8

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).

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8

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,  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.


gibsonbadthings

(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.

27

The Time-Travelling Showgirl

tarleks

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.

 

17

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. 🙂

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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. 😉

12

Far, Far Away …

For anyone lucky enough to be in exotic Cardiff on the evening of March the 16th, yours truly will be performing in …

flyer

… albeit only in the chorus line, so to speak. Still, after what will have been a mere ten lessons away from the time when my feet could barely distinguish left from right, I would call that major progress, assuming I don’t just make a complete fiasco of it on the night, of course. I hope I don’t, as it has been a huge amount of fun so far, and being driven from it in shame would be a sad culmination. I’m even getting ideas for solo routines if I ever ascend to that skill level, mostly very Gothy ones, no-one will be amazed to hear. For now, though, I know not to count on quick and uninterrupted progress, as it cannot be long before the hospital in London has me lined up for surgery. An obvious positive, but one that will put me physically out of action for weeks. If I must prioritise, though, so be it. The dance group will still be there when I get active again. Would be nice if they didn’t dread my return, though, so wish me luck … xxx

8

Purple Whale

Or, strictly speaking, “Purple Wail,” which is a jazz number by Red Prysock that happens to be the warm-up routine in my dance class, thus demonstrated by an expert …

… but I find “Purple Whale” a more apposite description of my own elegance at said routine (or any other) after the mere two lessons I have thus far had. Hopefully this will be amended in due course, especially since the group is performing in March. Never let it be said that I don’t like to dive in at the deep end …

It has been a good few years since I last attempted dance classes, and the first time since transition. The idea has been on my mind again for some time, but it was always one of those things that I could see myself coming around to in the indeterminate future when transition was completely out of the way. Since, however, I still have no clear estimate on how long that will be, since I have known people stuck in the system for over ten years (and a fair average of five), and since one never knows what if any future the NHS will enjoy under the tender loving care of the Tories, I finally decided that there was never going to be any time like the present to live a few dreams.

Why Burlesque, you may ask? The hubby having introduced me to Amanda Palmer’s music may be partly to blame. I definitely feel the need for more Brechtian Punk Cabaret in my life … Also, I have been aware of the Cardiff Cabaret Club (formerly Burlesque Cardiff) for some years, knew that they staged regular classes and events, and were a safe space for LGBT+ people. Not to mention that since the news these days seems to be strongly hinting towards the view that we are heading towards a re-enactment of Nazi Germany, now feels as good a time as any to embrace some good old Weimar Republic decadence while we have the chance.

Life is a Cabaret, old chum … or possibly an ocean.

pwhale