A farewell send-off to our Reigning Queen of Burlesque 2011, Miss Indigo Blue.
As the great glittering exodus that is Burlesque Hall Of Fame 2012 draws near (this Thursday, May 31 to be precise), as Reigning Queen Miss Indigo Blue prepares to deliver her farewell number at Saturday night’s 22nd Annual Tournament of Tease (what could she possibly have planned?), and as temperatures and hemlines continue to rise in Las Vegas, it seems only fitting to take a look back at where we’ve been.
The article that follows was written last winter at the request of our good friends at 21st Century Burlesque for their 2011/2012 print edition, which will be back on sale soon and can be ordered HERE. Editor-in-Chief Holli-Mae Johnson asked me to write an article summarizing Seattle burlesque’s year in review. In reflecting on what had been accomplished- culminating in Seattle’s strong showing at BHOF 2011 and Indigo’s win- I got to thinking about the many, many individuals that have played a part in Seattle’s burlesque history. Indigo’s particularly well-deserved win was truly a victory for each and every one of those innovators, as well as for those that perform, participate, and give our love week after week to the ever-changing, diverse, and most of all, loving community that is Seattle burlesque.
Shared here in partnership with 21st Century Burlesque (with historical assistance from Miss Indigo Blue and The Swedish Housewife) is a look back at what happened before last year’s BHOF. We dedicate this piece, in fond farewell, to Reigning Queen of Burlesque 2011, Miss Indigo Blue:
Exceptional is the word that categorically describes 2011 in Seattle burlesque. Undeniably, the biggest and most public accomplishment was the widespread representation of Seattle performers that graced the stage or were otherwise involved with the Burlesque Hall of Fame & 54th Annual Reunion in Las Vegas. The names are a laundry list of those we know and love here at home: Lily Verlaine (Winner of “2nd Runner Up: Reigning Queen of Burlesque”), Iva Handfull (nominated for “Best Debut”), Randi Rascal (nominated for “Best Debut”), Waxie Moon, and Inga Ingénue (both Waxie and Inga performed in the “Movers, Shakers, & Innovators” showcase). The Swedish Housewife, who resides in Seattle, returned to producing the “Titans of Tease” showcase, an event she started and has diligently developed since 2004, with one break in 2010. This year’s Reunion Showcase was a wild ride- featuring Joan Arline [since this writing, Joan passed away on October 16, 2011 at the age of 78], Marinka, Seattle’s Catherine D’Lish (two time winner, “Miss Exotic World”), “Legend of the Year” Barbara Yung, and Kitten Natividad and Haji in a tribute to Tura Satana.
Not to mention the Reigning Queen. No performer, teacher, or ecdysiast entrepreneur is more revered than our very own Twirly Girl, Miss Indigo Blue- who was crowned “Reigning Queen of Burlesque 2011″. Indigo took home a tiara and a three-foot tall trophy for her win, and was awarded a second trophy for “Most Classic”. In the words of Jo Weldon just after Indigo’s title was announced: “When Indigo wins, everybody wins.”
And it’s true. It would be hard to imagine Seattle as the burlesque mecca it is today without the blood, sweat, and tears of Miss Indigo Blue. She was one of the first- alongside pioneering performers and producers Tamara the Trapeze Lady and The Swedish Housewife- to establish the roots of a burlesque community in Seattle. Originally from Berkeley, Indigo moved to Seattle in 1989. By 1994, she was hooked on the transgressive, erotic shows that Tamara the Trapeze Lady was producing with Fallen Women Follies. Paula the Swedish Housewife was mounting regular burlesque shows under the bold moniker This “IS” Burlesque! And by 2002, Indigo Blue- who was already performing in these shows- started her own burlesque and queer cabaret called BurlyQ. The troupe frequently appeared in Fallen Women Follies and This “IS” Burlesque!
Tamara, later succeeded by Paula, began producing shows focused on burlesque at the Pink Door, including Indigo and some of the earliest solo acts by Lily Verlaine. (Incidentally, the Pink Door is still going strong today, curated by Sydni Deveraux).
In those days Indigo’s acts leaned towards provocative satire, but she found a real voice for her femme identity primarily in traditional, classic stripteases. As Fallen Women Follies continued to sell out, Indigo and Tamara experimented with an informal class on the history of women’s erotic dance. By 2003, Indigo and fellow BurlyQ member Sheu Sheu Le Haure began teaching four-week workshops on the principles employed in their troupe. “People were telling us, ‘this is amazing, we want to know how to do this,’” Indigo explained.
Soon the workshops expanded to six weeks and Miss Indigo Blue’s Academy of Burlesque was born. Out of the first graduating class came The Von Foxies, who won “Best Troupe” at 2007’s Exotic World Pageant- as the Burlesque Hall of Fame was commonly referred to at that time. (Seattle’s Heavenly Spies took home “Best Duo” the same year). The Academy has been going strong ever since, having expanded to 101 and 202 classes, boylesque, and a handful of dance and stripping classes both personally and professionally focused. More importantly, the Academy grew to be one of the essential touchstones of a thriving, close-knit community.
Meanwhile in the early 2000s, a second wave of innovative troupes such as Gun St. Girls and the diverse collective called the Queen Bees were capturing the imaginations of adventurous Seattle audiences. The work of all these troupes seeded the ground for Kitten LaRue and Fanny N. Flames, who came to Seattle from the influential Shim Sham Revue in New Orleans. Using classic disciplines learned from Wild Cherry and other Legends, Kitten went on to form The Atomic Bombshells, who became the most successful troupe in Seattle to date. Early on, the Bombshells hired newcomer Lily Verlaine. The singularly talented Lily brought a unique artistry to her work, elevating her later solo creations to the level of burlesque as high art. Each producer paved the way for the next- dynamic, driven women happy to collaborate creatively or to make room for one another’s authentic visions.
Fast forward to 2011. Seattle burlesque’s third wave is blazing a glittering trail. Never has it been so evident that our community is nationwide- worldwide even. In March, Sinner Saint Burlesque, which sprang from the popular Burning Hearts Burlesque show The Bedroom Club, launched a successful three-week residency in London, accompanying photographer Greg Holloway’s phenomenal Electric Burlesque exhibit. Paris Original and The Luminous Pariah followed with a boylesque residency in London in July. [Since this writing, both the ladies and gentlemen have returned for repeat performances in London]. In April, Inga Ingénue won the “Miss Viva Las Vegas” title; back home she became the newest member of The Atomic Bombshells. Iva Handfull has been a featured guest at festivals such as Atlanta, Las Vegas, Dallas, and New Orleans.
“Waxie Moon in Fallen Jewel”, a film completed this year by writer/director Wes Hurley, once again stars Miss(ter) Waxie Moon as well as a cast featuring many Seattle cabaret luminaries. “The film is maybe the first of its kind in integrating burlesque into its vocabulary the way that it does. The plot doesn’t have much to do with burlesque, but the film’s aesthetic, its sensibility, acting, narrative structure, movement, everything was drawn from the art of burlesque,” he explains. Wes also directed the award-winning documentary “Waxie Moon” in 2009.
As for Reigning Queen Miss Indigo Blue- mentor, minx, and friend of many in the community- what is she up to, as 2011 draws to a close? For starters, she’s wrapping up the year-end business of the biggest BurlyCon yet. The burlesque and social convention she began with Jo Weldon became a non-profit this year. At the moment, Indigo says she is considering how she will make the next seven months of her title meaningful. 2011 was a pivotal year for her personally, as well as professionally. Just before last spring’s Viva Las Vegas, Indigo suffered a back injury. While recuperating, she realized it was time to not only reclaim her physical strength, but to reconnect with her roots in the art of dance. Upon recovery, she immersed herself in classes, including a life-changing month-long dance intensive in Brazil. Indigo’s current inspiration, one that coincides with her lifelong burlesque passion, is an interest in ancestry and heritage- primarily, the history and heritage of burlesque. “Burlesque is a major discipline,” she says. “And the body is the instrument.”
It’s been a beautiful year- thank you to Reigning Queen of Burlesque, Miss Exotic World 2011 Miss Indigo Blue, for representing Seattle on the world stage in 2011. Well done!!!