|Burlesque and intentional spaces
||[Mar. 14th, 2016|02:37 am]
|||||Aine Cahill - Black Dahlia||]|
I was at a burlesque show a couple of weeks ago. I only really got to writing it now because on the night of the show, my dad collapsed and did a bit of (thankfully minor) damage to himself. So I've been dealing with the fallout from that since.
I haven't been to a burlesque show in a long, LONG time. There are reasons for that; I'd forgotten some of them until I went back.
It's weird, I was super into going to burlesque performances, then stopped. I didn't quite actively stop, but at some point I was no longer going, and at the time I had Reasonstm avoid going to the next show. Most of them had to do with not being ready for it.
So, here's the thing with me and burlesque. I feel a need to be an active, or at least intentional, audience member. The same applies to when I'm in the audience of drag shows as well.
Somehow, I see my role as needing to be fully present and feed back to the performer somehow. In the case of burlesque, especially, I feel the need to present myself in a way that matches the vibe the show is going for.
In a weird way I feel like, as an audience member, I'm a minor and auxilliary performer there purely for the benefit of those on stage - a symbiotic relationship... I feed back some of what I got.
That means that when I don't feel I can match the vibe of a show, I won't go.
Also, unlike drag shows, burlesque has a somewhat bitter edge for me. So, you know how I said I see part of my role as being "fully present"? That means that I try to take in every aspect of the performance and appreciate it... and I've been writing and rewriting my attempts to articulate this... but, at some point when I try to take in every aspect of the performance, it will inevitably involve being aware of the performer's bodies, given their role in the performances, and then a weird feeling sets in.
When I witness a show, I am frequently in awe of the bodily confidence that the performers exude, regardless of whether it's an affectation of their stage persona or not. You can see a diverse range of bodies on a stage, some showing off stretches, scars, and all ranges of "flaws"... and they look amazing doing it.
And as I drink all this in, blown away by this range, I feel like there could never be space for my body. And it gets to me. There's the standard trans/cis jealousy in there... the feeling that I'll never have anything resembling any of the bodies up there.
But then there's a feeling that I couldn't be up there. I don't know why, I felt some bitterness there, because I'm not sure I want to be either. (Although I'm not sure I've convinced myself that I don't)
I guess the main reason I was thinking about this was because I had a wee conversation on Facebook talking about how I couldn't explain the concept of burlesque to some of my colleagues, and how one of them asked if I was performing (I was partly dressed for it in work). A friend, a frequent companion to burlesque shows, replied with "it just shows your colleagues recognise your talents, and potential talents". It reminded me of that twin desire, and... yeah, that put it in my head for the rest of the night. It wasn't a bad thing, just it was there.
The night itself was amazing. I changed into my full gear (I got excellent advice to wear my black shirt unbuttoned far lower than I would normally even think of doing, with a skirt - my only addition was a modesty panel) at a friend's, and we headed into the show to find the others already there and at an excellent table.
The performers were already milling about, in-character, with the audience, talking to them, and producing cards for us to take or fill out. One friend was asked for a secret. I took a card that challenged me to buy a performer a drink. B, the show-runner, asked us all what we thought of love, given that the theme was anti-valentines. Some said it was bullshit. Some had more creative answers. When her attention turned to me, I simply said, "It's nice when you have it". She called my answer "Honest", and said it was refreshing to see - I'm not sure if she was in a character or not.
The show itself was... incredible. The performers were all amazingly skilled, bringing different energies to the stage, and subverting/retelling characters in different and funny ways. My favourite was someone I'd never seen before who just brought such fun to the stage that it was tangible.
Then there was a break. I went out to smoke, and let the crash happen. It wasn't too bad, but it was a thing. I think it helped that there were some other trans women (who I didn't know) at our table, I was able to trade notes with them about it after the show; I don't think we all have the words for it, but it was nice not to be alone in it.
During the second half, they fed us. This was definitely new, we were even told this. The performers came out wiht platters of cakes, fruit, biscuits, and sweets. Some performers invited us to take food from the platter. Some were more playful, and one invited me to take a chocolate finger from the choker around her neck.
This is where being an intentional audience member really kicked in. I stood up, holding my arms behind my back, and leaned in slowly, exhaling softly as I brought my mouth around finger and drew it out. I may have smiled a little, mostly because I didn't fall face-first into her. A bit of my brain wants to believe that she said that the act was hot just out of politeness... but a part of me wants to believe she meant it.
The thrill of that intentional space makes me want to go back dancing, so that I can practice establishing sexy intentional spaces. When it works, it can make for a lot of fun.
The rest of the performance was as amazing as the first half, and I even got to talk to some of the performers. I wanted to use my red card as an excuse to buy a drink for the performer with all the energy. I'd also bought B a drink because she'd chatted to a few people there, and I meant it just as a nice gesture.
Our little cadre stayed until the end of the night, dancing to the music on B's iPod, until we were all kicked out. For some reason, it then made sense to go back to someone's flat, where we drank a little more, ordered and ate veggie pizza, and then we all staggered in our respective directions at 5am.
It was a great night. I know plans are being made for the next one (a steampunk one), and I'm slowly trying to work out a costume for it. But at the same time, I honestly don't know if I'll go. I know I'll have fun, but I also know the crash is there.