idea I came up with ages ago but then abandoned because I had got fixated on all the props and kit I’d need for it and lost the point of why I originally wanted to do it. Now though, the character has re-emerged in my mind and this time I can see ways of making it funny without all the unnecessary bells and whistles, using my performance skills instead of leaning too heavily on big props. This one however is definitely a way off yet so there’s still a world of room for me to change my mind or move on to something else. One thing’s for certain though, I never want to completely abandon doing comedic acts. They are my wife (or should that be husband) and these dark and more artistic acts are more like a long standing mistress.

If you’ve read this far and waded through my wafflings then I must commend your fortitude. I have missed writing my blog and it’s great to get back into it properly.

‘Til next time

Tickets on sale now!


Friday, 14 January 2011

Tickets on sale now!

Just a quickie to say to all you ODDBALLS out there that tickets for ODDBALL BURLESQUE - 'more fruitcake than cheesecake' are now on sale!
Book them here

NB. For reasons best known to themselves the venue have decided to temporarily re-christen the event Emmerald Ace Burlesque and Live Music Event. We assume this is a test so that only the super cool and in the know get in. Don't be out of the loop! :P

'Til next time

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Girl on Film

just a brief blog this time to tell you all about the fun and games I have been having with my boyfriend's new video camera - no not the Paris Hilton kind of fun and games!
For Christmas my other half's family clubbed together to buy he and I a video camera. He generously said that I could hang onto it as I have been after one for ages and have never got round to buying one and I have wasted no time in using it to try and improve my burlesque chops, as recommended by many an awesome performer on the circuit.

I am not known for my dance or movement skills. I have a poor memory for choreography, I'm not very graceful and I don't tend to know what shapes or movements look attractive on my body. It usually takes me heaps of trial and error to produce anything movement based and for my new act, in fact, for this one and the other new one I am working on (more info on that another time) my movement is more of a focus than perhaps it has been in the past. So I have resolved to record all the stages of my devising and rehearsal progress and watch them back with a critical eye. The hope is that I can quickly eliminate any movements that don't work, better avoid too much repetition (I'm terrible for repetitive choreography) and get a real sense of what my body can and can't do. Hopefully it will also help me to remember and reproduce the stuff that does work.

As part of my blog I may consider posting up some of the later rehearsal footage (you cheeky devils aren't seeing the devising stages though, so far they've been shocking!) to display the evolution of my work if it looks like people are interested. On the other hand, I may wait 'til after the acts are released just so that I don't ruin the final piece ahead of time for those who want to see it.

So far it's quite cringy watching footage of myself at these early, uncoordinated stages but I'm hoping that in the long run it will pay off in more interesting, graceful and stage-present acts.

Quite exciting really,

'Til next time

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

An Update for the Oddballs

not a real blog post, more a post-ette just to let all you kooky bastards, weird beards and general reprobates that the website for my show ODDBALL BURLESQUE - 'more fruitcake than cheesecake' is now live.

Hugs thanks to Chris Phelps for his tireless work and to my sister Alex for her helping hands behind the scenes.

Go take a look - it really does look rather super!


'Til next time

Monday, 3 January 2011

Goodbye 2010 - Hello 2011

2010 has been a funny old year. As a burlesque performer it has probably been one of my better years; the acts I am producing are stronger, I am driving so getting to gigs is less of a stress, I have had some great bookings this year and I feel I am gradually learning more about what sort of work I want to produce. Unfortunately, outside of the world of burlesque it has been a tough, exhausting and frustrating year and this has encroached into my life as a performer, leaving me with less energy to do the things I love.
Still, 2011 is a new year and a new start, and I thought it might be apt to look at some of the interesting goings on in my burlesque world and to talk about a few of my hopes for 2011. Plus, I get to do it in list form! (I love lists)

The Good
- Finally debuting the finished and updated version of my Jackalope and realising that I CAN do straight acts.
- Driving to gigs. Or more importantly, driving home. I really cherished those 1am drives home listening to Radio 2 on a quiet road. It gave me time to think about my performance that night and really became a little ritual for me.
- Seeing some truly amazing acts from other performers I admire. Some really special ones that stood out include Vicky Butterfly, Joe Black, Missy Malone, Amelie Soleil and Ed Muir, Beatrix von Bourbon, Owen Niblock, Lexi Sexx and Marnie Scarlett (to name the ones that leap to mind right now - there are definitely others that were just as awesome).
- Making my first performance in front of the folks from Ministry of Burlesque. It inspires me how much they have built and I really feel there is a lot I can learn from them. Plus it was a hilarious, boozy night and I had a wonderful time.
- Creating my Emotional Strip act on a tight deadline and realising that it forced me to cut out procrastination, rather than lowering the quality of my work.
- Spending time with some amazing, inspiring and above all fun members of the burlesque community. I'm not a social person by nature but I have had fun being around other burlesque bods this year.

The Bad
- Real-life constraints meant I had to leave my ballet class, at least for the time being. Even though I was the worst in the class I really enjoyed it and I do hope I'll be able to get back to it when my situation improves.
- A lot of people seemed to fall away from burlesque this year. It made me sad to see some familiar and friendly faces move on. I wish you all the best in whatever you do next, if you're reading this, folks.
- The big one for me, especially in the later half of this year has been the result of the resurgent interest in burlesque generated by the film of the same name. It is nice that the media is interested in our artform, and I feel the film could be positive and draw people in, even if it isn't entirely accurate of what most of us here in the UK do. What has upset me is all the sniping, snarking articles online (including on online versions of major newspapers) - 'is burlesque just stripping?', 'is burlesque just middle class stripping?', 'is burlesque really empowering?' etc. These articles more often than not seem to be just an excuse to not watch burlesque, not be involved in that community, but to speak with authority about what a damaging non-artform it is. And that's just the original articles. The comments that follow are usually worse. This year I have found myself getting sucked back in to these debates, even though I know that it is a losing battle. I have decided that in 2011, rather than getting sucked into these slanging matches with people who don't care and just like to troll, I will put what I have to say on this blog instead. That way anyone who gives a bibble can read it and everyone else doesn't have to.

The Inspiring
- Taking a workshop with Beatrix von Bourbon. While officially about branding it felt more like a cross between going to confession or therapy and working with a mentor. I left that workshop with a stronger sense of who I am (and can become) as a performer and with new vigour and excitement for what I do.
- Khandie Khisses. This woman is always on the go! I haven't had the pleasure of working with her this year but her online presence is a constant inspiration as someone who holds down a nine to five but is still one of the best in the game. I swear to god, she must never sleep! Plus, she is one of the nicest people in burlesque.
- My pal Cherryfox, who lives the dream by making a living doing burlesque, photography, costuming and other creative things. I'm not sure I could live that way but I sure do admire it.
- Promoters out there putting on top notch nights like The Wet Spot, Dr Sketchy's Nottingham, and Carnival Divine (all the others I forgot to list). As I will be putting on my own show in February I have been carefully observing how the shows I love performing at most make the experience so pleasant for performers and audience alike.

For 2001
- I hope to make my show ODDBALL BURLESQUE as much fun and as professionally ran as possible.
- I want to finish my new act and possibly release two more besides in 2011. One more straight one (to make a triptych with the one I'm currently working on and the Jackalope) and a funny one. At the moment there are two possible contenders for this but I am unsure which I will choose.
- I want to improve my costuming skills and my grace and economy of movement onstage. Some of my acts still have parts that feel a little 'fannying about-ish'. I hope to go back and tighten and rework these parts.
- To see more live performance in burlesque and other genres.
- To blog more. This year my blogging has come in fits and starts, it would be nice to get this more consistent.
- To enjoy burlesque in 2011!

So that's my rundown of 2010. Wishing you all the best for 2011.
'Til next time