Writing the first post is always the hardest. I’ve had many blogs in my life, and the first post is daunting. It’s like you have to set the tone for the whole damn thing. I am going to attempt to do so, but make no promises.
First, a little background…
The night before my town’s Pride Celebration, my friends and I went to a local gay club that was holding a “Pre-Pride Black and White Party.” I put myself into a gender-bender outfit (goth girl skirt and boots, Donald Draper on top) and loaded into the car with my buds and husband. We were giddy; night before spending our first pride together, about to see some drag queens (one of my favorite kinds of performance), and feeling ourselves in our genderqueer/gay/bisexualness.
Once in the club, we were treated to some of the best music, drinks, and dancing. The show wouldn’t start for another hour. I was getting pleasantly buzzed on my vodka/Redbull and reveling in the electricity of the people on the dance floor. When the show started, we found ourselves surrounding one of the speaker box pillars, almost like an island off to one side of the stage. I was engrossed in the queen spinning and lip syncing. I can’t remember which queen it was or what they performed. Then, she took the microphone and started the show. “Next up,” she said, “we have a burlesque girl from the local troupe!” My ears perked up. Burlesque! I went to a burlesque show years before for someone’s birthday and I dug it.
There was a woman dressed as a mime that came out and held up an applause sign and then shushed everyone. She repeated the gag a few times and it was funny every time. The music kicked up and she started to strip. She mugged at the audience, slipped out of knickers, and shook her ample bottom. I was sitting there, transfixed. At the end when she finally revealed her pasties, I felt a rush of emotion that almost put me to tears. When her act was over, my two gay friends swung their heads around and in unison exclaimed, “THIS IS YOU. YOU HAVE TO DO THIS.” I looked up at my husband and he nodded in agreement enthusiastically. My head was spinning. As the next drag performance started, I went through a mental checklist:
- I have a theater background and love being on stage.
- I enjoy being naked and being naked around other people comes naturally to me.
- I like to dance.
- I like music.
- I love dressing up as someone else.
As I went through my list and started trying to devise a plan to break into burlesque, the MC queen introduced a second burlesque dancer. She came out dressed as the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland while dancing and lip syncing to a Gwen Stefani song. Her energy was staggering. She had a perfect blend of drag and burlesque. I was floored. I wanted to own it.
Recently, I was wrestling with being a queer girl in a hetero marriage. I am genderqueer and bisexual. However, when it came to Pride and general identification I labeled myself as an ally. A few days earlier, I had discussed with my husband how Pride was becoming commericalized by allys in businesses and how even at my job, they were trying like hell to get themselves into the parade just to hand out fliers. I started to say, “As an ally myself…” and he cut me off. He said “You know, you’re part of the rainbow, right? You are not straight. You are bisexual.” And he had a point. I needed to own my queerness and my identity and be what I wanted to be no matter how I look on the outside to other people. So, at this moment, in a gay club the night before Pride, I wanted to be seen. To be heard. And to make some freaking noise. I had to be part of this burlesque adventure.
After the show ended, I made my way to the back of the club by the dressing room. The girls came out, almost on cue. Aided by enthusiasm and alcohol, I rushed them.
“Hi! I just LOVED you guys. You are EVERYTHING!”
“Oh, thanks! Nice to meet you.”
“How do I be you? I wanna be you. How can I do it?”
There was an awkward pause and a bit of a surprised look, but they’ve probably seen worse in the club after a show.
“Here’s our card. We are having a meet and greet in a few weeks. And we’ll be holding auditions. But, just to let you know, we’re not bringing on any more troupe members. We’re just looking for featured acts.”
“Oh, ok. Cool! Thank you. You are wonderful! You were just simply amazing!”
I took their card and held it like it was a goddamn golden ticket to the chocolate factory. My friends and I talked about burlesque ideas for the rest of the night, including what my name should be.
Pride came the next day, and I ran into the burlesque girls again. They were performing at Pride and the Pride after party at the gay club. I hung out with them and talked with them when they weren’t performing. Despite it being ridiculously hot out, moving around in corsets, and having people scream at them, they were delightful and chatty. Very chatty. I never knew people could talk so much about anything. We all became friends on Facebook.
Leading up to the Meet-and-Greet/audition, I went through a series of self-doubt. I had my song, I had my outfit. My husband surprised me with pasties and opera gloves in my favorite colors. Yet, there was a nagging feeling that I couldn’t do it. And now I knew the girls and I really liked them. I wanted to impress them. I wanted to be cool enough. And the other side: what would people think? My friends? My family? I am taking off my clothes and having money thrown at me on a stage while I jiggle my boobs…doesn’t sound like a “normal” hobby.
The day before the audition, I decided I wasn’t going to go. I was sitting on the couch after a day at work, and my husband asked if I was working on burlesque stuff later. I said no because I wasn’t going to go. I didn’t think it was a good idea. And then he did what he does best: he asked me questions to unpack all those general statements to get me to admit what was really wrong. It turned out I was scared of what other people would think and he gently reminded me that I don’t usually care. He was right. It was ART damn it. And I deserved to make some art after being a student and office jockey for the past *mumbles* years.
A bag full of pasties, gloves, and various strippable costume pieces under one arm and a boat load of anxiety on my shoulders, I walked into the bathroom after the meet and greet. My heart was pounding. I shakily put on my pasties and costume. There were two auditions, me and another girl. The other girl was extraordinarily pretty and she had a fucking hula hoop. I panicked. Should I have some kind of talent other than dancing around and taking things off? She’s taking things off WHILE hooping. I calmed myself and breathed deeply while wandering the hallway. Finally, it was my turn. I crept up to the doorway that was serving as the “stage entrance” and the girls in the front row who I talked to weeks before shouted to the rest of the troupe that were there “Oh, she’s like, already in! We like her. We stalk her Facebook. She’s awesome.” Those comments were the exact boost I needed. They liked me! They really liked me!
The MC came towards me and said he would introduce me and play my music. He asked my name. “Scarlett Ropeburn.” I said. “Scarlett Ropeburn?” I nodded. “Nice.” He sauntered over to the speaker and plugged in my phone to play the song. I started my routine. They threw crumpled up paper at me to simulate what tipping is like on the real stage. They hooped and hollered as I took off a glove, a sweater, and when I dropped to the floor and unbuttoned my shirt, one of the girls exclaimed “advanced floor moves!” and quickly took a note down. I shook my pasties and I could have died from happiness. After, they asked me a few questions as I was trying to awkwardly cover myself back up. When I said that the audition was my first performance, there was an eruption. Apparently, I’m a natural witch.
A few days later, I received a message from the head producer, one of my chatty girls, the White Rabbit. I was in. I was officially part of the troupe. Despite the fact that they were not looking to add another member because they already rolled deep (we’ve been dubbed the Wu-Tang Clan of burlesque troupes), she said my audition was too good and wanted to snatch me up before I got wise and went somewhere else.
Since then, I have done four shows and three features. Yes, I am still new and still green. I am constantly learning. In fact, I am taking classes soon to beef up my performances. I am by no means an expert or professional. So why the blog?
I feel like I have to write all this down in order for it to be real. I sit at my desk job, dreaming up acts, listening to my show music, and dancing in my head. I keep my burlesque life and “real life” as separate as possible. But, I also want to sing this love song to the world in some way. So, I’ll write about it. And hopefully, you’ll dig it, dear reader.
Upcoming blog posts:
- My First Performance that Ended in a Trip to the ER
- Drag Queens