Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Five years of the Australian Burlesque Festival

Five years of applications, acceptances, travel, performance and watching Australia's gorgeous, talented, fiesty performers take it off across the country.

The 2014 ABF poster
I was accepted as a relative newcomer, into Baby Bombshells in 2010, Scarlett Jezebel, then performing as a duo was in the same show and two of my friends, Danica and Daniel traveled with me from Hobart, Daniel had answered his phone to an excited phone call from the University quad after I'd received the email a couple of months before and it was enough of an occasion to warrant an entourage.

The next year the Festival traveled to Hobart's Peacock Theatre, a small ampitheatre space. We had to be quiet backstage as our chatter could be heard from the audience

In 2012 I performed my Sirenes act in the Hobart Playhouse Theatre and then brought the act to Melbourne for Empress Erotique.

Last year Launceston, the small regional city at the top of Tasmania was treated to the Big Tease and I performed my Sirenes act again, by this point I was feeling a need to retire it from my repertoire!

Ormand Hall, photo by B B Le Buff

Now five years on, it was back to Melbourne for the Big Tease at Ormand Hall on St Kilda Rd. I stayed with Scarlett who performed a pared back version of her MBT 2014 unique act in Empress Erotique on the Friday night.

Scarlett and I shared a small box room at the Victoria Hotel on Little Collins where we wedged our bags around the beds and then spent the weekend navigating the small corridors of remaining space.
A morning gym session followed by coffee, then I boarded a train to see Zoe Felice for a costume fitting, her cat providing under the door entertainment while I changed.
A tram trip up Sydney road, to seek Melbourne's worst kept secret, De Jour jeans, a shop packed with stacks of coloured denim. I joined the queue and waited to have the jeans expertly fitted to my body although in the end I just needed the ankles hemmed which took the seamstresses ten minutes to finish!
De Jour jeans
That night Oopsy Daisy and I joined a large, enthusiastic audience for Empress Erotique in Northcote, the rest of the Miss Kitty's Girls were busy being Scarlett's slave girls.
The show was a mix of darker themes with comic acts livening the line up. Fancy Piece were a stand out- the duo danced to rock anthems and paper wigs adorned their heads.

Scarlett Jezebel performing at Empress Erotique
Photo by Ange Leggas
Show morning meant a substantial breakfast in the city with Grace Cherry and a mutual friend. I stoked up my body with an omlette and coffee before heading back to the hotel to rehearse in our cramped hotel room. Tech time was strict so I dragged my massive suitcase onto a tram, for a quick trip down st Kilda road. Danica Lee was there, head mic on, running a smooth rehearsal, figuring out the best lighting and double checking our staging. We were allowed a full run through which was fantastic!

setting up backstage at Ormand Hall

Our backstage area was tiny but well lit with two long mirrors.There were stairs leading directly to the wings with a door separating us from the stage- we were asked to keep our voices down which we tried to attend to but often forgot.

With Oopsy Daisy in our tiny dressing room!
18 performers plus 3 stage kittens crowded into the room before showtime. The show was divided into three sets with 4 acts in each. Bella de Jac looking fabulously decadent in a Zoe Felice costume shouldered her pink bushy boa and flicked off the show with energy and verve- her wig gave new meaning to the Pantene hair flick.

Backstage can be stressful so it's great when everyone works together and is willing to relax and talk, headliner Lada Redstar from Berlin didn't miss a beat when she saw that Evie Red's chin strap had broken a few acts before she was due on stage. She whipped out her sewing kit and attached a hook while Evie finished getting ready. 
Headliner Lada Redstar fixing Evie's broken chin strap
I adore Evie's concept, a nod to Folies Begere girls with their amazing light bulb headdresses!
I was in the second set so managed to steal glimpses of the show from a hallway off to the side. I wasn't the only one...

Perks of working the bar at a burly show!
When it came time to perform I felt nervous but the andrenalin was kicking in, I adopted a haughty smirk and launched into my opening movements feeling every muscle in my fingers stretching stiff and taut as I searched for faces in the audience to connect with.

Photo by Ange Leggas

Photo by Ange Leggas

Photo by Ange Leggas

My act done I retired backstage to spend some time with our international headliners, Lada Redstar and Coco L'ectric. I first met Coco back in 2011 when I was stage kitten at the New Orleans Burlesque Festival. She's the sweetest person and I can't wait to see her again in Perth!

Dolores and Coco with Evie creeping in the background!

Helping Lada attach her incredible head dress
We couldn't see much from the side hallway (though we tried!) and we were told to be backstage for the final set so we could be mustered for the curtain call.

Evie's given up on trying to see what's happening on stage!

Waiting for the curtain call, Miss Kitty's Meow hamming it up!
Show over, I collected a tipsy Scarlett from the audience and headed back to the hotel- not before stopping at Lord of the Fries for a snack. Sweet potato fries you say. Hell yes I say.
It wasn't long after this that my stomach started saying Hell No.

The next morning was the start of a long day. Here's a travel hint from me to you- if you're checking out of a hotel, don't stick around with nowhere to go after show night, by mid morning I felt like a zombie!
I spent the morning with the delectable Evie Red, trading showbo stories, backstage gossip and costume inspiration, she shared her favourite Chapel st cafe where I had a sweet potato and fetta omlette, I loved the decor, bright colours and potted cacti? Yes please!

Coffee at Tyranny of Distance

I spent the afternoon wandering around the city, joyously finding a copy of Martha Gellhorn's Travels with Myself and Another in the bargain basement of Dymocks, then Oopsy joined me for a coffee, Naked Girls and Tinder gossip.
My brother collected me from Victoria, bags and all and whisked me off for dinner on Sydney Road before dropping me with brotherly love and a very reluctant hug at Tullamarine, my flight was- of course in the way that has become normal- delayed but there were screaming children to entertain our ears.

Curtain call at The Big Tease
Photo by Ange Leggas

Review of Big Tease and Empress Erotique by Kathryn Keeble from the Melbourne Observer featuring photo of by Bret Salinger and separate pic of  New Zealand's Kerry Rodda.

Thank you Dolores Daiquiri and Rosy Rabbit for all the hard work and dedication you put in each year to get this festival up and running. I can't imagine the time it takes nor the challenges you face trying to structure each show and choose your performers.
Thanks to Danica Lee who was a great stage manager, efficient and knowing exactly what needed to be done and what the performers needed to know.
Thanks to my fellow performers and to the audience without whom we would be stuck making faces to a mirror or our reluctant partners ("sure honey, that's totally sexy but can you put the feathers away?")
Here's to another 5 years!

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