Neo vs. Classic? What's a gal to do?

Happy Tuesday Y'all!

While I sit here eagerly awaiting my show this evening (what a better way to spice up a boring ol' Tuesday then to do a little stripping?) I find myself (as I have for the past few months) struggling with the idea of neo burlesque vs. classic.

Yes, yes I know. This is a age old burlesque argument, and I hate to add fuel to the fire.

That being said, I think it is a predicament that so many performers encounter and a question with no true answer.

Now, before I even continue typing I should add the disclaimer that I am a NOVICE performer. In burlesque years I consider myself an infant. While this by no means speaks to my dedication nor my passion it does speak to my exposure to the wide, wide world that is stripping and performance art.

When I began my burlesque career I was more than determined to be a neo performer. I wanted to push the boundaries of what it mean to strip, what sexy is, how we define sensuality. I remember in my very first burlesque workshop telling Maria Bella (my burlesque mommy) I was" interested in the boundary between sex and death". Oh yeah, I was that student. 

The very idea of classic burlesque was off putting to me. It seemed antiquated, a dying art without a cause or motivation. I had difficulty understanding why one would want to execute a stocking pull when they could stab balloon babies instead. Why corsets when one could don a cargo jacket or internal organs? Thus, I leaped boldly into the world of neo-burlesque.

However, as if it was a direct mirror of my collegiate years, as my experience as an artist progressed I craved the fundamentals and core values of my art. As an undergraduate art student I focused for my first 3 years on conceptual performance art. I did everything from burying myself in the forest dirt to taking a bath in class before my peers. Yes, again, I was that student. However, in my last year I realized I had spent 3 years leaping at concept without any foundation to my practice. I barely knew how to paint, I couldn't sculpt to save my life... I was essentially a rebel without a cause. I spent my last year in my undergraduate career soaking up as much information as humanly possible. I took classes in every basic art I could; drawing, woodworking, you name it! If there were skills to learn I was ready and eager to absorb! I left college with a suitcase full of concept and a pocket full of product. 

And now, once again I find myself in the same scenario. Entering my third year of burlesque and looking back I crave the foundation. I am craving the basics. Truly, I feel this all comes from my own discomfort.

As artists, often we don't allow ourselves to be taken seriously, as this means we are seriously judged. If I allow myself to embody sex on stage I have to be ready and open for the audience to absorb me as I am. Live in the discomfort. Sydni Deveraux says, "I kept being pulled to try more classic styles, but I was also uncomfortable with it. (Tip: You need to sit with this discomfort...  find out where it ultimately comes from. Then do something about it; own it, change it or discard whatever belief you have in there.)" 

I have to allow myself to be uncomfortable with my own sexuality. I have to allow the audience to drink me in, Cherie Nuit in all her curvy, weird, sexy goodness. 

I think the key to comfort is quality, and I mean that in all aspects of life. Create something of worth, something you feel comfortable living with. If it's burlesque create art of worth. Embody what sexy means to you and make it worth the audience's time. I am worth it, let me share my worth with the audience. Then, and only then, allow them to drink you in. 

While I find myself tapping into the world of classic burlesque as a means to find quality (and for me, Cherie Nuit, I define that as a foundation and understanding of burlesque history) others may travel a very different path. I don't find either to be inherently right or wrong, but sooner or later we all must find quality on our road to creating Art. Yes Art with a capital A. 

I still consider myself a neo performer. It doesn't matter how many times I pull a stocking nor gloves I peel, my roots are, and always will be, in boundary-pushing. I am find my calling in, as Kate Valentine says, in an art form for men, women, and everything above and in-between,  "to be able to explore their sexuality outside that narrow definition of what we are all supposed to find attractive." 

I want to create something of quality and be self-aware as an artist (if at this limited point in my career I can even call myself that). I want to do neo burlesque because I am pushing boundaries, not because I am uncomfortable giving myself to the audience. "Edgy" can be so broad. I consider myself edgy because I like to challenge my audience. Edgy can also be challenging an art form. Watch Lola Frost remove her shows at the 2013 Miss Exotic World competition. THAT was edgy. Watch Laurie Hagen strip in reverse. That was edgy. It is all about embodying quality, then allowing yourself to rest in the discomfort. When you feel that discomfort that is when you know you are truly challenging something. 

To wrap up this rambling rant of a blog post I leave you with another quote from Kate Valentine's 2011 State of the Union Address, "Why not take that extra leap and try to be exceptional. Burlesque is not curing cancer, but it can be transformational and transporting if done right....The only way to preserve neo-burlesque as an art form is to create high professional standards within the genre…" 

I love you all! Let's make something of quality! 



Paco FIsh

Maria Bella