Crystal Tassels untangles BurlyCon.
Editor’s note: Burlesque Seattle Press welcomes special guest author Crystal Tassels, whose passion for burlesque brought her all the way to Seattle from South Korea – and whose fresh voice, perspective, and enthusiasm brought her to BSP. Here Crystal recounts her first time attending this year’s BurlyCon, and we’re excited to share her sparkly musings with you. So without further ado…
~Written by Crystal Tassels
My burlesque career started in Seoul, South Korea as a member of what was, in 2011, the only burlesque troupe performing in the country. Looking for resources and inspiration, I rifled high and low through the internet to see how the art form was developing in North America. I watched hours of festival footage, tore through articles and blogs, and quietly stalked the cast of New York’s Wasabassco Burlesque on Facebook (I swear that one of these days I’ll finally work up the courage to friend Sapphire Jones). As one of about ten active sparkle tarts on the Korean peninsula, this was like standing on the street looking in on a fabulous party through somebody’s window.
Last weekend, surrounded by six-hundred sparkled, coiffed, graceful people, I felt firmly on the inside of the festivities.
This was BurlyCon: dance academy, history lesson, slumber party, love fest. Burlesquers from far and wide gather in Seattle once a year to hone their craft, network, and learn from one another for four community-oriented days. The event brings talent to the Emerald City from across the world. It’s fairly common, though nonetheless electrifying, to have the stars and legends of contemporary burlesque in class right next to you. During our “Advanced Chair Dancing” class, Ray Gunn, in all his splendor, stepped on my toe and I just about hit the ceiling.
I arrived on Friday night just in time for the Burly Prom. This parade of poofy skirts, bow ties and glitter came complete with hours of dancing, Iva Handfull as a very convincing Napoleon Dynamite, and huge hair as far as the eye could see. There were sequins, silks and extremely sheer organzas in every color imaginable filling the ballroom and spilling out into the lobby bar, where people socialized when dancing under so much fabric became tiresome. At the stroke of midnight, Seattle’s own Sir Eddie Van Glam and San Francisco’s cosmic minx Laika Fox were crowned BurlyCon’s Prom King and Queen. During their coronation dance, the couple dove across the room, peeling and revealing with every lunge and whirl. The delighted crowd, knowing very well the wonder of spontaneous theater, applauded as Prom King and Queen pulled their royal strip completely out of thin air.
My Saturday classes started early and were stacked back-to-back throughout the day (though I did leave time enough for an invigorating dip in the hotel’s hot tub that afternoon). My first course was “Go-Go Dancing” with Vancouver, BC’s Burgundy Brixx, who encouraged her sleepy, 9am class to give it their bubbly all by telling stories of The Slipper Room in Manhattan, where she used to go-go nonstop for 45 minutes at a time. Next was “Stripping Behind the Fans”, a seminar taught by sultry danseuse Michelle L’amour. After an hour of deftly maneuvering huge, graceful ostrich fans around her slender frame, Ms. L’amour spoke at length about the screwdrivers, hardware, and (for international air travel) veterinary certifications that are required to maintain them. For an art form that often appears so effortless and delicate, it’s always striking to hear about the hardcore, industrial mechanisms holding everything together.
Later that night, the sparkly citizenry gathered for “Peer Reviews” to watch and workshop one another’s performances. The audience, some in full face, some in footed pajamas, scrawled feedback for each brave performer on white index cards and offered constructive comments and criticism following each act. One of the evening’s standout performances was presented by the incredibly stylish Lola Lesoleil, who was recently crowned Queen of the Alabama Burlesque Festival. Ms. Lesoleil, a vision in royal blue floor-length fringe, rippled weightlessly from one end of the stage to the other while the room bit its knuckles, unable to look away.
Alas, all good, racy fun must someday come to an end. Sunday dawned cool and drizzly as the BurlyCon contingent took its final classes, frantically bought up everything left in the vending booths, and converted new friends to Facebook friends (because Facebook is forever). Here are a few of bits of trivia that I learned this weekend* :
When I moved back to the US from Asia, I made a strategic decision to move to Seattle not because I had friends here, or because I had professional contacts. I moved to Seattle for the glitter. In addition to the magic of BurlyCon, consider the city’s enthusiastic audiences, smart-as-a-whip performers, artistic risk-taking, and supportive community. It should come as no surprise that Seattle is a burlesque destination known across the world.
*Are these statements true? Can I verify their sources? I can’t say whether these are facts, myths, or hearsay, so I’ll just mischievously leave their validity open for you, reader, to untangle if you wish.