Now, I know what you're thinking--at least some of you. "Sure, he's 'teaching' them how to take their clothes off. Who needs a class for that?" Or one of my favorite comments, "He looks more like a flat chested drag queen."
The Internet can be so harsh.
The reality, however, is that I'm equally concerned with the story that is being told in both Burlesque and Boylesk stripping as I am with the actual removal of clothing. In my opinion, a solid Burlesque piece requires careful attention to both those factors. Much like any performance or creative form of expression, a reliance on technique can result in work that while finely executed, is monotonous or routine. And a dependence upon creative aesthetic alone can quickly render a number that lacks direction and focus.
I created Boylesk 101 then as a means to breaking down the process of creating a piece of striptease performance art. Ultimately, it is based on my opinion and experiences and in no way do I consider any of my classes to be firm laws or maxims regarding the world of Burlesque--just have to put that out there to avoid any bitch-slapping!
The first day of Boylesk 101 is much like that of any class. We introduce ourselves, we explain our reasons for "exploring Boylesk," we review the syllabus, and... we take our clothes off!
Or at least my students did ; )
We ran out of time just as the 5th boy finished his impromptu strip, so boys: "I owe you a three minute striptease next week. You can even choose the music." It'll be like karaoke but with less Carrie Underwood covers.
Really, the main focus of the first class is to examine the "introduction" of a striptease; that precious thirty seconds or so when a performer first enters the stage and greets his audience. Below is a video of the extremely gorgeous and equally focused Ray Gunn. There are many great things about this number, but I specifically chose it for the precision of Ray's opening choreography and also the focus with which he directs these movements. I know that personally, when I choreograph my numbers, I'm continually thinking of not only the strongest movements to grab my audience's attention, but also the most economical means to execute the movement. Whether I begin a number at full blast or start slow and steady, my goal is to always enter the stage with a mental focus and strong physical center to guide my movement and clearly tell my story to the audience.
However, before my students make their first entrances at our showcase--SEPTEMBER 25TH, BE THERE!--I want them first to a) have a clear idea about "who" they are bringing to the stage and b) what the hell they're doing there in the first place.
Let's look at "a" first. Nightlife and popular culture in general is inundated with a variety of personalities and characters. For my class and students, I generalized two specific categories for them to consider when creating their new stripper selves: "stage persona's" and "stage characters."
What do I mean (generally speaking)? Personally, as a performer, I feel like Go-Go Harder is an extension of my everyday self. When the lights are on and the clothing is coming off, I'm a little bit louder, bolder, and much more, well, in your face than during the day when I'm working out or replenishing my store of Trader Joe's goodies. "Go-Go Harder" is really Chris Harder (yup, its my last name folks) but punched up with glitter, leather, and just a touch of crazy.
In contrast, we also have stage characters, or people on stage who are extremely different from their day walker selves. I'm talking about a performer who has created a personality that walks, talks, dresses, drinks, flirts, and frolics in a much different manner than himself.
Below is a video of actor, writer, and overall comic genius Bradford Scobie performing as his infamous stage character, "Moisty the Snowman." Scobie has so carefully and comically crafted a character with not only a super clear look and costume, but also a more than obvious outlook on life. Enjoy, and pass the potato chips Sybil...
BRADFORD SCOBIE AS "MOISTY THE SNOWMAN"
And then there was "plan b." Or really, "part b." My dear friend, mentor, and Burlesque Legend, World Famous *BOB* once told me, "You can't make an omelet with a Fabergé egg." Translation: you make look amazing on stage, but looking amazing doesn't necessarily equal performing amazingly... or interestingly.
Thus, I assigned my students "story lines," or written explanations of possible number scenarios with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Now, I'd like to note here that I'm not in anyway trying to force a linear structure on my boys--or myself for that matter. The purpose of writing out a storyline is to ensure that the number continues to grow and develop throughout the performer's song. I too use this technique especially now when I create a number. This is why I've scrapped much of my earlier work as a performer. I realized that many of my first pieces lacked a narrative. There were gimmicks, there were costumes, and trust, there were rhinestones, but I would find myself at times feeling lost in the middle of my own piece or knowing instinctively that something was missing.
Below is a video of Neo-Burlesque star and former Miss Coney Island 2011, B B Heart. What I love about Heart's work is that it is at times as equally unconventional as it is compelling to watch. See for yourself below...
So to wrap this post up, when I create a Boylesk number for myself, I try to look at it as this "stripper monologue" of sorts. "Who am I?" "What do I want?" "Why am I hear?" These are all questions I ask myself at some point before getting to the stage. Also, "Where's my drink tickets?"
Stay tuned for class number two where the boys and I really dig into the "meat" of the striptease...
LOVE. PEACE. GO-GO.