Monday, August 27, 2012

Thank you Molly Ringwald...

A quick story:
When I was seven, a girl at my daycare let me play with her Barbie which sported a cocktail dress that transformed into a duffle bag.

When I was ten I saw "Pretty in Pink"--on T.V. people--where Molly Ringwald took one ugly prom dress and made another ugly prom dress.

When I was eleven I watched a back up dancer in a John Cougar Mellancamp music video sport a vivid shade of deep maroon lipstick.

It is my belief that these three events profoundly altered and influenced my life and continue to do so in subconscious ways...

Seriously though,
Today's class literally focused on the surface of Boylesk--as in, how a performer actually looks when he walks on stage. Referring back to the very first day of BOYLESK 101, my goal today was to impress upon my students the need to put plenty of time, energy, and thought into their costume AND make-up choices for their numbers.

Now, of course I didn't in anyway want one of my guys to leave feeling like they had to be some air-brushed, hairless, dancing Ken Doll (*number idea*); I'm a hairy, pale--I prefer "porcelain-skinned"--Boylesk-er myself. BUT, I do fastidiously trim and manicure my chest, back, and ass and also do my best to cover any skin imperfections I have on any given day. At the risk of sounding like a middle school guidance counselor, I strive to make my own personal canvas as neutral as possible. Meaning for instance, zits are zits. Whether they're on your nose or on your right butt cheek, cover them up! Body hair is beautiful, but treat it like the hair on your head and keep it coiffed--a little glitter and an electric trimmer with attachments goes a long way.

In these efforts, I was aided by Neo-Burlesque bombshell and professional make-up artist Bambi Galore who condensed years of training into a half hour presentation on basic skin care and foundations for men that left me informed, breathless, and optimistic about yellow tinted color correctors!

My thoughts on costuming are this:

1) Whether you swim in rhinestones and glitter or not, everything that a performer brings onto the stage should ideally have a heightened  style. That doesn't mean it has to sparkle, but consider the pracitcal use of a rhinestone or a spotlight sequin. Sure they're pretty, they're colorful, BUT THEY ALSO CATCH LIGHT! In other words, they shine out in what are otherwise dark, dim, and crowded clubs and bars. Incorporating embellishments like these physically distracts an audience member from tweeting about being at a burlesque show and instead, causes him to actually FOCUS on the show in front of him. At least for 30 seconds or so.

I remember a grizzled, "Old Man and the Sea-esque" acting teacher of mine who one day asked me,

"Do you know why women wear lip gloss?"

I froze, slightly petrified not only by the teacher, but also the gender loaded waters he had just embarked in.

"Its simple stupid," he said. "Because it makes their lips glisten! It catches us men's attention!"

(Consider my attention captured.)
Now, regardless of whether or not my teacher was so out of touch he thought I spent my time looking at females' lips, he did make a valid point: when you're in the spotlight, make sure you shine! Let your costume shine, let your energy shine, and to a greater or lesser degree, let your face shine (or emit a dewey, "natural" glow... thanks again Bambi!)

Which brings me to my next point...

2) A beautiful costume is only as strong as its number. And likewise, a well constructed and choreographed number is incredibly amplified by a beautiful costume. There is a balance to be achieved here, a "stripping Zen state" if you will.


3) Not to tangent too far into queer theory and sexual politics, but as a male performer in a predominantly female art form originated by women, I do feel a certain sense of duty to put as much time, effort, and focus into my appearance and costumes as do the hard working ladies of Burlesque. Granted, there are slips and meek efforts on both sides of the gender wheel, but I am continually inspired and humbled when I get to share a dressing room with my fellow enchanted Burlesque ladies who spend hours setting their hair, curling their eyelashes, and rhinestoneing varoius garment, pasties, and merkins (vajazzling if you will.)

A Final Thought...

I keep encouraging my students to think of their upcoming Boylesk numbers as "stripper monologues." And just like any monologue, the more one practices AND the more one accrues life experience, the more that monologues changes. So too, in my opinion, does a striptease number. For instance one ideally becomes more comfortable with his number's choreography so as to allow for surprise improvisations; or, perhaps he completely re-choreographs certain sections. So too then will his costume probably need to be altered, replaced, or in the very least, expanded upon in some fashion.

For example, below is a visual timeline of the first number I ever created: "Hot 4 Teacher." Originally a one-off for a night club where I was working as a go-go boy, I created this number with very humble means. As I began to become more interested in Boylesk and the Burlesque community, I realized I needed to invest more energy into my costume and props and try to meet the high standards being set by the professionals. You'll see what I mean...
(On Fire Island, 2010... Pretty much what you see + a sweater vest and a pair of cut-offs)
(Fall 2010: added rip away shirt, school boy shorts, and propeller hat)
(London, Spring 2011: completely new costume with specific color scheme.)

(London, Fall 2011: note embellishments on shirt and tie.)

(London, Spring 2012: further embellishing.)

(Summer 2012: additional prop.)

(Summer 2012: additional prop.)

I just recently completed another change to the costume, and have plans for more embellishments, but my point is simply this: there's always improvements to be made.

I know I feel especially inspired by the male performers featured below whose efforts definitely show in their uniquely styled and crafted costumes pieces (and, to be blunt, cock pieces.) Their attention to detail, both in their choreography and costumes, again inspires me to continue to hone my skills equally both in the rehearsal room and the sewing room.

Enjoy, and may the gem-tac be with you!




Thursday, August 23, 2012

PENAL INSTITUTION: The Boylesk 101 Showcase!


(Sort of like this, but with much more glitter and less publicly exposed toilets.)

I am so excited to share with you all what my students are coming up--or really, coming off--with. 
Kevin Jesus,
Jack Nasty,
Suffra Gent
Lewd Alfred Douglas
Brooklyn Irons!

PLUS... We'll have distinguished alumna, "The Glitter Fur Ball," TEDDY TURNAROUND, 

"The Twisted Beauty of Burlesque," DANGRRR DOLL,

And yours truly mercilessly wielding the microphone!

And finally... quite possibly the coolest, sexiest, most well-lubricated raffle prizes you've ever seen, courtesy of 

Come for the Boylesk,
Stay late for the penalizing!

Penal Institution: The BOYLESK 101 Showcase

Stonewall Inn--53 Christopher St (near the 1 train and the A, B, C, D, F, and M 

Trains at 4th St)

8:30pm door/9pm show; $10. 

(Show starts on time!)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

On being a one-stripper, indicating MACHINE!

Class number two of Boylesk 101 has come and gone just as quickly as a pair of rip-away pants... The boys and I are a little over a month out from our BOYLESK 101 SHOWCASE!

With that clothes-dropping deadline in mind, the focus of our second class centered around "indicating," or the act of drawing, capturing, and directing an audience's attention through the Boylesk striptease. Now, as I've mentioned before, these and the following comments and definitions are mine and my opinion only; that said, I stressed to my students the need to think of themselves as one-man indicating machines. As Burlesque and Boylesk performers, we are the ultimate producers of our work. Thus, we're not simply responsible for how our clothing comes off, but also the very costume pieces themselves, not to mention our music, props and any additional stage spectacles or magic we're bringing to our performance. Whether I physically sew the g-string myself or have a fellow performer cut and edit my music, when it comes to showtime, the ultimate responsibility for executing my number lies on my finely oiled, glittered shoulders.

So, to give my students (and myself) a launching point for creating a number and with a little help from Webster's Dictionary--it never hurts to consult a pro--this is my definition of indicating...


1) The utilization of clear, dynamic gestures and movement to FOCUS and DIRECT an audience's attention.

2) The incorporation of extremely strong, vivid, and provocative imagery and sound elements to suggest emotional qualities and feelings. Examples include choice of music, costuming, and in general any and all stage spectacle.

(And while I know I didn't describe the parts of speech I'm referencing, I'm not necessarily concerned with those parts...)

Finally, in our class exercises, I challenged my students with three other basic elements of movement to consciously incorporate into their physical staging: tempo, rhythm, and planar variations; i.e., we explored the speed, movement pattern, and physical level of taking off a piece of clothing.

These elements are already apparent in our every day life as well as any numbers a performer may already have under his belt... or tucked inside a jockstrap. By singling these principles out individually in our group exercises, I hope to drive home the message that ultimately, its important to find movement variations in your act. It's an obvious principle, but if we already walk, chew, brush our teeth, even swipe a metro card in a particular manner, might those physical habits also manifest themselves onstage?

I know mine do. Which is why I continually ask myself, "How can I remove this shirt in a different manner than I'm used to and how can I then transition into my left boot using a completely different tempo, rhythm, and movement plane?"

(Also a good question to ask oneself: "What can my garment become after I've removed it?" Like oh, say, an uzi.)

The videos I've chosen for my students to review in my opinion not only exemplify these above statements but also manage to do so in a very personal, unconventional manner.

And... as an extra little treat, I've also included what some may consider to be "conventional" choreography by the all male Australian dance crew "Thunder from Down Under" AND, a "Step-By-Lap" tutorial on giving an effective lap dance. However, what I honestly love about these videos is that they a) break down movement in clear, understandable, and teachable steps and b) encourage the thought--in my opinion--that stripping onstage can (and should) incorporate just as many basic principles of movement as it can a more formal dance technique.



(Perfectly coiffed with the fullest extensions.)

(The Carol Burnett of Burlesque!)

(Everybody needs a gimmick! What's your's?)


(Husband, boyfriend... client. The line blurs so easily. Just remember "crispy bacon!")

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

On Making An Entrance... thoughts from a flat chested drag queen.

Yesterday was the FIRST class of Boylesk 101! I'm very excited to announce that I have FIVE fantastic new students, all with varying performance backgrounds. Over the next seven weeks I'm going to assist them in creating (for some) their first Boylesk stripteases!

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...


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 FabergĂ© 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...



Thursday, August 9, 2012

Postcards from a Hometown homo...

My Midwest Boylesk "mini-tour" comes to a close tomorrow night for Fargo Moorhead's Pride Party at the Aquarium:

I just saw the space and its as if the bar owners were after my own heart--or jock strap. Picture a long club plastered in old rock and roll posters and banners with a raised stage and techies who seem like they must have been born with a goatee and a cigarette dangling out of the corner of their mouths. In short, it feels like home.

Its been quite a trip already, complete with old acquaintances, amazing and hospitable venues, and a flop-house turned dressing room area for yours truly that will officially be my favorite green room of all time--I mean I had two couches, TWO!

(Reunited with old friends backstage. The tux always gets them, but a blonde bouffant seals the deal.)

And of course, no trip back home would be complete without a sampling of North Dakota's finest:
(Smoked deer sausage. Gluten free crackers.)

Don't laugh! I was literally raised on deer sausage (and this was before I could even grasp its phallic implications.) This particular log was shot, processed, and plattered by my own father. Packed with protein and "natural flavoring." Hey, strippers need to eat too.