Burlesque dancers at an LGBQT pride event. How cool would that be?
Holding that thought led me to produce a burlesque act for the first time.
Wellington, NZ’s Out in the Square LGBQT pride event wanted acts. Wellington’s burlesque community has lots of talented dancers. As the producer, what did I do to bring them together? First, I developed the concept for an act. Second, I contacted local dancers through a mailing list. Once we had dancers interested and available, I contacted the Out in the Square committee with our proposal. They wanted to know how long the act would be and what it would entail, and I was able to tell them.
To make the act relate to LGBQT pride, the concept was based on a human rainbow flag. We decided to have a pink dancer to fill out the rainbow, and found out later that pink used to be included in the rainbow flag, but was dropped when the fabric became unavailable for producing rainbow pride flags!
Back to production. Once the wheels were rolling, I did a lot of communicating about what would happen, when. For the act, I framed up base choreography and music concepts and sourced props. On the day, I picked up 32 helium balloons, and liased with Out in the Square to get the dancers and music where they needed to be, when they needed to be there.
The support of local burlesque dance teacher Miss La Belle made all the difference – she hooked us up with rehearsal space, provided one of the music pieces (a perfect fruity 1950s instrumental) and helped us refine the choreography, along with all the dancers. Crystal Mischief edited the music together just right for us, and Honey Suckle helped with dancer wrangling and stepped out as the stage kitten. This involved retrieving the stage items for 8 dancers in front of a crowd of hundreds of strangers, outside! Thank you, ladies, it couldn’t have happened without you.
We kept the act modest, on the chorus-girl side of burlesque, to meet the event’s “family friendly” requirements. This last one may be why there isn’t more burlesque at LGBQT pride events in the USA that I can find – it seems more common at events in Europe, even in Asia.
Before this, I had been to a burlesque event staged in daylight, and the effect was…cruel. Instead of dancers being overwhelmed by space and sky and daylight, I wanted them to interact with it. The solution was helium balloons, which turned the whole sky into part of the show.
On the day, we were blessed with the best possible weather – sunny or a bit overcast, with minimal breeze (almost unheard of in Wellington, but it happened.) The Out in the Square staff surrendered a dressing trailer to us, folded our music into the show, and courteously read out the names of each of the dancers. The act had the best possible reception, with a cheering crowd and the emcee calling the dancers out for an interview.
Offstage, I was asked some questions…
Wait, what were you doing?
I started out as “the person who thought this would be a good idea”, and it was easier to say “producer,” despite the visions of Max Bialystock I associate with that word. In the end we had a 4 person production team for 8 dancers, and we had 2 long group rehearsals. I know the dancers practiced at home, too, on top of arranging their costumes. All this for a 4-and-a-half minute act.
I’ll buy that. Those dancers were amazing. Can I get them to dance at my event?
You sure can, the main contact is Miss La Belle, here.
Why weren’t *you* on stage?
Out in the Square had talented emcees aplenty. I may make my burlesque dance debut at some point, but this time around, the act came together well with the talent that stepped forwards – and either had the colored costumes available, or were willing to put them together. Costuming is a big issue for a troupe!
Were the dancers on TV?
Yes, they started the segment on TVNZ 1. Click here to view it – their part begins at about 12:44. Their beauty had a purpose, too: the rest of the segment used the Pride event to stage a discussion about school bullying of queer youth and queer rights in NZ. And maybe more people watched that segment than usual, because it began with a spectacle of dancing women?