This weekend, I participated in a ‘Butch Burlesque’ workshop taught by Victoria Libertore. I knew several folks who had attended a longer version of the workshop last summer, and the juxtaposition of the words ‘butch’ and ‘burlesque’ piqued my curiosity.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I went into the workshop hoping to push my boundaries, discover new ways of using my body on stage and more ideas for engaging my audience. And I knew that, for better or for worse, I was going to have to take some clothes off.
It’s not that I’ve never used nudity in performance before. XY(T) is, among other things, a prolonged striptease (with plot and characters, of course). Burlesque felt different though; this time, the striptease was the whole point. Stripped (pardon the pun) of the long-form narratives that I normally work with, I had to decide how naked I was willing to get, and how I was going to get there.
As a whole, the workshop was challenging, liberating, and fun. The environment was supportive, and conducive to the development of new work. The students ranged from experienced performers to people with very little stage time under their belt. Victoria put us through our paces with a range of exercises that helped loosen us up, build confidence, and explore archetypes. The rest of the time was devoted to workshopping each student’s individual piece. By the end of the weekend, each student had the general shape of their piece, with ideas of how to further refine and develop it. You’ll be able to see what we all came up with at Butch Burlesque: An Evening of Swagger, coming up on August 5th at Dixon Place.
I don’t know that burlesque will become a frequent part of my performance repertoire, but it was good to step out of my comfort zone and push my own boundaries. Who knew? Sometimes to build yourself up, it helps to take a thing or two off.