Recent Burlesque Outings

After a fairly quiet month, it’s been a busy week for burlesque. First to report, Cardiff-based musicians Jason “Flapsandwich” Philips and Sandor “Cosmo” Dus, having made an anti-Brexit protest song, asked if I would like to contribute some burlesque dancing to the music video. Always being up for some insanity to liven up the day, not to mention being ever-more wistful for the days when my EU citizenship seemed like something I could always count on, I jumped at the chance, and here is the thoroughly demented outcome …

Also featuring Natalie Tang, Gee Dee, Ninjah, and David “Grooveslave” Morris.

Since there seems to be some minor confusion on Youtube of the satirical target of this insanity, I emphasise that it is anti-Brexit, “Gammon” being a derogatory term for the British right-wing and the whole production being a send-up of them and their attitudes, for which I make no apologies (Being married to a French husband, and having been used to being able to have him over here and being able to visit family over there very easily, one could expect me to be less than thrilled about having those rights ripped away from us in return for what currently appears to be sod all).

Also, our Cardiff Cabaret Club has become obsessed with James Bond of late, and here in the advanced group routine (I got ambitious this term, how wisely I am uncertain …) is my tiny contribution to said obsession:

I do have another solo planned, with a science fiction theme, but it is currently on pending for a date, as although my teacher (the inimitable Foo Foo Labelle) gave it her tentative approval, it was deemed too “batshit crazy” to fit in  any of the spring shows. Let us just hope the summer shows are a bit less romantic and a bit more deranged …

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A Belated Escape

Anyone who has followed this blog from the early days (assuming anyone has) will know that it has been a long-standing desire of mine to change my current job – a manual labour post in a very male-dominated, and occasionally toxic warehouse environment – for something both more congenial and less monotonous. Indeed, it has been coming on for three years now since I posted about having started job-hunting, so anyone might be forgiven for thinking I was approaching the challenge either a bit half-heartedly or totally misguidedly. Whatever it was, I got nowhere for ages, lost heart for huge swathes of time, and fell into thinking I wasn’t all that clever or capable anyway and needed to knuckle down and be grateful for what I had.

So I did for ages, but needing some extra money last November (having had to help a friend out to a fairly hefty tune) I did a hasty hunt around for seasonal work, and found an office temp job at a local theatre. I’d probably best not name it until the paperwork is signed, data protection and so forth, but suffice to say the role went well and this week they offered me a permanent job there, to begin next month.

2018 began on a high after I took up burlesque, so good to see 2019 isn’t letting the side down … On that subject, huge thanks are due to the ladies of Cardiff Cabaret Club for the support they have shown me over the past year, helping me build the self-confidence that made this possible. Not to mention the staff of Charing Cross Hospital for achieving similar effects through slightly more surgically invasive means … Just when I think my life has done all the renewing it can, it finds another aspect to improve on.

Slightly ironically, though, I will be poorer for this – the old job did pay well, for all its trials – so I am also aiming to make 2019 the year when I become more professional in my modelling and jewellery-making and less shy about taking donations for my Tarot reading (I had my first one offered to me recently, entirely unsolicited. It certainly feels as if positive energy is flowing my way in one form or another). And burlesque, of course. Lots more burlesque … It may not pay the bills in and of itself, but what it pays back in self-esteem, fun, and friendship is truly priceless.

And a very happy 2019 to you all. xxx 🙂

Happy 2019 from the Pretty Techno Moth Ladies

And so 2018 passes, and troubling though it was for various reasons (Brexit, the ongoing Trumpster fire, not to mention some very negative press coverage on trans issues) I shall ever fondly remember it as the year I became fully myself both physically and by finally filling the burlesque-shaped hole in my life thanks to Cardiff Cabaret Club. This video is from our final event of the year – “Stocking Filler,” 22nd of December – in the Neon club, Newport. I didn’t do a solo on this occasion, but I did take part in this spectacular and very tricky isis wings routine. Beautiful as it looked when done well, we were all aware of its potential to go completely haywire, bearing in mind we had to be very co-ordinated with each other’s steps and manoeuvre quite close to each other (it being a smallish stage) while trying not to poke each other’s eyes out with the long poles we were all wielding. Our collective sentiments were nicely summarised at the end by Hadria Hellbound (dark hair, green wings) as “We didn’t **** it up!” Backstage, of course.

Burlesque aspirations for next year include joining the advanced group, doing another solo, and hopefully changing my job to a more pleasant one with hours that would allow me to get my Saturday nights back (or at least some of them) and thus do more shows. Thankfully, I’ve started temping at Wales Millennium Centre (Cardiff’s biggest theatre), so hopefully I can impress them enough to make a permanent job there a plausible prospect. Wish me luck, lovelies … x

Following total atomic annihilation …

… which the initiated may recognise as an allusion to “Fallout 4”, and I’m sure everyone else will agree is at least a good caption for this image.

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This was a test shot by photographer Michael Colwill (AKA Vagrant Sun) for a Suicide Girls shoot we did this week in a derelict holiday camp near to Cardiff: technically trespassing, but numerous photographers and videographers have been using the place for as long as I can remember – hardly surprising, when it offers discreet surroundings and such grungy steampunk assets as my boilery friend here. We went for a very post-apocalyptic, savage theme with me as this (faux) leather-clad raider-type, shedding both civilised values and clothing over the course of a sixty-image photoset (For anyone who’s never heard of it, Suicide Girls specialises in hosting alternative / Gothic pin-up sets of models who might struggle to hit the mainstream. As an almost-40 transgender Goth model, I am under few illusions how likely I am to wow the industry types …). It was a challenging but fun shoot, the photographer took very good care of me, and everything went very smoothly other than the moment we were almost walked in on by a GCSE photography student and her mum (As I was saying, not the most securely barricaded forbidden zone at all …).

The photoset has now been accepted by the Suicide Girls admin (huzzah) but unfortunately it will now have four months to wait in their member review queue before it gets posted on the site, and I am not allowed to share any of it in the meantime except for this meagre preview (boo). Not to complain: I feel somewhat more validated as a posy Goth already, and am already planning more shoots. I never expected to feel so motivated to be modelling again. Probably a positive sign that my transition has boosted my self-image, though almost certainly also a sign that my job has become so soul-crushing that I am really clinging to my hobbies for solace … Hopefully we can sort that as well in the coming year.

Music Review – “Vamp” (Jake Perrine, 2001)

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I was introduced to this Gothic rock-opera by a friend several years ago, rediscovered it recently, and was amazed how much influence from it had seeped into my own work: in particular, its villain-protagonist Alexandra has more than a little in common with the antagonist of “Wolves of Dacia.” That being so, and since I never paid a penny for it (having been gifted the CD, back in the days of its limited CD run – it is download-only now), it seems only fair to give it a bit of a boost …

Originally an off-Broadway production by actor and musician Jake Perrine of Warp Academy, “Vamp” is a three-act synth-rock opera (the script almost entirely sung) with diverse influences, from traditional opera and classic musicals (the author specifically cites Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd”, and it certainly has a similar blood content, at any rate …) to Peter Gabriel and Nine Inch Nails. Conscious influences aside, however, the word “Goth” will be on the tip of your tongue for most of the show, and given the subject matter (“Vamp” does what it says on the tin …) the composer could hardly complain.

The main character, Alexandra, is a vampire: this is no spoiler, as unlike Dracula she has the consideration to clue the audience in right from the word go (as opposed to her victims, who enter stage right in all innocence and ignorance). She is of indeterminate (though implied great) age, highly cultured, an exquisite pianist, deeply depressed, nihilistic, murderous, and evil. She is very much the vampire as addict / junkie, disgusted by her condition and dependency, yet finding it her only way of regaining some sense of purpose and pleasure in her “life”, and unable to find the will to break the cycle.

Her modus operandi, apparently, is setting herself up as a private arts tutor, insinuating her way into families, and thus grooming potential victims from a young age (It seems that the memories of her victims have some bearing on the quality of the “blood vintage”, so to speak, so she aims to encourage her marks to lead interesting and fulfilling lives before she deems them ripe enough for the preying). Three such victims, now adults, have now come to “spend the weekend” with her, unaware it is doomed to be their last. In order of least to most sympathetic, there is the ironically-named* Simon – a narcissistic actor overly-fond of reminding everyone that he used to play “Dracula” in the West End; Rosemary – a fiction writer, and the much put-upon girlfriend of Simon; and Carmine – a devout, weak-willed artist who is undergoing a crisis of faith, not helped by his “friends” using him to get revenge on each other. Their friendship, as one quickly gathers, is tenuous at best, but all three are bonded in their Stockholm Syndrome-like devotion to and admiration of Alexandra: her easy charisma, gracefulness, profound knowledge, and artistic mastery seeming to show up their own inadequacies, and all three of them craving her acceptance … which from the audience’s POV is clearly a bad thing. For Alexandra has decided she might be able to improve her miserable immortal lot if she “spares” one of the three meals-in-waiting to become her eternal companion. Will she make the right choice? Is there, indeed, a right choice?

Enough said on the plot, suffice to say it is very twisty, and I would recommend buying the full soundtrack with the PDF libretto, as it will prove most enlightening: not only on the complex philosophical lyrics but also on the staging (One would otherwise have no way of knowing that Alexandra is so pitifully dependent upon her grand piano for solace, it also doubles as her coffin / bed. Nor indeed that she is constantly haunted by the shadowy spectres of her former victims, and that she can stop time at will when she feels like a “snack’). As in any opera, however, the music is where it is at, and “Vamp” – in spite of its modest resources – has it where it counts, from its grandly melancholy overture, to its darkly humorous “patter” sections in act 2, to its more catchy “poppy” numbers (“Sometimes at Night” and “Fallen” are especially hummable, if hardly upbeat), to the “turning” scene in act 3 – a tour de force of both menacing and haunting melodies and surreal, nihilistic lyrics that really does capture as well as pure audio ever could the sense of humanity slipping away in favour of something dark, seductive, and destructive. As for the vocal performances, they are all commendable, although the stand-out is Beverly Butrie as the tortured Alexandra. She creates a character who, like any well-realised vampire, manages to charm the audience / listener in spite of her incredible moral awfulness, meaning we are rather pleased when the escalating conflicts force her to examine what she has become … but to say more on that would be telling.

I would love to see this performed live one day, but I think it very unlikely (While a new version was staged recently, it was only in Hungary). As such, the 2001 New York cast recording remains – to my knowledge – the only way to enjoy it, as I dare hope I may now have persuaded a few other vampire-junkies to do …


* If one happens to be a “Castlevania” fan, that is.

Christmas Restocking

My jewellery-making has been rather lax of late, while burlesque consumed my time and soul, but since it will now be a few months before I can be in another show (*cue sad sniffle*) and since Christmas is just around the corner, it seemed like a good time to get busy again, so there are finally new pieces over at Persephone’s Pendants, including for the first time earring sets (making my shop name faintly dishonest, but I think I would sooner lie than spoil the nice alliteration) …

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Please let me know if you would like more or closer images of any of these pieces (including the ones not yet listed), and also I am of course happy to make custom pieces as long as the stone is one I can source locally. The price of custom pieces will depend upon the value of the stone.

These pieces will be available on Facebook for one week, then it is high time I moved the remainder over to Etsy and launched my shop there: a plunge I have been putting back for some time, since a local shop – Crystals and Clocks – very kindly offered to display various pieces from my first batch among their stock. Alas, sales there have also been very quiet (and while I am quite certain I am getting better at this craft, it would be nice to have some positive reinforcement … not to mention cash to restock materials, so it is more than high time I took things properly online).

Prices: pendants are £8-£12 depending on complexity of wrap, earrings alone are £12, pendant and earring sets are £20 (though open to near offers on all).

Extended Halloween …

How curious. Halloween has never figured too heavily on my calender until this year, which – between various horror-themed burlesque shows and alt-80s nights – may have been the Gothiest year of my life, and the extended Halloween is not quite over yet …


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Yes, I am still a writer, even if I have rather let it slide in favour of dancing this year. I am hoping to get another novel out before long: a steampunk fantasy affair called “Gloriana’s Masque,” currently in the pipeline to be published but with no date set. I have done very little to promote “Wolves of Dacia,” though – marketing and “selling myself” are so not in my comfort zone – so it feels only right to give it a little nudge before concentrating my efforts on fresh material.

Only a week away now, and I doubt many people reading this blog are local to Cardiff, but anyone who can make it would be very welcome. 🙂 Likewise any general good wishes and blessings that I will do a decent job with the reading of it and not choke hopelessly. Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, and all that jazz.

Fan-tom of the Opera

Quicker than I had supposed, the videos of last Saturday’s burlesque gig are on YouTube, including my solo debut … (all rather risqué, I should stress, just in case you happen to be reading this post in the office)



I cannot overemphasise how wonderful if surreal it is finally getting to see this. I remember watching this very YouTube channel years ago, admiring the elegance, creativity, and bravery of the Cardiff Burlesque (now Cardiff Cabaret Club) performers rather wistfully, as I never thought it possible I would ever be able to do anything like that. However, that definitely appears to be me up on that stage. Who’d a thunk it?

One thing that is a bit lost in this clip, sadly, is the face make-up, as I did use liquid latex and red lip balm to “mangle” one side of my face (hence all the business with the mirror). On one level, this was also an interpretation of the progression of my own feelings at being transgender, which burlesque has been a big part of helping me to come to terms with. Seeing “Phantom” on Broadway years ago was very moving for that reason, as the antihero’s physical self-loathing issues had a particular resonance … though I must admit, the Lloyd Webber music is also a guilty pleasure (Our emcee, bless her, was clearly not a fan). Hope you enjoy, anyway. All going well, one of these days I shall have enough of these clips that I need to set aside a whole new page to showcase them …

Matrix Consolations

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(In the dressing room with fellow newbie soloist Schnitzel Von Krumpet. Lovely chap, wonderful performer, and hopefully now as permanent a fixture of the Cardiff burlesque scene as I intend to be …)


In the latest chapter of what has been, on many levels, the most challenging, fulfilling, scary, and exciting year of my life, I have just ticked another dream off the “seemingly impossible fantasies” list and danced my first ever burlesque solo. Having only started with Cardiff Cabaret Club less than a year ago this may seem somewhat less than patient of me, and I did wonder whether or not I had enough technique, polish, and confidence to carry it off. Still, even allowing for the very supportive nature of the burlesque scene (audiences included), the fact that our emcee very kindly bigged me up to high heaven, the good personal friends of mine who were in the audience … at any rate, second-guessing myself is one of my main hobbies, alas, and that is never likely to change completely, but even I must concede that the response I got was, in a word, overwhelming.

Technically undeserved, I suspect, but definitely overwhelming. 😉 Well, there will be a video of it out before long, then you can judge for yourselves, as long as you are not in your workplace at the time. It is my attempt at a classic fan dance, with a Phantom of the Opera theme, set to the eerie Gothic strains of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” and I am mostly naked by the end of it save for the occasional rhinestone … Anyway, I gave it my best, I was fully prepared to fail dismally, and I somehow ended up getting a standing ovation.

Actually, could someone just let me out of the Matrix now? On second thoughts, scratch that request. Things making sense is so overrated, anyway.

On a more down-to-earth note, though, I want to thank the whole of Cardiff Cabaret Club for their emotional support and a few in particular for having helped me though the practical steps to take this plunge: our amazing teacher Foo Foo Labelle (who has long been an inspiration, and thankfully is very patient with awestruck irritating groupies …), Yvonne Evie McCracken (another inspiration, and also a huge support as an LGBT+ member of the group, who really encouraged me to ride with this idea), and last but not at all least Hadria Hellbound (seriously badass Goth member of the troupe who has been a wonderful support to me in developing the routine in studio sessions). I have rarely found clubs and groups I wanted to stick with in my dilettantish life (I’ve tried my share, usually very briefly), but I cannot see myself ever wanting to lose the combination of friendship, thrills, challenges, and self-worth that this one supplies. The next set of classes cannot come soon enough (I believe they are in two days from posting this. I guess I can just about wait that long …).

 

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