Archive for the 'Events' Category

You are currently browsing the archives of .

Drawing Blood – Victorian Seance

absinthesalon

photographer: Ivana Jovanovic, used by permission of Venus Vamp/Drawing Blood.

 

Through the “anti-art” movement, those wielding sharpened graphite or with charcoal dusted hands have had a cornucopia of opportunities to engage in that most staple of artistic mediums – Life Drawing – particularly capturing subjects from the Burlesque & Fringe performance worlds.

DB1

Sydney’s Drawing Blood, curated by creatrix Venus Vamp, differentiates itself from the usual studio-in-a-pub affair by way of a specific resurrection of the deepest sentiments of the 19th century French Salon de la Rose + Croix movement. To this end the specific focus of Drawing Blood is on the imagery of the occult, esotericism, metaphysical and mythological symbology, a vehicle to introduce artists back into the visual splendour exalted through Impressionism, Symbolism and Romanticism.

The theme for the session attended by Absinthe.com.au, Victorian Séance, is not only an interesting juxtaposition of the gradual baring of flesh that comes with life drawing to an era associated with conservatism – but is symbolic of how the pre-World War 1 spiritualist movement was a societal reaction against the repression of the Church dominated State. We will return to this point.

BD2

Drawing Blood is not a static drawing session, but an active narrative over a number of hours, a staged storyline cradled with sounds from Sydney DJ Unfamiliar Nostalgia– providing an unpredictable soundtrack of untuned piano music, post-rock strings, witch house glitch and darkest ambient soundscapes.

The stage parlour was appropriately set with velvet drapery, Grecian pillars, peacock feathers in vases, tapestry chairs and fringed lamps. Our first subject, the Funereal Lady, stands under a shroud, black shawls, high necklines and tight corsets. Like armour against the physical world, her attire as much serves as a vessel to imprison the spirit from reaching out to the beyond. The Raven Haired Medium, our second subject, sits gazing into the distance over a table filled with memento mori, a scrying crystal and tarot cards. Our third protagonist, the Bearded Skeptic, stares intently at the Raven Haired Medium. Is it disdain? Unbelief? A man of reason, of the Establishment, he presents a pillar of defiance against the unknown.

The Raven Haired Medium’s head and eyes tilt back in the early stages of mediumistic rapture, her eyes distant and white. Exposed necklines, bare shoulders and loose ruffles – by sheer faith she is the antithesis of the repressed Funereal Lady, whose arms are upward, imploring the presence to make themselves known by sign, rapping or apparition.

BD3

The scene moves. The Funereal Lady reaches to out the the Bearded Skeptic. He is clutching his heart, shielding it, as though he had witnessed something that shakes his resolve, his hand tentatively held out to hers.

In our next pose, the Bearded Skeptic is all ruddy of face. He stands with firm fingers boring into his cranial temples, like he would otherwise be blocking his ears, but rather it is his mind he is trying silence…the voices…the voices. The Raven Haired Medium ponders at the scene of denial. The Funereal Lady raises her veil, the rendering of which speaks to the removal of barriers between the worlds.

The Raven Medium now leans on the table, her hand propping her chin, eyes full of gnosis as the crystal ball opens the gateway.  Our Bearded Skeptic reclines on a chair, body crossed, a tilting of the hat to protect him from the gaze of the Raven Haired Medium. But something has landed in his heart, for there is a weariness or sadness etched in his features. The Funereal Lady stands behind him now, reassuringly placing her hands on his shoulders and she gazes down upon him with empathy, as though she reads the sorrow caged behind his emotional fortification.

BD4

But the scene soon changes dramatically. The Bearded Skeptic is now prostrate on the ground like a corpse, but he is between realms with his dead eyes open. His finger rests on the cover of a fob watch. It’s time. Chronos. A silent partner to Azraels caress, a metronome to our performances in this world, the springs unwinding, ever slowly but with a persistent momentum.

The Funereal Lady clutches at the crystal ball, pineal gland pressed to its cold surface, her mouth hanging. The Raven Haired Medium is overcome in rapture, bent backwards in a dystonic spasm clutching onto the back of the chair through white knuckles, her black hair cascading to the floor. A grinning skull on the pedestal seems slightly tilted, as though it is looking at her with morbid affection.

2DB5

These written vignettes of a much larger chronicle reflects what was captured on paper by many dozens of artists present. Despite the intensity of the scene one should not assume malevolence is at play or intended. This was physicality acting as a canvas for spirituality. As though deprived the agency of sensation for so long, a spiritual return to the body results in each step, head turn, and movement being an act of pure intensity. Nerves crave not subtlety.

Noted noir-author and underground-film historian, Jack Sargeant, punctuated the evening with an historical review of the spiritualist movement. As he elucidated to the audience present, counter-intuitively, spiritualist popularity was parallel with the rise of Scientific Method, both serving as a societal response to the dominant narrative of the Church. It was, perhaps, no strange coincidence that with Queen Victoria on throne, within the spiritualist circles women were the principal mediums. It was a position of power in a patriarchal world, and represented a return of the feminine mystic as captured by the likes of John Collier in his 1891 masterpiece of Pythia, the Priestess of Delphi. Victorian repression was a war on the female body, but when women became mediums, it openly challenged these conventions and shifted the balance of power, however temporarily.

 

Posted by Jonathan on Jul 23rd 2017 | Filed in Art,Culture,Events,Reviews | Comments (0)

Adelaide Fringe Review 2017 – Burlesque Idol

Hannie+Raegan+Burlesque+Idol

 

One of the most pleasing things about Burlesque Idol is that, year on year, the standard of individual performers is just getting exponentially better. It is abundantly clear that routines are being polished and workshopped amongst peers and mentors – not to say such competitions can’t be a lab bench to experiment with new idea’s, but it is more so satisfying when previous proof-of-concept creative is laid out as a finished opus.

 

But the other growing trend is the number of fella’s getting into the competition – and the night kicked of with Kaiju-stylin boylesque, Gingzilla. A Fire-Giant killing it on-stage with an operatic Brynhildr vocal range and a pair of heels so high that they could only have bought hir closer to Valhalla.

 

No stranger to our previous reviews, Audrey Addiction was a melting pot of all the right elements – strong audience connection, a sense of humour, drum tight synchronisation, but keeping the pace slow & sexy so that individual components flowed from one to the other with just the right continuity.

 

Senorita Desert Rose was armed & dangerous, a bandit-Saint Nuestra Dama de la Danza. Under her flowing ruffled dress, her heels fired like Smith & Wessons on the stage. Her demeanour switched between demure and defiant in a drum beat, while she delivered sharp dance technique from a broad range of disciplines.

 

Diana D’vine was the Hero we had been holding out for as she channelled her inner Linda Carter over 80’s Steinman pop anthems, bringing our favourite Amazonian to stage. I personally find good burlesque comedy is as much 90% facial communication – you can dance with shtick all you like, but if your lips & eyebrows aren’t doing a conga line with your hips, you lose the audience. No danger of that from this Wonder Woman.

 

Ira Luxuria may have come on stage in all classic burlesque adornments, but any fears of a unambitious by-the-numbers affair were blown out of the water when she rocked out a take-no-prisoners routine to high energy Glaswegian pop-punk. A thoughtful juxtaposition of hard attitude with delicate appearances, she brought together the best of old & new burly smarts.

 

Marilyn Mocktail undertook an alchemical endeavour of transmogrification on stage, with an archetypal Crone finding her inner Maiden alive and well. There were some clever plays on popular burlesque stripping tropes, the mandatory glove peel taking on a much more visceral fleshy delivery with handy prosthetics. What underpinned her performance most of all was her smile – it was omnipresent , pervasive and persuasive, and invested us in her performance.

 

Miss Curvella, Miss Burlesque SA 2016, juggles elegance and swagger in a way that reinforces just why she won the State title last year. Her lips & eyes are deployed like weapons of mass hypnosis. Her routines are deceptively athletic, delivered gracefully and measured, but executed such the physical demand is well concealed, the mark of a professional.

 

Holly Wouldn’t transformed the stage into the realm of an Ice Queen – her eyes batting shyly, but only to ensure we approach enough to be ensnared. Regal & resplendent, adorned with light and diaphanous wings, she delivered a symphonic-driven tease that used the mystery of her veils for a slow shedding of form to magnificent effect.

 

Wayne Carter has possibly forever ruined father-son movie time for me by devising Minion Boylesque. But far from despicable, he bounced, twerked, bumped & grinded like a Black & Decker on the stage and on unprepared audience members. And a valuable lesson that the stage extends past those floodlights, and sometimes audience connection is not just psychological – but a very physical thing!

 

Lastly, Ziggy Charms was literally the kid in the candy store. Frequently bearing a resemblance to a Richard Simmons aerobics workout while on a corn-syrup bender, he bought a rainbow of colour & emotions to the floorboards. What was pleasing was the Burly Poindexter routine wasn’t just a play on traditional routines, but had the simple joy of a 6 year old rocking out in their underpants to Saturday morning music vids.

 

The big winner on the night, deservedly so, was Senorita Desert Rose. Burlesque Idol continues its national journey in coming weeks up the East coast of Australia throughout March.

Posted by Jonathan on Feb 25th 2017 | Filed in Burlesque,Cabaret,Events,Reviews | Comments (0)

Adelaide Fringe Review – Burlesque Idol Fringe Edition

 

 

The Burlesque Idol juggernaut is charging across the country under the directorship of Sarina de Fuego & Lola La Belle, with the vocal velvet of Michael Wheatley as MC, leaving a trail of glitter and Death In The Afternoon’s in their wake. On a mission to seek out the newest burly starlets to grace the stage of the national final later this year, just what did Adelaide have to offer?

 

Bang on point – Audrey Addiction set the bar high with smouldering gyrations and sloooooow anticipation. As noted by the judging, the aim should be to stay in clothes as long as humanly possible to maximise the tease and she had this down pat to maximise the pop. Her transition between moves was more polished than a Louis XV dresser.

 

Clover Cream tackled this challenge from a different angle – and ingeniously answered the question, what can you bring to your burlesque? There are few things as repressively Catholic as stiff backed Irish Line Dancing, which she worked in her favour as a springboard to break loose into a frantic burly routine to whiskey-drunk bodhran and fiddle jig & reel anarchy.

 

Ivy Fox took us to Broadway in cross-dress showgirl style, stylishly smart coat & tails made sexy. Ivy has very solid technique, piercing gaze with a wickedly seductive smile. Her movement was jazz music made visible and she made it known she was definitely a contender to take out this competition.

 

BurlyIdol

 

Vintage art deco elegance then graced the stage in the form of Lilly Evelyn, a familiar face from last year. As always her elegance and near art-like fragility was evident, her pace measured and a coy shyness that suits her particular execution of the art.

 

It was good to see some boylesque in this competition, and that particular quotient was fulfilled by the time-travelling Lord of Mis-rule who has been appearing nationally under many historical guises for a few years now. Tonight he bought Tom Baker’s Dr Who to the stage, act which may have caused a time-rift for many people’s childhood memories and reversed the polarity forever.

 

Luscious Larue is a force of nature – so subtlety is neither required nor desired as she worked every single joint in her body with each tom hit, cymbal crash and snare roll. Tightly choreographed, her bump & grind was primal, instinctual – she rightly demanded audience adoration for her tease & strip.

 

Having a story arc is increasingly a key method of making your burly stand out from the crowd, and Porcelain La Bon gave us a whimsical Amelie-like vintage vignette before cutting loose with an incendiary Charleston routine that left the floorboards charred and the venue an insurance problem.

 

Something that can set a performer apart is how you deal with disaster. So when Venus De la Rosa had a major zipper malfunction of the worst kind for a burly girl – being unable to get your kit off – she showed she was all kinds of woman by making her performance personality all the sexier, and in true 1920’s style, making thigh to ankle exposure the highest expression of public scandal. In what may well reflect a mature thinking appreciative voting crowd – she rightfully received first runner up this night.

 

It is good to go out with a bang. Or a chainsaw. Or other blunt object one may need during a Zombie Apocalypse. And for that we can thank Viola Verve, who worked Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” as a catalyst to show she is bringing sexy back…from the grave. It is clever production smarts like this that ensures the burly arts is equal parts ingenuity to the expected sass & style.

 

If I were to give a broader critique to potential contestants – stay out of your own head, and don’t “count” your routine like it was ballroom dancing. The difference between those who lose themselves to being in the spotlight, compared to those overly focussed on technicality can be stark. And in the end, this is about entertainment.

 

The night, pleasantly, went to Clover Cream. She was clearly a crowd favourite – and while it is less common for “novelty acts” to win these sorts of competition, it would be true to say she smashed down the often seen barrier between an act that was played for a degree of comedic fun and those focussed on showing flow, balance & seamless technique.

 

Burlesque Idol rolls on to the Eastern states next – be sure to get your tickets and support local developing burlesque talent.

Posted by Jonathan on Feb 21st 2016 | Filed in Burlesque,Cabaret,Culture,Events,Reviews | Comments (0)

Burlesque Idol 2015 – Adelaide Review

 

Burlesque Idol has been winging it’s way around Australia at a break neck pace under the steady hand of producers Sarina de Fuego and Lola LaBelle, with host Michael Wheatley charismatically wielding the mike. This is not just an Australian affair, but part of an international showcasing stretching from the UK to the US, which should not be surprise with many a seasoned Australian burlesque performer making inroads into these performance circuits.

 

Adelaide had its chance to showcase the up and comers in the Burly arts on the 28 March 2015 at the Nexus performance space.

 

First up we had a stunning kick off with Aurora Blue, slinking onstage to some dirty low blues tunes, resplendent in black satin & trimmings. Gyrating and smiling through almost carnivorous teeth, it was a smooth and engaging performance.

 

Briar Rose was up next who combined alt-girl style with traditional routines to sassy jazz. She is very elegant on stage and teases the audience, however the connection could probably be strengthened if she allowed herself to move more like the bass drum, and less like the hi-hat rhythms.

 

Desert Rose is often a surprising performer, and her entry with a mink coat to John Barry Bond-esque sounds had us settling into a certain frame of reference. Then to our surprise, all was discarded as B-52’s “Love Shack” burst through the speakers, and we were treated to a very aerobic Go-Go Girl mix-routine. For me personally, if we can get a few less predictable saxophone tunes, and more interesting musical choices with routines to match, the better the burlesque arts will be. Is it what the standard “I want classical burlesque” crowd want? – this is a debate I should probably engage in another piece for this blog…. Needless to say I think things need to change and get contemporary.

 

Speaking of which, classical ballet trained Lilly Evelyn bought us a Black Swan inspired routine that moved from piano laden dark ambience to a metal onslaught carrying the same tune. Graceful, effortless and a wonderful example of a performer applying skills from one medium into another.

 

lola+labelle

 

Lyla Dash bought us back into some classical territory, keeping it cheeky and fun. And while her skills in both nipple tassel & ‘ass-el’ twirling was beyond doubt, the pace of her performance matched the Beatles tune selected, in that it seemed to be over way to quickly. I think she can afford to slow right down and tease us for much longer.

 

Again cracking the typical burly mold, Miss Kiki brought us her Mr Cheese physical comedy routine over fine British show tunes and Monty Python standards, with diversions into Marvin Gaye. It was all very Victor Victoria (for those old enough to remember Julie Andrews for things other than Sound of Music) . Vaudeville and cabaret are key parts of burlesque, and in fact historically were more prominent parts before the stripping element came to the fore, and this is ground she is clearly keen to reclaim. Heaven knows, burlesque needs a good shot of humour – it takes itself far too seriously quite often.

 

Velvet Chase brought us into animatronic heaven with a wind up doll routine – which interestingly is quite common in burlesque and yet seldom have I seen it done with such attention to detail (special note to the “Made In China” stencil on her derrier!). Aptly underpinned with Regurgitators “Polyester Girl” this routine was a pleasure to watch, and richly deserved was her “Runner Up” award at the end of the night.

 

I was initially quite nervous that Viola Verve’s routine would be a too close a follow up to Velvet Chase, her being adorned in a classic French clown doll attire. However such concerns soon faded as she employed many miming techniques that clearly differentiated her routine from the former. It was equal parts disturbing yet fascinating in the manner she managed to maintain “soulless doll eyes”, which occasionally would transition to softness and sensuality before withdrawing back. It was a clever introvert/extrovert dynamic that a number of people noted.

 

Lastly Vivienne Von Coffin swanned onto the stage to solo clarinet beat jazz, adorned in purple velvet for an elegant and measured classic burlesque introduction. Before we knew it she was down bare, the tempo was up and a rockabilly tempest was unleased, highly synchronised Go Go moves combined with mock snarls and generous smiles. Vivienne was a very polished in her routine and this was reflected in her taking the Burlesque Idol Tiara for the night – probably a timely leap off point as I think she is clearly making that transition to benchmark performer.

 

Burlesque Idol will be back again next year, and a wonderful opportunity for the serious amateur to make a concerted footfall on the journey to the professional.

Posted by Jonathan on Mar 29th 2015 | Filed in Burlesque,Events,People,Reviews | Comments (0)

Next »