Who’s the Fiercest of Them All? Iva Handfull Competes for Queen.
~ by Crystal Tassels, BSP Contributing Writer
Iva Handfull, Seattle’s paragon of fierceness, will be strutting her buxom stuff all over the Burlesque Hall of Fame stage for the fourth time this year (previously, Iva appeared in 2011’s “Best Debut Category”, as well as in “Movers, Shakers, & Innovators” 2012 and 2013). Experienced though she is, 2014 marks her first time in the running for the grand prize: the title of “Miss Exotic World, Reigning Queen of Burlesque”. Earlier this spring, I was lucky enough to spend some time catching up with the “albino Grace Jones” herself.
Unlike many of her contemporaries, Iva has no background in traditional dance or theater. Instead, she developed her unique vocabulary of movement by frequently cutting a rug on the murky dance floors of goth and industrial clubs. There she witnessed what she calls “dancing osmosis – where you pick up what other people are doing and you can’t stop.” (If you’ve never witnessed this phenomenon, I suggest a people-watching excursion to the Mercury Lounge to see it in action.) In order to maintain her own unique style and presentation, Iva pays close attention to her performance idols (to name a few: Prince, David Bowie, and Trent Reznor) but keeps her head down – in true goth-kid style – when she’s out on the dance floor.
Her first taste of burlesque was at Tamara the Trapeze Lady’s Columbia City Cabaret. “I could not stay in my seat,” she recounted. “You could see that those performers were doing what they wanted to do on stage…You could tell [their performances] were all them.” The self-direction and distinctive personalities of the performers inspired Iva to enroll in Burlesque 101 at the Academy of Burlesque.
Fast forward several years and it’s plain to see that her dedication and fearless independence have served her well. Over the past year, Iva has shifted from having to apply to festivals, which is what most performers do, to being invited to perform and even headline them. She was even crowned “Queen of the 2013 Kansas City Burlesque Festival”. Also on her list of recent accolades is her inclusion on 21st Century Burlesque Magazine’s Top 50 list earlier this year, which polls professional burlesquers to identify leaders and innovators in the field. “To have peers vote for you is a different thing than to have your audience vote for you,” Iva explained. “Peers are both the harshest and the best critics.”
With Iva’s many appearances in various corners of the country (including headlining performances in New York City, Kansas City, Knoxville, Chicago, and Seattle so far this year), it’s clear that she’s on the radar of many a pro burlesquer. Iva believes in the importance of maintaining relevancy as a performer and entrepreneur and keeps herself as involved in the community as she can. When she isn’t performing, she can often be found bejeweling ties for Haute Under the Collar, a purveyor of glitzy neckties (“So you, too, may be well hung!” declares the shop’s tagline). As co-owner, Iva creates, models, and hawks their bedizened cravats at festivals and burlesque events from coast to coast. On top of all of this, Iva is incredibly supportive of the glitter community in general, performing at fundraising events and sponsoring BurlyCon.
Her acceptance into the “Queen of Burlesque” category at BHoF is a pretty dazzling milestone. Iva is a dedicated neo-burlesque performer who, in remaining true to her own aesthetic, completely rocks out on stage without heavy allusion to classic burlesque. “Initially, I am a bit scared,” she says. “I’m scared that if I do a move, or set of moves, that is too classic, people may think I’m bending my own performance style to win. I’m scared that people will sit there wondering how I got into the Queen category anyway. But this feeling should fade away…I know that I will be 100% myself on that stage and I’ve worked hard to create acts I absolutely adore and want to perform for decades.”
Amid the excitement and stress of preparing for her performance, Iva keeps herself grounded by bearing in mind that the weekend is a fundraiser for the BHoF Museum. What a gal!
Visit Iva at:
Haute Under the Collar