A MUSE MONDAYS: Kensie Vicious

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Photo cred. John Reed

Today’s muse is one of my first and closest friend, true friend, in Toronto’s burlesque scene. She has tattoos. She designs undies. She’s a nerd. Everybody knows that. She brings me country style butter tarts, even though she’s vegan. I think she enjoys thinking of me getting so much pleasure from something she gave me. She can giggle with a flicker of the devil, but she’s the sweetest schemer I’ve ever met. This pussy-du-jour has been around since my very first day of burlesque. She tackles me with puppy love. And even though she is strong competition for title of ultimate Klutz, her tenacity is one of her signatures. I am proud to fight the good fight with this lady, even though she says it’s not a fight. Ladies and gentlemen, and those who are neither; Kensie Vicious!

Gracie: Thank you for taking time to answer a few of my questions. First off,  how did you get your name?

Kensie: Y’know those games where you find your pornstar name based on your first street name and first place throwing up in public or whatever? Kinda like that, except I chose it based on living in Kensington Market four of the five years I’ve lived in the city, and being a fan of the Sex Pistols (Sid Vicious). Boom. Kensie Vicious.

Gracie: How long have you been on the scene?

Kensie: On the life scene? 25 years. On the burlesque scene? A year. But hell, do I feel like I’ve been building up to this forever.

Gracie: Signature colour?
Naked.

Gracie: What was your burlesque ah-ha moment?

Kensie: I allowed myself to decline gigs and take a step back a few months ago. I said yes to everything and I was pumping out acts that I wasn’t PASSIONATE about. I’ve just returned to performing, debuting some new acts for Belle’s Boudoir….a “make-or-break” show, if you will….these were acts that I REALLY gave a shit about. I felt them, and the audience felt them. It was an incredible moment of understanding my alter ego and my own sense of awareness in front of an audience.

Gracie:  Does your audience have a favorite body part?

Kensie: My mind. The audience loves me for my mind………….kidding. My butt and my tattoos, probably.

Gracie:  What is your favorite part of a new act?

Kensie: The costuming! Oh god, do I love costuming. I’m a fashion design drop out, my brain goes into overdrive when I design new pieces. So many fabrics and rhinestones and…..messes. *cue glitter bomb explosion sound*

Gracie:  If you weren’t a showgirl, what would you be?

Kensie: I would probably be back in university by now! (Not for fashion, that über stylish ship has sailed). The last year of actively performing has gone by so quickly! Granted, it’s a much-needed creative outlet, but I’m sure my fellow show ponies can attest to it being a VERY time-consuming hobby.

Gracie: Do you think you’ll ever retire?

Kensie:  *.*

Gracie: And our end cap. Loaded question, do you have any words for budding showgirls?

Kensie: I cannot emphasize this enough… Find your style. Allow your humor/sweetness/mega vixen/whatever your “thing” is, to come out. Play on things that come naturally and work your ass off (but not actually off) on things that don’t. And if it ever stops being fun, take a step back and reassess.

Gracie: Kensie, thank you so very much for taking the time to answer a few of my questions. If you want to follow Kensie’s antics, see the links below. I will see you next week, same Gracie, same Gracie channel ❤

Facebook: Kensie Vicious

Instagram: @KensieVicious

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Get Show Ready With Gracie

Now, I’ve had a few showgirls ask me what my pre-show regime entails. Well, to really explore this, we have to start at the beginning.

One month before the show:  This is usually when I get booked. So, with nearly 30 days to prep, I think to myself how lucky I am to have so much valuable time. Usually at this point I have pitched a song for the act in question. So, I listen to it on repeat, until I feel like if I hear it one more time, my ears will start bleeding. And I think: What would Gracie Do? Then I come up with a story arch for the song. And plant some joke seeds.

Two weeks and 3 days before the show: I write up my Iva Handful inspired musical spreadsheet. It details all the musical hits, when they happen, what the lyric is, and what I expect to happen. Don’t be fooled- this is tedious work. It takes a lot of listening for flute solos and drum hits; being in touch with how the song naturally makes you move. But it pays off when you step away and actually start working it. A strong foundation is very important when you’re building your dream act.

Two weeks before the show: My costume is designed. Notice the italics. This means that I’ve picked the pieces. And made a list of those missing elements & necessary embellishments. Then I spend 2 days straight stitching, pasting and forcing all these parts into a cohesive costume. Then my Hubby gives me a lecture about how all the crafting items don’t need to be strewn across all the flat surfaces in our condo. I sigh, cuz I’ve heard it all before; put my headphones into my ears, and listen to that song again…and again as I clean and tidy. While I’m focused on the swiffer and wiping the mirror, I imagine my costume coming apart just right. **NOTE: This step has to happen a lot sooner for Showgirls relying on the kindness of strangers to build their costume. Luckily, I am a crafty little dancer.

One week before the show: Everything is ready, except me. I have run my act according to my spreadsheet. Now, I mod it. Of course, there are moments that just don’t work. Writing something down in Excel and executing it in real life are two very different things. The confines of time and space are the natural enemy of the dream act, but that doesn’t mean you can’t achieve your goal another way. Modifications are a showgirls’ BFF. And I still have time to rejig all those moments to fit. This is also when costume flaws are fixed. The music I’d started hating has become my theme song. And I find myself running choreo at the bus stop and giggling when I realize another joke I planted has grown strong.

Two days before the show: I decide that this is the worst concept I’ve ever come up with. That nobody is going to understand it, let alone like it. I hate everything about it.

The day before the show: I wake up early stretch and figure that yesterday I was wrong about everything and that I couldn’t be that bad, and even if everything goes horribly, horribly awry, I’m Gracie Klutz…and that’s kinda my thang. I give everything a once over. This is my last chance to get that shit tight. I make sure every stone is stuck. Every seam is sewn. And then I run it 4 more times -in show shoes-, before packing my showgirl bag- with checklist- in costume chronological order. ( Meaning from bottom layer up: ie: panties & pasties, stockings, bra..etc)

SHOW DAY: I pretend that my tummy is upset cuz I drank too much coffee. I pace and mark it in my mind. I tear my showgirl bag apart and  re-pack it. Then double check it again. Again. I leave early for the venue cuz you can’t rely on TTC to be timely. I arrive way too early. Run tech. Then I wait. There’s this long time between getting there and going on, so I pretend to be totally fine as I pace backstage. And I wait some more.

Performer Before Me: I hear the audience and think I can’t match that reaction. And forget how to breathe for a minute.

During My Intro: I stand in the wings. Straightening myself again and again. I hear my name. The host runs past me and I am alone and dizzy.

My Music Starts: Then I lose myself for 3 mins. I make myself laugh. I move through my dream act. With those movements and emotions I’ve planned. And maybe a few I didn’t.

The Music Ends: Then it’s over until next time. Unless you count working the crowd as part of your act, but I like it too much to think of it as work.

Rinse, Repeat to FADE or Infinity: I plan, pitch and proceed with my next act.

So, that’s how I do it. Did that help anyone, besides me and my OCD Showgirl brain? I sure hope so, cuz that was the plan. And I like to execute my plans. So, consider this plan on death row. And see you Feb 5th @ The Rivoli- Toronto*

*Side note: Throughout this entire process, I am promoting my show on all my social media- like a good little showgirl. Cuz what’s a show without an audience?

Take This Moment And Love It

I love burlesque. Period. Full Stop. I love the people. I love the glitz. I love the gussied up giddiness. And the unexpected…well, you never know what it’s going to be. Burlesque is about breaking down the 4th wall. It encourages the audience to participate. The whole room engages to unite for 3 and a half minutes of togetherness. And for that fleeting moment we are all connected with music, movement and momentum. Burlesque is about the Power of NOW!

With roots firmly planted in the past and boas reaching toward the future, burlesque is a timeless art form. The only limit to what you can create are the laws of time and space. And the possibility of someone having already created it;) As an artist, that is an amazing power to wield. But with great power comes great responsibility, at least that’s what my Uncle Ben always said. I have met Burly girls and boys from all walks of life. The elements that unite us are the desire to drive our own art forward, to have creative control and put on a great show. And sometimes we exceed our own expectations.

Burlesque is an art form that thrives on an audience. It is by it’s very nature exhibitionism. Now, definitions of this word vary from simply wanting to attract attention to a compulsion to expose body parts not “normally” exposed. Obviously, burlesque incorporates both of those definitions, but it is not pigeonholed by mere words. It can challenge and charm. It tantalizes, teases and taunts. It can be political, polite or poppy. Burlesque lives in the moment, and it is the hope of this Showgirl that an appreciative audience can see through the definitions. And that we will exist together for an electric moment, and we will finally be happy.

Tick Tock Time

Rush. Rush. Rush. Busy is the new good, and all that. And that, is terrible. Can you remember when you didn’t feel constantly pressured by ever looming- seemingly- life or death deadlines? When the time allotted to a project was uninterrupted by the tinkling alerts of a smartphone? When you were focused on the task at hand? Yeah, me neither. It’s as though being busy has replaced being productive. But who am I to complain? I am a busy-body*. I am a work horse. I have a hard time saying No, and I tend to stretch myself thin; in all the wrong places.

Gracie finds herself circled by stacks of acts.

Gracie finds herself circled by stacks of acts.

On a (nearly) daily basis, my Hubby vocalizes how my time management skills affect our lives. Specifically our living space. There are piles of ongoing projects on every flat surface. The sad stacks of half-cocked ideas and nearly done nonsense, litter our tiny Toronto condo. Unlike many of my burlesque colleagues, who have a dedicated space to tuck their wares away; my open concept living quarters display my disaster for all to see. Now, I could blame this on architectural inadequacies, but honestly, if I didn’t have a to-do pile, nothing would ever get done. I am naturally drawn to disarray. It is a nature/nurture flaw/foible that I acquired from my ever lovin’ Momma. She too is a busy-body*. The house of my youth was stacked with all the diverse distractions she loved/loves doing. Then once a month, when those oh so special hormones would kick-in, she would hit the roof and callously cleanse the house…And by that I mean, fill the junk drawers and hide the evidence. I too have this monthly habit, although I don’t have a junk drawer, I have a serious collection of over-stuffed Ikea organizational elements. So, those projects remain. Stacked. Taunting me.

I submit this blog into evidence as exhibit XXX. I get pleasure from writing it. I receive pleasure from those reading it. But I often find myself with hands full, unable to type or afford a typist. So the ideas sit, stagnant in a doodle diary; until their interest for me expires or the topics become outdated. The time for action has disappeared but the pile remains and I am still too busy to finish it. But with what am I filling my time? My over active imagination has had me convinced that my piles could animate themselves. Becoming paper monsters that haunt me. And I’m scared. So, what does one do when they don’t have enough time to be so busy? Well, my little lambs, that is a question for the interweb at large. So, if anyone has a meme that clarifies life, I’d love to see it- especially if there’s a baby animal involved.

*Busy-body in this context meaning a hustler, a go-getter, a do-gooder and just an all around fun-time-seeker & joiner

This Is Not A Drill

Last night my fire alarm went off. Not in the, “I was busy over baking chicken fingers” kinda way, more of a “The Toronto fire services have discovered a fire on level P3” fashion. So, Hubby, forced me out from under my sewing machine and into the cold dark night, with dog baby in tow. (We left the Puss, cuz I think she’d prefer to stay and roast than have to deal with society…I know how she feels) So, we took to the stairs with our neighbours, who are also strangers. I hrumphed the whole time, wearing two sets of gloves. We stood outside watching the firemen, who know it’s a faulty alarm in a new building, mill around, until someone turns off the alarm. I was day dreaming about how beautiful and dangerous fire is, and what it would look like dancing. When suddenly it dawned on me: I hadn’t grabbed anything. My house is on hypothetical fire and I was more upset to lose the time working on my costume. I seriously didn’t grab anything but my keys. Keys to a house that is potentially on fire. I guess the point of this antidote is that when the mythical fire was burning my condo to the ground, it was all just stuff. And if I’m really honest, I could use the insurance money.

But all was safe and sound. I am blogging from underneath the sewing machine again. And I am on fire.

She’s Freaking Out

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.

Spin Gracie Spin

Once upon a time there was a happy little burly gal named Gracie. Now, she was no ordinary girl. She was a little off kilter. Not in a sad or embarrassing way, but in a never know what you’re gonna get- chocolate kinda way. And lately she’s been feeling a little nuts. Mind you, that’s way better than feeling sherry-cherry filled, which is just gross.
Now, this beautiful little disaster has been a busy little body, trying to juggle all her different lives and loves. She’s usually pretty organized, but lately she’s been close to dropping plates, balls and spilling milk all over the place. Which stinks, cuz she doesn’t have time to replace any broken dishes from the matching set of 12 or cry over the milk? Not Gracie, that’s who.
Gracie is a girl on the move with many irons in the fire. And the craziest part is she’s constantly looking for more to do, more places to be, more costumes to be made and more…well, just more of everything. In the coming months Gracie is undertaking and overstretching and happy to do so.
I guess the moral of the story is: If you’ve got a problem, yo, She’ll solve it. Check out the hook while my DJ revolves it. And if you ask this chocolate covered-milk spilling- iron firing- nut nicely enough, I’m sure I can fit it in somewhere. Or just throw it to me on the count of three and then don’t move, cuz all this juggling is making me dizzy.
Thanks for the lovin’,
Gracie in the Middle