By she, I mean me. I am seriously starting to freak out. I have a tendency to bite off more than I can chew. It happens, I’m aware of it, but that doesn’t make dealing with it any easier. One would think that with my track record for overwhelming myself I would be used to dealing with my head below water. I’m not. And I am starting to pay for it. It’s started effecting my dreams. I’m not talking about my big picture dreams here either; the way figuring out a new talent effects your lifetime dreams. I’m talking about when I am asleep, my dreams are about all those things I’ve promised people I would do. And those dreams are starting to look a lot more like nightmares.
As we know I have been launched into Burlesque with little regard for a countdown or a plan of attack or any preparation really. I found this thing that combined all my knick-knack knowledge and submerged myself in it. I jumped in with both feet, and I did it gladly. I was so excited to find something that I can call my own. Something that welcomes and encourages all the little quirks that make up this neurotic and creative beast I call Gracie. Don’t get me wrong, I love being Gracie, she’s my favourite me. (I’ve said that a billion times) The problem that’s keeping me working through the night is the level of expectation, I expect from myself. There in lies the rub.
Gracie gets to pretend it’s effortless. That all the hours of work and rehearsal don’t even exist. That somehow she just does, what she does naturally. Now, if I am honest, I know that can be true. I am naturally crafty. I like figuring out how to fabricate solutions to creative problems. I love the feeling I get from a job well done. I like almost all the aspects of burlesque. I am naturally musical. I learn songs by their emotional arc as well as rhythmic hits. I love performing, which after 13 years of practise now seems to come naturally. The real, honest to goodness problem is the timing. I mean, I like to sit in something. To marinate in a song and storyboard all those secret and unexpected moments. I want to write a 3 minute movie for all those lucky audience members. I can’t do that with less than a month of lead in time. And the work suffers, disappointing me. It effects my creative spirit and my sleep pattern. So, after the mad dash that is December, I have a much-needed respite from performing…at least performing new acts…at least I think I do. Though knowing Burlesque, I’ll probably book gigs in those quiet months… but at least I’ll have time to sleep on that.
For the last week, I’ve been living on the road and out of a suitcase. I’ve been exploring the wonderful west coast and have heard the siren call of the creative seas. And surprise, surprise, I loved it. Way back in May, before I launched my burlesque rocket, I enrolled myself in classes with the hope of absorbing new techniques and trade secrets, I learned to shimmy and shake. After graduating from my Toronto School of Burlesque training with flying colours, I wanted to learn more. So, I applied to showgirl post-secondary school in Seattle; known as BurlyCon. With itchy feet I selected my courses and I climbed aboard busses and conveyor belts, living on the road and flying through the air, heading for classes on the shimmering shores of Seattle. What else could an inquisitive burly-girl do?
Before I got there though, I had to plan ahead and pack a bag. So, last Wednesday found me up late designing my on the road identity. I drew upon my adept eye for branding and built a suitcase bristling with identifiers. Everything from my pink tip toes to my intricate eyelashes, all united in one common goal- putting my best showgirl forward. I am a showgirl-show off. And I have stumbled into a hidden spring of flashy ‘fanity’ fare. Now, what that means in laymen terms is….drumroll please…I can pack a suitcase like a phenom and mix and mingle with the masses from ages 8 to 88 and beyond, with each of them noticing the social indicators I’d hoped they would.
On the road, a suitcase can hold you together or hold you back; by tying up the loose ends, you can unify your identity. Here are a few tips for you shiny-show-offs heading out on the road.
1. If all of your shoes are the same colour your palette is simplified unless that colour is black
2. Matching vintage suitcases make for quick and easy identification plus they invite compliments from even the surliest of border guards.
3. A wide variety of mix and match pieces on a slide-scale of the same colour scheme allows you to dress for the weather and the event
4. Wear many light layers onto the plane as the overhead vent may be over or under performing
5. A smile is your most important accessory
With these and a few special performance abilities you can throw a show bag together and hit the road running…er dancing. By applying the things I’ve learned on my trip both in class and out, I’m excited to be embarking on this new journey. And if you think my suitcase is light, brand-tight and outta sight, just wait till you see what I’ve got in store for my showcase.
Me and 300 of my closest burly girls have packed our bags and hit the road. We’re headed towards the seaside haunt of Seattle, Washington. We’re going in street clothes sans glitter. We’re going to practice the art of burlesque. I am going to learn from and rub elbows with some of the burlesque world elite. I’m excited. I’m on the bus heading for Buffalo so that I can fly into Chicago and connect to Seattle, where I get to stay at the airport hojo. So, it may be a while until you hear from me next. Or you might hear from me often. It all depends on the free wifi.
Hugs and glitter from the road (and the air),
PS I’ve already spilt coca~cola all over my lap. Gonna be a long sticky ride.
One of my favourite things about burlesque is that you get to choose your character. It could be a sweetie pie or a soul-sucking slagathor. The limits are truly infinite. And greatest of all, nobody’s take on a character is going to be the same as another’s. Burlesque allows you to be who you want, how you want it. And I love it.
On any given day Gracie can be a sweetie pie in the face or a beautiful disaster. It’s up to me to decide what side of her shines through. Well, it’s not a shine so much as a glittered glamazon. But both of those extremes fall within the brand I’ve created. It’s liberating to have a persona that can be equal parts haphazard and heartbreaker. And that’s because of who I am and the brand I’m building. It’s all Gracie.
A strong brand is the cornerstone of a memorable performer. It means my audience knows what I’m gonna bring to the stage. They know it’s usually gonna be funny. Sometimes it’s gonna be sexy. It might be a little weird. But it’s always going to be Gracie. The theory that guides my brand is the same that keeps me in line with my persona on and off the stage. Building a strong brand is about sticking to your guns. It’s also about choosing fonts, colors and logo placements, but that’s a lesson for another day.