A Newbie & A Seasoned Performer At The Neverland BurlesqueSunday, October 21, 2012
|Sasha Minx before|
Stripping killed burlesque. On line pornography killed stripping. Why pay for expensive beer in a bar in order to watch women peel off their clothes? You can do it from the comfort of you home sitting in front of a PC or lounging with an iPad on your sofa or watch it HD on you wide-screen TV.
I am at age 70 from that generation who will admit seeing one pornographic film, Deep Throat. I am a photographer who in the middle 70s was interested (my interest has not waned) in taking pictures of the undraped female. My only two options in Vancouver then were to go to Wreck Beach or to approach a stripper in such places at the Marble Arch, the Number 5 Orange or the Drake.
The idea that you could hire a model from a modeling agency was not one that had arrived to Vancouver. The art schools protected their lists of models for their figure painting classes with a figurative paternal shotgun.
Paradoxically Vancouver (in tandem with Europe and the US) has become more liberalized and the school where I taught, Focal Point had no problem getting models, of both sexes, to pose undraped for my classes. I say paradoxically because even though you are able to find people to pose the dominance of social networks, Flickr and the internet has made most people who pose undraped, understandably paranoid about their privacy.
If a picture of a young and very nude picture of our venerable and now retired Senator, Pat Carney were to suddenly appear and be posted on facebook, can you imagine the scandal in Canada and in BC?
|Veronica Vex before|
For some years now there has been a revival of burlesque here and maybe it has now reached its end. The formula seems to be to obtain pudgy, older women, many are ungraceful who compensate with standup humor and what I call the cutesy moves like fanny wagging.
But my “so what” attitude to a burlesque show has been dramatically altered by my two ventures into taking pictures backstage at Neverland Burlesque (held on the second Saturday of every month at the Russian Hall on 4th Avenue). This burlesque show is sponsored by the Blood Alley Quartet and their statuesque-of-liberty singer/burlesque performer Goldie Monroe. The second show I attended on Saturday was packed. Perhaps the crowd is unaware that Burlesque is on the wane. Or, like me they know that the house band is a solid band of seasoned musicians with lots of Vancouver chops to their credit. Forgetting the burlesque dancers (a totally imaginary condition here as they are not easy to forget) of this Saturday and the many lovely rock songs played by the band there were tunes interspersed where if I ignored the bass and the drum and concentrated on Anthony Walker's (aka Tony Baloney) guitar I was in guitar heaven. And if I ignored the vocals of the band (Gus Vassos, Walker and Goldie Monroe) and only listened to the Randy Bowman’s drums and David Olajide’s bass it was like listening to the loud and furious Subhumans. Listening to the band on Saturday was akin to going back to the Vancouver punk scene of the late 70s. I was no longer an old man.
|Sasha Minx after|
But two dancers, in particular, that I will cite here justified my presence at the Neverland Burlesque Show.
Consider that I approached to former Globe & Mail, Vancouver Sun and Georgia Straight dance critics, one freelance writer, one Vancouver Sun writer with the former experience of having been the manager of a punk band, and a former and very intelligent exotic dancer. They all either said no outright or had justifiable reasons for not accompanying me to write something to place with my photographs. I thought that (and became quite excited) a former stripper might find talking to burlesque dancers in a dressing room could have produced memorable copy. But that was not to be. The quality of words, any of the above might have contributed here, has been replaced by just the quantity of what I write now.
Yesterday’s blog posting, no words, just pictures to me is the justification for my lugging my equipment to take my pictures on my own. I see in the pictures, not very sharp Fuji Instant Film scans a story that a good writer could have sung some nice paragraphs.
The two dancers featured here are very different. One, Veronica Vex, is a seasoned burlesque dancer and the other Sasha Minx a first timer.
The hilarious mistress of ceremonies, the drag queen Mz Adrien asked the audience if there were any virgins among them. And here I was taking a snap of a woman who had never performed (and who was also going to sing live with the Blood Alley Quartet, while taking her clothes off. She was the real virgin if not the only authentic one in the Russian Hall.
Sasha Minx was nervous. She sat in a corner watching the first few acts and was especially nervous as she was on soon. The other dancers tried to calm her. From what I could see her act was very good and her singing, a throaty mezzo, went well with her dark look. She exited to back stage to pose for me all flustered that something had gone wrong. It must have been in her imagination as I am sure the crowd noticed nothing.
|Veronica Vex after|
While Sasha Minx and Veronica Vex differed in experience they shared and endearing quality. With all her experience, Veronica Vex last September and on Saturday, (she dance twice) would emerge from her dressing room early, before the dance, and cat-like walk by me and my light practicing her moves. For the second act of the night she was dressed like Cleopatra and she practiced moves swirling sheer fabric or slipping it through her fingers. That very practice was marvelous. It was a wonder for me. I wanted to expose a video camera but I didn’t have one. I was getting a very private performance. What a luxury. I asked Veronica Vex is she was nervous. She said she was. I believe that when a professional no longer is nervous before a task, then there is an absence of passion. Some would say just making the motion.
All the other dancers watched Veronica Vex dance and were in awe. I could see what it was. She was somehow a dancer getting off a Continental Trailways Flxible in the mid 50s in Memphis with a cheap cardboard suitcase and suddenly being hit by lightning and transported in time and space to the Russian Hall. Her look, her outfit, her mannerisms, her demeanour, her smile and when I told her, “You are a class broad,” confirmed my lightning bolt scenario.
I anticipate with pleasure the next Neverland Burlesque show. You can look forward in the next few days to the posting of the colour slides that I took of the dancers before and after their performance.
Veronica Vex- burlesque dancer