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 risquΓ©, 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 …

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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. πŸ˜‰ 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 …).

 

Brains, or words to that effect …

It is late in the day to be sharing this and probably pointless (few of my followers being local, or even UK-based), but just on the off-chance, or in case any of you are interested in my burlesquey misadventures, Cardiff Cabaret Club has a new show on the horizon with a deliciously macabre theme …

zombieAE

Rather excitingly – for me, at all events – I will be doing my debut solo act at this show … and possibly also my final solo act if it turns out to be an unmitigated disaster (Do feel free to send prayers, blessings, general good vibes, etc). Hopefully not, though, as this is likely to be the last show I am able to do this year, so it would be nice to go out on a big positive note. I will continue to take my classes, however, as I have lots of ideas for future routines, and just need more polish and a better range of techniques to do them justice.

And just in case I do have any local followers and have managed to pique their curiosity, I would heartily recommend those classes (and there are quite a range of them for the coming term). The shows, the classes, and simply being part of this group has been a real blessing to me in what I can safely describe as one of the most stressful – albeit very worthwhile and defining – years of my life. It has given me a wonderful new creative outlet, exciting and challenging experiences, exercise that is actually enormous fun, a significantly improved sense of body positivity, and the friendship of some truly amazing, accepting, and supportive people. Even if I were never to perform again (not at all my preferred scenario, but even so) I would hate not to be a part of it.

Happy Halloween, and wish me luck, broken legs, and all that jazz … xxx

Perils of Persephone

Rather quicker than I had expected, there are now videos of my latest burlesque show with Cardiff Cabaret Club (Yin and Yang show, June 22nd 2018). Thus, as requested, my better judgement notwithstanding, here is exhibit A. I am the suspect at the very far right of the scene, on the dancefloor. Please be forgiving …



Also in burlesque news, I am giving thought to doing a solo routine based on Gaston Leroux’s “The Phantom of the Opera”: a novel with which I have been a bit obsessed ever since I first saw the Broadway show version back in 2000, seeing in the titular antihero a character whose physical self-loathing issues I could all too readily identify with. I would be reinterpreting the Phantom as a female character, however.

I have already had some help and encouragement from other members of the group, and further offers, so in spite of my inexperience (less than a year’s worth, and only two shows) it is looking distinctly possible. I have also chosen the burlesque stage name I intend to use if this does come to fruition. Eschewing pleas to use a more straightforwardly Gothic pseudonym, I have opted for “Persephone Pitstop”: half-Goth, half-silly, and it made the hubby laugh, which is all the confirmation I need (and also no other dancers seem to be using it right now, so I’m staking the claim while it’s good).

None of which is to say that I am fully healed yet – I am still on sick leave, still bruised and sore, and still tire very easily – but when I compare this to how I felt when I first left hospital, I am confident the end of the tunnel is in sight (and hopefully some exciting times not too far beyond).

Bad Things

(The obligatory dressing room group shot, although not the complete group, as some dancers were doing up to three routines and solo dances that night. I was less ambitious, but maybe one day …)


Over the past three weeks I have gradually been getting more mobile and independent, doing small shopping trips, taking accompanied walks, helping the hubby more with the household chores … and performing in another burlesque show.

Having been discharged from hospital only a month or so ago,Β  I can’t argue that the latter was the wisest thing I have ever done, but with no shows nor classes now due until September, having rehearsed the routine for several weeks, now feeling well enough to take brief outings, and being sorely in need of a change of scene and a chance to feel a little bit glamorous for the first time in ages, I decided I would only regret not making the effort.

One thing I was certain of was that I would be in safe company. As I previously posted on, our local burlesque scene is wonderfully accepting and supportive, and while I was in hospital I had no end of messages and offers of assistance from classmates, my teacher, and my fellow-performers. Some even connected with my hubby on Facebook to make sure not to lose track of me in dire emergencies, thus leaving him with the strange situation of now being online friends with a vast quantity of showgirls. That ought to be interesting if any future employer ever decides to scope his social media …

I do love the backstage atmosphere at our shows: a heady mixture of camaraderie, urgency, and spray-on glitter, almost like comrades-in-arms gearing up for a very sparkly non-lethal battle. As for the dance itself … well, I’m impressed I did it at all, all things considered, although I fear my steps were running behind on a few occasions, my annoyingly long legs are still causing me to overshoot my marks, and I barely knew the steps for the encore dance at all (having missed the last rehearsals for that routine while I was in hospital). Hopefully I didn’t let the side down too badly, though. I hope not, as I’d be seriously loath to give this pursuit up.


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(And here we are in action, dancing to “Bad Things” by Jace Everett. Hopefully we look the part. Image copyright Martin Gibson Photography.)


No more classes till September, alas, though that is probably just as well from the healing perspective. Although I am certainly a lot stronger than I was after discharge, complete healing from gender confirmation surgery is a matter of months rather than weeks. I am glad I managed to rally well enough to make this show, though. It is the sort of thing I used to dream of doing but thought completely unattainable to the person I used to be (Indeed, as a friend recently reminded me, the heroine of one of my early Gothic stories is herself a disillusioned would-be cabaret dancer … who gets on the wrong side of some particularly ruthless vampire hunters, so life has not perfectly imitated art as yet). Now that the big journey is finally almost over, and without any complications so far (fingers crossed), I can dare hope that this exhilarating new pastime and the amazing people who come with it will be a big part of the future … assuming we can get through another year without a nuclear war, of course. Some days I have to wonder.

Showgirl at the seaside …

Here are a few snaps from my latest photoshoot down in Mathry, West Wales, in the beautiful Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. This was going to be my final shoot before surgery – a quick change of scene before my extended indoor convalescence – but given my recent bad news on that score, there is now no telling. Still, I had a very pleasant stay over there, had a quick spell of decent weather (all a Welsh girl ever dare hope for), and made sure to take some images in my burlesque costume from the “Far Far Away” show (see here, or here for the video) before it gets retired, alas … although actually it got a quick dusting off this week as me and two of my Cabaret Club classmates did a reprise of the dance routine for a local intersectional feminist event. I would say more about that, but it all hinges on the ongoing media and political war between trans rights activists and trans-exclusionary radical feminists, and Goddess forbid I should draw that sort of attention back to this blog. I prefer to keep it as light and decadent as possible these days … although I am glad our dancing was able to support the cause, in its small way. πŸ™‚

All photographs by the lovely John Waring.

The Time-Travelling Showgirl

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Being an indie author, without anyone else to worry about all the dreary marketing schtick, one has to do one’s best to keep track of whether or not one’s books are getting any attention. Recently, I was Googling about to see if I could find any new reviews on Wolves of Dacia, obviously searching with the name “Eleanor Burns” (Alas, it is the only original work so far published under my chosen name, although hopefully not the last). What I found instead was a link directing me to a book entitled Still Stripping After 25 Years. I was briefly afraid a thoroughly disgraceful 64-year-old me from the future had come back in time and written an autobiography … but apparently I just have a namesake who specialises in strip quilting, whatever that may be.

stillstrip

A little anticlimactic, truth be told … although anyone who does wish to see me in burlesque now has that opportunity, as the videos of our troupe’s “Far Far Away” show have now gone up on YouTube. I am one of the dancers on stage in this clip, mostly in red, freakishly tall, and with arms that refuse to straighten elegantly, sod them … Nevertheless, it was a wonderful, energising evening, and as a friend has reminded me, also the culmination of a dream I have had for years: the heroine of one of my earlier novels was an aspiring (but tragically clumsy) cabaret dancer who eventually finds her calling … against the backdrop of a sinister Gothic / Dieselpunk apocalyptic threat, of course. At least I only need to fear stage fright without the additional seasoning of mad scientists and murderous militias.

 

Come to the Cabaret …

… except you can’t, alas, as we danced it last night, but here’s a nice group shot to give some idea of the wonderfully manic atmosphere:

burlygirls

(That’s me at far left, failing to fling my scarf any great distance, though not for want of enthusiasm. Just rubbish arm action.)

So, my first performance is finally done and danced, and it was by no means the mess I once dreaded it would be. It was not perfect – I confused the order of a couple of steps, and I fear my Charleston still looks so robotic I could give the “Metropolis” gynoid a run for her money as far as Roaring Twenties cabaret dancing automata go (though actually, that could be a concept for a solo routine in the making …) – but I got through the routine mostly in step, didn’t collide with anyone, managed to perform the mini-striptease without any unintentional wardrobe malfunctions (dress rehearsal was another matter … no doubt one of many reasons why we have them), and I had a fantastic time. πŸ™‚

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(Could I make this costume … or take it off in any semblance of rhythm? Maybe not my best ever inspiration …)

For anyone actually in Cardiff or the vicinity reading this blog, I cannot recommend Cardiff Cabaret Club highly enough. These last ten weeks of lessons, rehearsals, and performance have been a thrill, have been amazing for my confidence, and have introduced me to one of the warmest and most supportive crowds I’ve ever been lucky enough to be welcomed into. On a faintly political note, they have also laid to rest in my mind, at least, a pernicious myth I used to hear all the time from trans-critical / trans-exclusionary radfems, that nobody really accepts non-passing trans women – they only pretend to for the fear of political incorrectness – and that we really incite discomfort and derision in every right-thinking human being (and in cis women especially). Having only encountered warmth, support, and trust during this period – probably one of my most daring social leaps of faith to date – I can now see this for the paranoid nonsense that it is. Someone evidently felt lonely in their own prejudice and wished to spread the malaise …

Alas, all good things come to an end, and since I will imminently be entering hospital, for an operation that will leave me physically drained for some time (up to ten weeks), I am certain of missing the summer term. It will be a melancholy separation after all this joyously decadent madness, though a worthwhile sacrifice considering the purpose … and when that is over and done with and I am even more comfortable in my body than I will have ever been before, hopefully I can come back to the Autumn classes, overcome my rustiness, polish my techniques, and maybe even find myself doing solo routines in the future. I wouldn’t put it past me. πŸ˜‰

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