What to Expect at a Typical Burlesque Show, By Dr. Lucky

I’ve been deeply ensconced in burlesque for a while, and I’m constantly reminded that not everyone is privy to my insular world. So I wrote this as an introduction to those who may be curious or interested or concerned. This list is in no way meant to be ‘definitive’ or to ‘set the record straight’ about what to expect at a burlesque show. As with all live performance, the best way to experience burlesque it is to see it in person.

1. A Variety Format Show

Shows usually feature a host or master of ceremonies who keeps the show moving forward, introduces acts, and interacts with the audience, which may include audience participation. Performers often come from a variety of backgrounds and have an array of skill sets, and may include dancers, singers, musicians, circus performers, magicians, comedians, and, yes, striptease artists. In modern burlesque, acts are usually around five minutes, or the length of a pop song, though this can vary widely with ‘talking acts’ or headliners who may perform to a number of songs.

2. Acts that are as Uniquely Different as the Performers

Burlesque performers are not given a ‘script’ – they come up with their stage personas and concepts for their acts; they choose their music, choreograph their numbers, and usually create their own costumes. It is this DIY spirit, and complete control of one’s image, that is so appealing to performers and audience alike. Some performers like to keep their acts in the vein of classic burlesque, bedecked in gowns, panels skirts, boas, fans, gloves, and stockings etc., while others create acts influenced by popular culture, politics, current events, and/or familiar archetypes.
Inga Ingenue. ©Michael Albov (What to Expect at a Typical Burlesque Show)Inga Ingenue. ©Michael Albov (What to Expect at a Typical Burlesque Show)

3. Acts are Like ‘Mini Plays’

Dixie Evans, the Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque and curator of the Exotic World Museum and Competition, described her acts as ‘mini plays’. An act has its own narrative, story, tone, and message. The ending of a striptease act may be more about a resolution of the tension of the story, or the delivering of a punch line, then it is solely about the physical reveal. That said, the reveal and the message are often intertwined, and can be dependent on each other. Burlesque acts, like other narratives, take the audience on a journey.

4. Over the Top Presentation of Self

You probably won’t see a parade of ‘girl-next-door’ realness at a burlesque show. Makeup is excessive, hair is big (often a wig), and costumes are elaborate. The performance style is more like Brechtian presentation than Aristotelian representation – think clowns, buffoons, and drag queens. The burlesque condition known as ‘Swarovski-itis’ is a serious affliction that compels performers to want to put rhinestones on EVERYTHING. Expect to be blinded by the light.

5. No Fourth Wall

With most traditional theatre or performance genres, there’s an ‘invisible’ fourth wall that divides performers from the audience. There’s no such thing in burlesque. This makes burlesque more participatory and engaging than your typical entertainment experience. In fact, the audience is an integral part of a burlesque show, and it is that carnivalesque (Bahktin) spirit that is so much fun for audience and performers. I can’t think of many social situations where it is not just acceptable to scream at a performer as she performs, but expected. Audience members don’t have to sit, hands folded on lap, and wait until the end of the show to show their appreciation. They do it along the way – with claps, hoots, hollers and screams of laughter and approval. And that’s just the way the performers like it.

6. A Mixed Audience Comprised Mostly of Women and Couples

An audience at burlesque show tends to be mixed, and the demographics run the gamut from grandmas to girls out for a night on the town. Although it depends on the venue, producer, and the show, burlesque shows are most often very women-friendly. Rarely do you see primarily male audiences, except perhaps at a boylesque show. Couples are frequent attendees. Heteronormativity is not the expected norm.

7. Blue Humour and Content

Some would argue that blue humour and content of burlesque is its most important and defining characteristic. But like at a burlesque show, you might have to wait for the blue content. Furthermore, blue humour does not necessarily have to be explicitly ‘dirty’. It can be the implication of a double entendre, the delivery of a line with a wink and a nudge. So put your thinking cap on, otherwise you might miss the joke.
Aurora Galore. ©Chris Harman/Harman House Photography (What to Expect at a Typical Burlesque Show)Aurora Galore. ©Chris Harman/Harman House Photography (What to Expect at a Typical Burlesque Show)

8. Modern Political and Social Conscientiousness

Modern burlesque is the thinking person’s performance art wrapped up in a sparkly package. You may want to be up on current events before you come to a show. Politics and social commentary are often very central to burlesque acts. And even if not overt, there’s still something political about performers doing whatever they want on stage, force feeding it to an audience, and getting the audience to beg for more. This can be terrifying to those who want to keep established gender roles in place, and is often a driving force behind fear or censorship of burlesque and burlesque performers.

9. Burlesque is Parody

If there’s one thing that has been consistent about burlesque since its inception, it is parody. Parody was an intrinsic part of burlesque, even before striptease emerged. In fact, ‘to burlesque’ a thing means to poke fun at it. Nothing escapes burlesque’s parodic grip, and it is that inversion of high and low that is the delicious raison d’être of burlesque. So don’t be surprised if something you hold up as sacred is poked fun at, or something you think frivolous (or perhaps deviant) is celebrated and elevated. This is what burlesque does – it inverts social norms, pokes fun, and, ultimately, is meant to BE fun. Comedy is the central tenet to this fun.

10. Expect the Unexpected

‘Wait a minute. Dr. Lucky. I just went to my first burlesque show, and it was not what you described.’ Welcome to the world of burlesque! If there’s one thing I’ve learned from burlesque in the past fifteen plus years, it is that the only thing you can expect is the unexpected. As with any kind of live performance, the best way to experience it is to go to a show. Go with an open mind. And expect to be entertained.

NOTE: Wish you could include this in your next program? You can! Feel free to use ‘What to Expect at a Burlesque Show’ for your program, your website, or to send to reporters and/or local concerned community members. If this article is reused in part or in whole, author credit is required (‘Dr. Lucky’), with a note to the author (doctorofburlesque@yahoo.com) about where and when the reprint is published. All rights reserved, 2014.

Acknowledgements: Thank you to Kay Sera and Taro Baugham for feedback on an earlier draft of this essay.

Dr. Lucky

My super simple super awesome skincare routine

I’ve never had the best skin. Adult acne has always been a thing for me, and it’s just so damn sensitive I get a rash when almost anything touches it. But lately I’m seeing some real improvement. It’s clearer and more even-toned than it’s been since before I hit puberty, and damn, it’s so bright! And this routine is why. Going simple and natural on my hair was one of the best things I ever did, so of course it stands to reason that this approach would be great on my skin too. So here it is, and it’s nothing but oil and vinegar.

Skin

A completely makeup-free selfie. Not something I’d have done before.

  1. Wet face
  2. Oil cleanse. Drying out your skin causes it to freak out and produce more oil to compensate, so working in a good oil calms this down. So now you still have oil on your face, but instead of greasy zit-causing oil it’s really good, clean, softness causing oil. Just make sure the oil you pick is non-comedogenic. I’m in love with jojoba. Stay away from coconut (at least on your face).
  3. I scrub this off with a microfiber cloth. Mine is the Makeup Eraser.
  4. Tone. Interestingly enough, the best toner I know of is diluted organic apple cider vinegar. This is the exact same stuff I use on my hair, and my ratio is about 1:4 with water. I don’t want to get into this whole science-y description of why, but the short of it is that it has a PH level close to that of your skin, protects the acid mantle, and is natural anti-bacterial goodness. Look it up.
  5. Gently pat dry.
  6. A little more jojoba oil to act as a moisturizer.
  7. Struggle not to touch your face because OMG it’s so soft!!

So there you go. If your skin is troublesome and you don’t want to get too complicated or expensive with your skincare routine, give this a go.

A tiny little post about binders

I’ve always made a habit of writing things as I learn them, to share beginner-friendly tips and tricks. But since I’ve been distracted, idea-less, and therefor silent for a while, I realized while going through some old posts that there’s probably some stuff I forgot to tell you about. Maybe this isn’t enough for a full-length post, but please comment below if you want to see anything else here and I’ll add to it.

Ok, so, binders. Yes, since the creation of this blog I have done quite a bit towards figuring myself out. I’m still fem as fuck, but a binder was in order. I’ve learned a precious few little things about them that suit me quite well, and that you might find helpful.

  1. You won’t be flat. Just MORE flat. Guess what, dudes aren’t usually totally flat either. So just suck it up, you’re fine.
  2. There is a serious lack of pretty binders. Bitch, trans-masc people can also like pretty things, and there are even some (both cis and trans) women who bind, too! Maybe one day I’ll be able to do something about it. Ok, that wasn’t super helpful…
  3. Speaking of #1, you probably won’t be too happy with your shape in a binder alone. This is discouraging, I know. The trick here is to distract the eye. Thankfully, this isn’t hard to do at all. Just some kind of looser or random lines around the area do the trick. Not wearing a form-fitting tshirt is pretty key here. Any clothes that are looser will look just fine.
  4. I personally prefer full-length tank styles over half styles. They don’t look like bras, they can also compress your hips, and you can wear them exposed. I like mine with this sweater or an open button-down. In both outfits I’ve been asked what my binder looked like. When I told them they were looking at it, they were surprised. Success!
  5. Yes, they can be hot. But see above for help with that. It really doesn’t need to be that much of an extra layer if you treat it more like a shirt in itself.

That’s all I got for now. It’s not a lot, but it’s been a pretty big deal towards helping me deal with trying to feel a little more comfortable in my own skin. Hopefully this post is a sign of more to come.

Pictured: resting sad face concealing a fair amount of happiness.

These Aliexpress Wig Ads are Pretty Funny

Even as adults, we all go through phases. And ever since my mom showed me her massive wig collection from Aliexpress, I’ve been corrupted. Hers weren’t my style at all, but when she told me how cheap they were I went on a shopping spree and still haven’t stopped. But as I sit here at 3am browsing through pages of wigs in all lengths and colors, I’m coming across some ads that are kind of funny, or just strange. Maybe it’s just that something has been lost in translation? Have a look for yourself.

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 1.52.38 AMI have no idea what’s going on with that little hat. Was somebody trying to show off their mad photoshop skills?

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 2.21.56 AMThis Elsa wig is literally a drawing.

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 2.32.19 AMHey I got my kids’ soccer practice right now but we should totally hook up later.

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 2.46.48 AMIt looks like they’re trying to protect this wig’s identity. I don’t understand.

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 3.22.45 AMSpeaking of censorship, is this mannequin’s mouth doing something we’re not supposed to see?

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 3.40.12 AMI can’t even guess what this mannequin’s neck is doing, but it must be filthy.

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 5.05.38 AM

These pigtails are tied with dicks. For some reason.

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 2.49.48 AMIt’s nice to finally see a shopping site acknowledging a man’s right to wear really girly hair.

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 2.50.37 AMI think they need to get their eyes checked, or I do. Nevertheless, I bought this one.

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 3.39.28 AMIf green is now pink, straight is now curly.

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 3.59.19 AMPro tip: Don’t buy your mom a wig labelled for “old women.”

Anyway, I haven’t been gone, I’ve just been silent. If you’ve missed me in the meantime, feel free to check out my new twitter page @TheAvaStrange. Until next time!

Not Lazy, Just Strange: Living with Delayed Sleep-Phase Syndrome

For more than a decade I thought I sucked as a person and failed at life. I was met with confusion and anger by my parents on a constant basis who could not understand why I would waste the day sleeping as late as 11am. In university, I got half my sleep during daylight hours in the middle of class or on the science lounge couch. I’m sure it contributed to my low grades and eventual dropping out.

As an adult the situation got worse, and my natural sleep cycle developed to mean going to bed at 4-6am, and getting up past three. Mornings have even been known to make me nauseous. Delayed sleep-phase syndrome is a sleep disorder characterized by having a different circadian rhythm, one often completely backwards from that of most people and leading to a more or less nocturnal lifestyle. I’ve only worked one day job, and I was often late coming in. It lasted for less than three months before I quit. Since then I’ve worked second and third shifts at a hotel, online moderation company, personal care home for the mentally disabled, and now I work in a call center for a large bank. Late shifts are unpopular, so I’ve not only gotten these shifts easily, but often couldn’t have escaped them if I tried. Although, considering the health issues associated with living contrary to your internal clock, why would I? Living on a day schedule would mean facing the same health risks that most people face when being forced to work nights. Depression, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and generally poor performance are just some of many. Industrial and traffic accidents are often caused by sleep-deprivation.

This doesn’t mean that life has been particularly easy. Many people have great difficulty finding a job that works for them. Then there’s still the issue of trying to navigate relationships and a social life when everybody else is asleep. It’s lonely. And running errands and going to doctor or dentist appointments often means getting up relatively “early” to rush out before businesses close. Thank science and the flying spaghetti monster for 24-hour Walmarts.

Despite the frustrations involved, I feel way more at peace since being diagnosed with DSPS nearly a year ago. My doctor was one of few who are familiar with it, so I was lucky. Now that I know there’s a specific reason for the way I am I can be fully accepting of it. I don’t pressure myself to conform to a day schedule anymore because I realize that this is not my fault. 

But all this goes without mentioning the lack of understanding sufferers face from those around them. We’ve heard it all; “You’ll eventually adjust like everybody else,” “Just go to bed and you’ll fall asleep,” “It can’t be that hard, why would you want to waste the whole day sleeping?” We don’t! And yes, it is that hard. It just doesn’t work, and we’re much better off when we don’t have to constantly fight it, when we can be good to our bodies and live according to our natural rhythms. For many years now, if work doesn’t mean having to get up to make it in for my evening shift, I find myself eating breakfast at four or five pm in front of my very expensive photo-therapy lamp. In the winter this sometimes means going days at a time not getting any real sunlight at all. And you know what? It sucks. What we don’t need is a barrage of ineffective advice from well-meaning but ignorant friends and family. There is no cure for delayed sleep-phase syndrome. All we need is some understanding, and maybe a shift-working friend or two to keep us company during the long, lonely nights.

Dear Leelah

I couldn’t have said this better myself, so I’m just going to leave this here.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/01/01/dear-leelah-we-will-fight-on-for-you-a-letter-to-a-dead-trans-teen.html

For ways you can help:

https://www.change.org/p/barack-obama-enact-leelah-s-law-to-ban-transgender-conversion-therapy

http://theleelahproject.com/help

https://www.change.org/p/carla-l-alcorn-have-the-correct-name-of-leelah-alcorn-placed-on-her-headstone-in-true-remembrance?recruiter=203504061&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=share_facebook_responsive&utm_term=mob-xs-no_src-custom_msg&utm_content=rp_petition_fb_share_desc%3Acontrol

http://www.translifeline.org/

And to all the others in her position,

THERE IS HOPE. Don’t give up. You are loved, and you will be ok. Countless people stand behind you, including me. You are not alone.

Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity

One of the things I hate most is when people talk about shit they know nothing about as though they’re experts. We’ve all witnessed it. And Julia Serano is a woman after my own heart as far as this goes. Because there are certain experiences that need to be lived in order to be properly and fully understood. Here she is calling out all the so-called “experts” on gender and transsexuality for their ignorance and hypocrisies, and you can feel her anger.

So is this a book by an angry lesbian feminist? Yes. But the more you pay attention the more you’ll realize that this is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s very much a good thing. Because one thing I didn’t expect this book to be was sad. To learn about all the ignorance this subject is steeped in and the very real negative effects this has on the great many people living it day in and day out is nothing if not upsetting. If the revelations herein don’t upset you, then I have to wonder how much you really care about this subject, and why then you decided to pick up this book. It should also be said that issues of feminism affect men, and likewise issues of transsexuality affect cis people. We’re all part of this world together and we don’t live in a vacuum.

This is a relatively new kind of gender-studies book in that it’s written by a feminist lesbian trans woman. This is a look not from the outside in, but from the inside out from someone who is in a position to experience discrimination, often perhaps unintentional, due to her inclusion in three different groups. To use the language of Hubbub‘s Emily Cockayne, she is an inpert, as opposed to an expert, as she relates to us her knowledge from first hand experience. She’s incredibly intelligent and makes her points very well, but she’s also completely unashamed of herself, and her personality – and anger – reverberate through the pages. This woman has earned her attitude and the right to speak authoritatively on this subject, and it’s for this reason that I really love this book.

Not only is this book heavily saturated in personality and real-life experience, but it brings to mind issues that many of us have probably not considered, as well as how these issues effect all of us as a whole. Julia Serano opens up and allows us to take a deeply personal look into her life as she experiences it and experienced it during the various stages that she went through on her journey to becoming the person she is today. This might sound especially appealing to those very curious people who want a look into something somewhat “taboo,” but while it’s definitely interesting, it also has a way of deeply humanizing this subject, and in the process showing us how very important it is for this to be done. Julia Serano is not only incredibly smart, but incredibly brave, not just in that she has been extraordinarily true to herself but in that she’s offered us the chance to see things from her own perspective in such an unashamedly honest way. By the end of the book you’ll no doubt see femininity and LGBT* issues from an entirely new perspective, and this to me is what makes this book an utter success.

Have a look at the video below for a discussion with Julia about her book.