"They're doing a Tarantino night at Monday Night Tease. What should I do?"
"We could do the twist contest."
And just like that, I committed to my burlesque debut:
What do you think -- did we nail it?
photo by Bobby Plasencia, swiped from his Flickr site.
Before there was burlesque, there was bellydance. At least that was the case around Casa de Moore. Before she was Red Snapper, our favorite strawberry blonde striptease artist was known as "Melita" and danced with a local bellydance troupe. That foray into exotic dance was to be but a whistlestop on the way to bigger and more rhinestoney things, but for a short while there I got to hang out with bellydancers and check out that whole scene (and what a scene it is! Note to self: revisit the Perfume of Araby Bellydance Swap Meet sometime!)
There is a natural and historic overlap of bellydance and burlesque. They're not the same artform, to be sure, but it is no surprise to find bellydancers who have migrated to burlesque. One such performer is Lulu Lunaris, who offers a compelling fusion of the two styles with an emphasis on the exotic.
There are performers who excite an audience and bring on the hoots, hollers and applause. There are still others who seem to hypnotize an audience, and perhaps don't generate the same level of vociferous response. I would put Lulu in this latter category. The effect she creates is dazzling; watching her is like watching a tongue of fire dancing atop a candle. Mesmerizing. Her beauty and confidence as a performer contribute to this effect -- one understands how a Salome could convince a king to kill a prophet.
Last Monday night she brought a bit more of the burlesque to her act, as she performed a solo homage to the Robert Rodriguez film Desperado. This number had more of a flamenco influence to it, in costume as well as choreography, and it got me to thinking. There is a tremendous amount of charm inherent in folk dance, and it doesn't matter if it's bellydance, flamenco, square-dance or that German shoe-slapping-dance (it's called "schuhplattler" in case you're wondering).
In addition to being an accomplished hypnotist, Lulu is a charming performer.
Earlier this year, I joined a few friends in starting a new theatre company. We settled on the name "Theatre Unleashed" and our brilliant graphic designer Jenn Scuderi put together a logo that included a little clip-art graphic of a scrappy dog:
We determined that our first production as a company would be a one-night only "introduction" fundraiser. This fundraiser would be a talent showcase, filled with song and dance and short-short plays and etc. I, as president, would host. Our artistic director, Phillip Kelly would co-host, and we would have "bits" throughout the night.
One such bit involved bringing out a Spike puppet to talk about our educational program. The puppet would argue with Phil, barking "Executive decision!" at him. So I would have to build a Spike puppet!
As much as I complain about not being a puppet builder, I actually do build puppets. It's not my strongest ability, and I frustrate easy when it comes to sewing. Above you see the very first sketch of the Spike puppet, doodled out at my "day job".
I was also taking a film class at the time, and I sketched out the above during a lecture. I'm trying to get a sense of how he will look in three dimensions, and I'm working out his legs. Dogs (all animals, really) have very interesting hind legs. Their knees and ankles are in strange places. It's a very distinct look, and one that I wanted to emulate.
My final sketch, and an attempt to break down the head into a pattern. I abandoned the squarish direction I was heading in, opting instead to use the "wedge method" as explained by Andrew Young on his Bear Town website. Spike's head is a foam sphere. His muzzle is very much like the sketched out pattern above, but finagled a bit as I worked on it. (Here's a bit of trivia: While working on the sketch above and puppet below, I was watching The Dear Hunter for the first time. That's what we call multi-tasking around Casa de Moore!)
The spots and ears are black chenille. The eye spot and smaller back spot were sewn directly on top of the white fabric, but I cut a hole for the larger black spot. If you look closely, you can see that the eye spot and smaller back spot are raised and the larger back spot is flush with the white fabric.
His tail is not as long as the clip art (or as I had originally sketched). This was just an aesthetic choice. I think a shorter tail is cuter. There's a wire inside the polyfoam stuffed tail to keep it upright.
The head is much larger than the body. This was another design choice. Big heads are cute (see also Tweety Bird, Jerry of "Tom and Jerry", and Porky Pig).
I never did the hind legs for Spike, mostly because I ran out of time. Pamela assured me that the puppet works without them, but I don't know. I'd still like to make them and add them on.
Another last minute compromise was the collar. As you can see, the collar is made out of red felt and white pipe cleaners, with a black felt tag. I wanted to put a real collar on him, but I didn't have the time to run out and buy a real one.
Spike was well-received at the show, and even has his "headshot" on the Theatre Unleashed website!