Matrix Consolations

schnitzandmoi

(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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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,  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.

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

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