A new costume for Sinner Saint. Blue Velvet Burlesque’s very big night.
“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”
-Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005)
Sinner Saint Burlesque, Seattle’s longest continually running weekly burlesque show, is trying on a brand new costume for 2012- a new layer of professionalism. Recent opportunities for their weekly show as well as engagements abroad have led our local hard-working girls to think about the future and their mark on it. Founded in 2006 in Seattle, the troupe is about to send some members to London for their second residency at supper club The Brickhouse. Meanwhile here at home, Sinner Saint is turning pro: reshuffling papers and getting their house in order. Continuous ventures like running a disciplined weekly show and an Advanced Clinic – which offers serious-minded newcomers coaching from the troupe’s collective experience in stage readiness and beyond- call for all the behind the scenes headaches that most people don’t think about, but cost money. If you’re one of the countless many that have attended one of Sinner Saint’s 50 shows per year for the past six years, then it would be very, very nice to pleasure these ladies in return- by checking out their rebranding campaign on IndieGoGo, HERE.
Sinner Saint’s Evilyn Sin Claire (en route to the Austin Freakshow Festival) and perpetual multi-tasker Jesse Belle-Jones took a few minutes to chat with me about the future:
Burlesque Seattle Press: Tell us a little about this next big step Sinner Saint is taking, and why you feel this is the right time?
Evilyn Sin Claire: Sinner Saint is going completely legit, getting organized, and spending dedicated time and money to really make this troupe represent the current members’ artistic sensibilities and goals. This troupe and weekly show was led and managed by one figurehead for years, but in 2011 the current cast self-managed and produced a successful season both here in Seattle and abroad. A LOT of blood, sweat and tears went into that, and we feel pretty empowered to accomplish anything. We’d like to have our company set up to support that.
BSP: What has Sinner Saint got in store for 2012?
Jesse Belle-Jones: We’re going back to London! We’re so happy and excited to be returning to The Brickhouse in Shoreditch. They must have missed us, too, because instead of the two week engagement we enjoyed with them this year, they’ll be having us back for a seven week run of our show “The Sacred and the Profane.” When we return in March, we’ll be looking forward to a year full of domestic travel as well. We’re also thrilled to have Sasha Summer Cousineau [Beebo Brinker Cabarets] further involved in the administrative and artistic development of the troupe. Sasha is a visionary organizer and we’ve loved having her on our crew as a Promoter and Stage Manager this past year.
Evilyn Sin Claire: Our winter run, “Dark Matter” will feature a celebrity host, the world renowned visionary trailblazer of American belly dance, Delilah. She owns the studio we rehearse in, and is also my mom. The run is examining the darkness of winter; inner spaces and outer space. Mysteries, taboo and science. It is WAY up Delilah’s alley. I came home from Colorado Burlesque Festival this summer back to rehearsal and we were talking about the winter run, and the other ladies were looking at me kinda sheepishly, “So…while you were gone we were talking…we want to ask your mom to host Dark Matter. Is that ok with you?” Delilah hosted a little cabaret show that featured me and Princess Farhana at one of her retreats in Hawai’i, but this will really be her burlesque scene debut. She also submitted and was accepted to teach a veil class at BurlyCon. She’s very excited.
BSP: What will you be doing at BurlyCon this year?
Jesse Belle-Jones: I am the Events Coordinator for BurlyCon. I plan, organize, and coordinate all of the social events at the Con from Tiki parties to Keynote Addresses. This is my third year in this position, but I’ve been on the steering committee since the Con’s 2008 inception. Sinner Saint will be volunteering a shift in the hospitality booth, feeding hungry Con-goers Devil’s/Angel Food cake (are you a Sinner or a Saint?), communion wafers, and wine (or grape juice).
Evilyn Sin Claire: We are all attending. Jesse, Lady Tatas, Polly and I have all worked very hard on BurlyCon this year in various different capacities. We’re really proud to be able to be part of it. I was also selected to teach a belly dance class again. It will be movement focused, but I also try to incorporate some discussion and theory around the issues of being a crossover performer with a dance format that is so frequently culturally connected.
BSP: With all the success our busy, bustling burlesque city has had in the past year…what do you envision for the future of burlesque, and Seattle’s place in it? In my opinion, I think all the festivals, showcases, pioneering tours like Dangerous Curves, and more teaching & performance opportunities nationwide will see the next phase of burlesque make touring more sustainable for performers. I think this may keep things fresh and sharp, creatively speaking. What do you think?
Jesse Belle-Jones: This is a huge question! I see Seattle as an epicenter of burlesque innovation, both nationally and globally. Because our scene is so large and so diverse, performers with many different ideas, aesthetics, and approaches are able to find community and performance opportunities and that’s a beautiful thing. I agree with your opinion about touring being a possible “next step” in how burlesque performers share their work. I’ve been traveling for burlesque performances much more regularly in the past year than ever before and from discussions with friends in the community, it sounds like I’m certainly not alone. I think this is a very positive trend for the community at large because of how it lends itself to the dissemination of new images, new subject matter, and new brands of burlesque.
Evilyn Sin Claire: Seattle does have a LOT of burlesque, and I’ve held on to the idea that if you just work to be great, treat your performers and audience well, and work with professional talent, you’ll be successful. I’ve never felt competitive with the other established troupes in the area. I love all the touring and audience sharing! A couple years ago I sensed this blooming of community in the Seattle scene, and with the help of touring companies and national events like BurlyCon and the big festivals, that community has really expanded. It’s a beautiful environment. And, like the environment, we need to care take it. When jealousy and pettiness rear their ugly heads, it’s our responsibility to speak out and encourage ourselves and our contemporaries to chill out.
We also must care take our environment by examining output. An overabundance of shows that aren’t quite professional level does create a scene that isn’t professional. It takes a LOT of work, dedication and money to create really polished acts and shows, which is why we have too few dedicated brilliant producers in this town. I’m a big proponent of student showcases; the Academy of Burlesque, Kindergarten of Burlesque, Visionary Dance all have them. It’s important for us to support places for students to perform. They get stage time and an opportunity to give back to the schools that mentored them. It’s crazy expensive to run a school or studio.
BSP: How did the first Advanced Burlesque Clinic go?
Jesse Belle-Jones: The last session of the Advanced Clinic went *GREAT.* It was such a fun, rewarding experienced for everyone involved. The attendees of the clinic got to benefit from hearing about how our troupe is run and what ideas and approaches we employ when building our acts. In sharing this information, though, we had to consider, question, and reaffirm these facts for ourselves. I always feel like teaching material helps you further understand it and this clinic was no different, I came out of it feeling like I had learned a ton, too! The feedback we got in our course evaluations was glowing. The attendees had a wide range of interests and subjects that stood out to them as the most interesting or most helpful part of the clinic, which leads me to think that we provided good, well-balanced subject matter. We’re really looking forward to starting work with the next Advanced Clinic.
Evilyn Sin Claire: This is a way in which we felt we could care take our environment. There are tons of new performers fresh out of various classes or school or that just got that wild hair to perform the nakey dance, but aren’t quite general public stage ready. I applaud the student shows, and we are also working with the Academy of Burlesque to help provide more space for that, but we also saw there aren’t really too many places for them to go for further education. Six years of more than 50 shows a year, PLUS being very active members in the larger burlesque community gives us a lot of offer in way of advice and instruction for the aspiring professional. Can everyone make a living at this? No. They can’t. But should anyone be able to? I believe they should, and in order for that to happen, we must all strive for the best burlesque has to offer, on and off the stage.
In other news…arriving better late than never, tonight three of Seattle’s very own “titans of tease” will rock the house at Highway 99 Blues Club. Indigo Blue. The Shanghai Pearl. Fuchsia FOXXX. I might have three heart attacks.
Apparently some of the Blue Velvet dancers will appear at the next SAM Remix October 28…