BurlyCon in review...

by Violet 28. October 2011 22:12

Oh, my lovelies, I wanted to share a wrap up of my weekend at the amazing convention dedicated to the continuing education of performers and producers in the burlesque community, BurlyCon. This was the fourth BurlyCon and my second time there. The convention ran from the Thursday, the 20th, through Sunday at the DoubleTree Hotel in SeaTac, just south of Seattle. If you perform or produce burlesque, you should be at this convention. Really, it is just that amazing.

On Thursday, I began my day with a little volunteering at Registration to help things out and then ran off to “Ultimate Organization for Producers” lead by Raylean Courtney. Sadly, I hadn’t started my “BurlyCon Notes” note on my phone at this point--that started on Friday--so things are a little fuzzy. The big word she put up on the white board was "communication". I thought I did a lot of communication when it came to running my shows. Raylean puts me to shame and I walked away with a number of good ideas to make my shows run even smoother. My favorite take was from this class was the notion of remote control vibrating panties for your host as a non-verbal way for the stage manager to let the host know that she or he needs to stall. Yeah, I thought this was magical as well. The only down side of the class was that Raylean and I never got together after the class to share the black magic of Google Docs that we knew. We both use Google Docs in different ways and if we could somehow combine them, our plan for glittery domination will be unstoppable! I was saddened by this for sure, but you do know what this means, right? A road trip to Portland, Oregon, for burlesque, drinks, and spreadsheets! It’ll be grand.

From organizational standpoint, I decided to take David Bishop’s Stage Management Basics class which was very informative and is influencing my Stage Manager’s Responsibilities document for Purple Devil Productions. I shared a few things we do, like the baby monitor so we can hear what’s going on in the auditorium from the green room and the use of radios between stage management and the booth.

“My Life” with the living legend, Miss Ellion Ness, was just getting underway when I took my seat for the hour long talk that went by way too fast. Let me briefly summarize this: She is an amazing woman with a rich past that should not be forgotten. Now go forth and learn about her. You will not be disappointed.

That evening I snuck off to Neighbor’s Night Club in the Capital Hill neighborhood to go see Dahlia Ste. Cyr in a Debauchery. She was pushing some boundaries in her professional career as a burlesque entertainer and I have been very honored to be able to watch her grow and develop as a performer. Her performance on Thursday probably the most elegantly raunchy performance I’ve seen of her yet.

With an impending peer-review scheduled for Friday, my dress needed to get finished. I grabbed my dress, the MacGyver kit, and set myself down on the couch in the main hallway between the halls to Wing 2 and Wing 7. I was gonna be social while I worked. I needed to tack down the yoke of the dress--a silver confetti style fabric--and shorten the straps. I may have to giveup my title of the Most Prepared Girl in Burlesque because I didn’t have any white thread in my MacGyver kit. (It was still on the sewing machine at home. Drat.) Thankfully, I made a deposit against my reputation account earlier in the day by bringing the interwebs to the registration desk. But how do you recover from not having thread? Well, maybe using safety pins instead may not have been the smartest idea ever...

Friday morning began with Lux LaCroix’s fun--and completely ass kicking--Musicality and Choreography class. This class was an amazing way to start the day with so much activity and grace. We practiced walking with intent and slinking and Lux LaCroix reminded me of one of the ladies in the belly dance class with. Watching Ms. LaCroix work that walk left me saying to myself, "That’s what Dora does. Just. Like. That."

I took some time to myself after that for lunch and some rehearsal with the fans and then it was off to "Taking Your Show On The Road". I want to plan a little mini tour for this summer. Where should I go? I was thinking Portland, the Bay Area. Where do you think I should aim for? Of course, this means I should get off my patootie and start planning.

The Fabulous Miss Rosie Bitts provided some ideas on making that happen with her "Getting Sponsorships" workshop. This very practical class covers how to go about obtaining sponsorships in both cash and "in kind" as a means to help support your career and development.

Next up on my schedule  was Theater for BQ, presented by the amazing Doctor Lucky. (For the record, while she may share the name of the cantankerous old coot from my favorite Cheapass Game, Kill Doctor Lucky, I bare her no ill will and think she’s all the more awesome for it.) She started out the workshop with quick survey of who has done theater in high school or college? As I discovered later, this was the setup for a joke that she dropped the ball on. I’ll deliver the punch line at the end just like when we discovered that had happened. Several books were suggested for reading including Horrible Prettiness, High Brow Low Brow, and Theatre of the Oppressed. The workshop comprised namely of exercises on movement, character, and exploration of body. At the end, I pointed out to Doctor Lucky she didn’t mention community theater and thus was the punch line was exposed. Burlesque has become just like community theater. Yes, I laughed burt I also whinced. She was funny and straight to the point.

From here, I took time to myself to get ready for my peer review and that meant eating, getting into my makeup, hair, and costume. I brought my brand new fan dance to the convention with me to peer review. I told the audience of seasoned and new burlesque performers and producers that the routine was in midway in the development process (which it is) and without further ado, the sweet seductive tones of Seanan McGuire’s song “Take Advantage” filled the room and I began my performance.

Only one really unplanned mishap occurred. (Yes, that’s right. I plan my mishaps!) During the bridge of the song--I think that’s the correct term--I went to slip off my my sparkly, silver gown, by slipping the shoulder strap off when the safety-pin came undone and the whole thing cascaded to the floor. Several reviewers suggested break-away straps and out of this, I have a grand idea.

Peer reviews are amazing and I suggest that performers head to BurlyCon next year take advantage of them. At your peer-review, you perform for the other attendees and they will write down comments on 3x5 note cards and some will give you verbal feedback. I still have all of the notecards from last year’s peer review and I go back read through them from time to time. This year I had 313 individual comments and when I normalized them all out I had 91 distinct threads.

The most common comment was to point out I was "lip syncing” to the song. I disagree with this comment. I was not lip syncing. No, I was singing along at sub vocal levels and didn’t realize it. This is, in fact, worse than lip syncing. This might be hard, but I’ve decided no more singing along with songs I might or will perform to when I’m in transit places. Believe me, this is going to be harder than you may think. Mean while, I need to smile more. You can’t sing if you’re flashing a big smile.

What was my favorite comment? “Your dress is sheer. That’s hot.” Okay, not very constructive but way up there on the validating scale.

My most perplexing comment was “Take belly dance.” That’s all this person wrote. And I do belly dance, so this is why I’m perplexed. So after letting it percolate around my brain for a while, I’ve decided I am going to interpret this comment as the following: “I think you could improve your dance if you incorporated some elements of belly dance in to it.” Ironically enough, this was something I was contemplating the day before.

The bed tried to conquer me after the peer reviews were done and I let it.

Bright eyed and bushy tailed, I began my Saturday with "Produce and Plan the Perfect Event" with Baby Doe. This panel was so chock full of information it’s not even funny. Seriously, I received excellent advice about planning time lines, items that should be on your check list, contracts and staff, public relations and marketing. This was time in the morning that way so very and incredibly well spent. And fueled by no small amount of Diet Dr. Pepper.

Zora Phoenix, a stunning Gender Illusionist, presented the talk “How to Market Yourself.” Here Zora presented an amazing array of services and tools that do things like maintain your mailing list, connecting your social networks and automating common tasks. Here’s an example. Let’s suppose you’ve been tagged in a photo on Facebook. Using a tool called If This Then That, you can have that photo copied to your Dropbox account. Or you can have a tweet that mentions you retweeted. Don’t think for a moment that this is all she talked about. No, I took away so much from this panel, I think my brain might have been leaking out of my ear by the end.

In a nice change of pace, I took in the “Hot Mama! Parenting Performers” panel discussion. The ladies on the panel were Whisper de Corvo, Elsa E. Sjunneson, Coco Lectric, Rosie Bitts, Ophelia Flame, and Baby Doe. All of whom are mothers with the exception of Elsa who’s an adult child of a burlesque performer. It was an enlightening and often heart warming discussion about the trials and tribulations around the choices we make as performers and as parents.

Next up was "Three's" Company: Navigating Troupe/Groupe Dynamics by the wonderful Baby Doe. I picked out some good pieces of information but I was crashing fast and snoring during a class is rude. I made my exit, went to back to my hotel room and passed out for a good three hour nap. I think my body was telling me something.

Upon waking from my slumber and eating something for dinner, I got ready for the last night of peer reviews and the Neon Dance Party.

With a friend in from out of town I cut short my stay at BurlyCon on Sunday and only made it to one class, "Quick and Easy, Down and Dirty Postcard Design" with Jonny Porkpie. Excellent guidelines were given. Some I agreed with and a few I didn’t, but all of it was all golden. Which is what I’ve come to expect from the Mayor of Burlesque even if he does invite people to “Grab My Junk”. Well, not my junk, but his junk.

For lunch, I went to go have dim sum with friends I don’t see all that often and then they would take my crack chai cherry. This, of course, seemed a fitting end to an amazing weekend.

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