Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Goodbye to 2012

It's getting to that part of the year where many of us like to take stock and consider the events of the year. I had sort of been avoiding doing this, but I think the time has come, so, without further ado, here's my personal review of 2012.

The Hard Stuff

2012 has been a bit of a hard year, not just for me, but for a lot of people by the looks of it. Without lamenting too much, the looming presence of the year has been that my partner has been very ill and that has brought a lot of sadness, fear and stress into both our lives. Money has been terribly tight this year; not least of all because after I completed my teacher training I found myself unemployed and it took me a while to secure a job. I am currently working in a call centre, for now.  As my teaching practice progressed it became more and more clear to me that finding a teaching job was going to be hard, and so far it has been.

On the burlesque front I spent most of the early part of 2012 immersed in my teacher training and I performed only once or twice during this period. When I finally qualified I found I had gone off the boil somewhat, creatively (see my blog on creative block for more depth on this) and the issues going on at home made pursuing burlesque bookings somewhat of a low priority. All this means that I feel I have lost touch with burlesque and the people who make it great this year. I currently have a large question mark over what to do next. Whether to try and push though and begin working on new acts and reconnecting with shows and promoters to get work, or whether to focus on other creative and professional avenues. I'm still unsure. I miss burlesque, I miss performing and the creative process and I miss the people. I don't miss travelling so much, and often being tired from juggling performance with a day job!

In general though, I think 2012 has left me feeling a little sad, a little withdrawn and a little isolated. I've not wanted to reach out to people and tell them I'm struggling because it feels painful to do that so I've just been popping up occasionally on Facebook or what have you when I'm feeling a little more positive, but I haven't wanted to do the hard times publicly. In a way, I think I have ended up falling a little out of touch with some people I genuinely care about, because I couldn't make small talk with them as if everything was fine, but I didn't feel able to talk about the big stuff.

Ouch. Stream of consciousness moment. This has suddenly got incredibly personal and not very much to do with my 'burlesque life' blog. Still, I think at the new year people do tend to get reflective (read: maudlin) so I shall leave it in, but normal service will be resumed now with...

The Good Stuff

As well as the tough stuff that 2012 sent my way, there have been some fantastic adventures, achievements and general good times. Obviously the biggie was qualifying as a drama teacher for further education. I worked my behind off to get there and it was such an amazing experience. I think I have finally found where I'm supposed to fit career-wise and that's something I had never been able to say before. Working with my learners in teaching placement was also a huge joy, especially seeing them blossom in their own performances. I didn't think it was possible to feel so proud of a bunch of people you aren't related to. It has made me realise that teaching performance is something more rewarding than I could have imagined.

2012 was also a year of new creative inspirations. The single performance that made the biggest impact on me was the inestimable Gomito Theatre's Alchemystorium show (which I went with my students to see). I went in, not knowing what I was going to see, but I came out saying 'That. That's what I want to be doing'. Using clowning, puppetry, mime, home-made special effects, evocative lighting and sound and wordless narrative it felt like a logical extension from the type of burlesque performances I have been trying to make. It felt like the next step. I had been thinking quietly about clown for a while but this really lit a fire under me and helped inform how I want to shape future performance work.

With clowning in mind, in the summer I took a one day clown workshop with Mick Barnfather. I am aware that a couple of other bods in the world of burlesque have studied with him and after chatting with a couple of them, one thing seems clear. Clown is damn hard! I think I was pretty terrible in the workshop. I'm not really a spontaneous kind of a person, and I tend to over think and second-guess myself and these sort of traits don't seem to make a natural clown. That having been said, I'd love to go back and do a longer and more involved course (when time and money will permit) because I feel as though it would be something extremely valuable, if I could just get my head around it.

After summer was over and I found a job I began working on my own take on a clown piece (I'm not sure if purists would say it was true clown, but it was my attempt). Griselda Finkle-Pheffer was the result. I performed Griselda at Little Wolf Parade a performance and art event curated by local artist Rachel Parry. I was pretty happy with the performance for a first run, but ideally I'd like to trial the act out in front of a burlesque audience. In my more ambitious moments, I can see Griselda extending into a short, one-woman show, but perhaps I shouldn't run before I can walk!

Alongside these adventures, I did perform at a couple of burlesque shows this year. Back in April I shook my thing at the Missy Malone and Friends Burlesque Revue in Milford Haven. That show was fantastic, the audience were so welcoming and I got to enjoy a hotel sleepover with Scarlett Daggers and Sherry Trifle. In October I performed at the amazing Wet Spot in Leeds. Every time I do this show it reminds me why I love burlesque. The line-up was out of this world (Lili la Scala, Audacity Chutzpah, Laurie Hagen, Diva Hollywood, Velma von Bon Bon, Equador the Wizard, and of course, little old me) and I had a wonderful time. I felt a real sense of a community producing 'for us, by us' entertainment and that made me proud. Finally, my last show of the year was the Frou Frou club in Hebden Bridge. Highlights of that show included watching the most professional and exciting routine from a troupe of newcomers (learners from Lady Wildflower's classes), catching acts from the stunning Missy Malone and Roxy Reveals and laughing at Heidi Bang Tidy's anecdote about accidentally peeing on the 'safety thong', with a laugh of recognition because it happened to me once when I was rather merry (after all the work was done, of course).

So it has been a hard year, but there have been some joys too. 2013 is here now and there are new plans afoot. As I'm sure the whole universe knows by now, at the end of January I will be dipping my toe into burlesque teaching and running my first burlesque course, I also hope that 2013 might bring with it new opportunities to create acts and perform, but I'm not setting myself rigid goals about exactly what, where and how much. This year I have learned that if I try to force these things, it just becomes more difficult.

So, onwards and upwards into 2013.
'Til next time

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