Last week I received an email from NSW-based Second Life resident chryblnd Scribe, who is a Burlesque performer. It’s an art that suffers from lots of misconceptions – it’s worth reading a little of its history to get a fuller picture. At the bottom of this post you can also view a machinima of the burlesque work done by the group chryblnd in involved with.
I spent some time with chryblnd and colleague Slappy Doobie at their Burlesque club to discuss their work and perspectives on its impact.
Lowell Cremorne: Can you tell me a little about yourself – what got you into burlesque?
chryblnd Scribe: sure I’m an almost 1 year old female avi from Australia. I run a venue called Idle Rogue, and was looking for some interesting acts to pair with live acts I was running at that stage. Search took me to Ellie’s Burlesque, and I walked out with a job. They had just opened, and were basically scouting avatars. Live music costs a lot to stage, in Linden terms, so originally I took the job partly to fund my own venue, and partly because it seemed exotic, but still tasteful. That was at the “little club”, which is very retro.
Lowell Cremorne: I won’t go on too much about RL stuff but can I ask what state of Oz you live in and whether you’ve done any similar work in RL?
chryblnd Scribe: I am in NSW, and no, I haven’t. I haven’t found the burlesque scene to be as strong in Australia as it is in the northern hemisphere, it’s very much a fringe culture. I get that impression from the Australian avatars I meet in SL, too … there’s always some guffawing when I say what I do The other thing to note is that the creative possibilities in SL are obviously far greater than in RL. If I can dream it, I can create it, in SL.
Lowell Cremorne: Really? Do you think that’s because people don’t understand the background of burlesque as an artform?
chryblnd Scribe: Yes, in part I do think there’s a lack of cultural awareness, but I also suspect, in part, that the majority of Australians in SL, at least the ones I meet, live somewhat sheltered Second Lives. They’re very aware of the sex culture in SL, who isn’t? But in my experience, they’re not confortable differentiating striptease from stripping. They are also, in my experience, very afraid of the duplicitous nature of the internet. They almost ALWAYS think someone working in exotic entertainment is a man pretending to be a woman. They’re not against that, mind you … they just don’t want to be proven to have been duped by it
Lowell Cremorne: Absolutely – on the awareness thing, how aware of burlesque were you prior to SL?
chryblnd Scribe: Reasonably aware … burlesque, or nouveau burlesque, has had something of a revival, and most of us are at least peripherally aware of, say, Dita von Tease. When I stumbled opon Ellie’s, I was looking for a working burlesque troupe specifically. I just didn’t know if they existed, and hadn’t thought of myself as potentially being part of it. I’ll note when I first considered taking the job, I created an alt to do it In the end, though, I respected what they were doing, and decided it was within the bounds of what my avatar would do with her Second Life.
Lowell Cremorne: So you’re more of a manager than a performer yourself?
chryblnd Scribe: I was managing. I’ve stopped now, because I am also running a more “dark side” burlesque venture at my own venue. And I perform, at this point, five times a week
Lowell Cremorne: So can you describe a typical burlesque performance you do?
chryblnd Scribe: Sure My own acts are elaborately set, because I build, and tend to the more “fantastic” side. I have an act as a butterfly, set in a garden, another set in a firepit, a Japanese setting, and in the video, mine is the act with the meteors. The acts involve choreographing animations to music, the props are not animated (though some dancers use animated chairs, and we never use poles) . Once the dancing has begun, then I emote the elements of the striptease that I can’t visually provide, so the removal of clthing, and interactions with the audience
Lowell Cremorne: So the acts tend to have some link to the original burlesque where there is a show much wider than the striptease itself?
chryblnd Scribe: Yes, and with the teams I work with, particualrly. We are very respectful of the genre, but we also like to have an occasional modern edge. The outfit I’m wearing, for example, is part of my personal attempt to “get back to the roots” … I am Rita Hayworth in Gilda … and there is great latitude for our dancers. Some are amazing emoters … some are more performance artists. For us, the thing we want most to provide is a great night out, and the feeling of having seen a “show”.
Burlesque is much more appealing, statistically, to women. So it’s important that we have glamour, and fabulous costumes. But we want them to bring a date, so we make sure we have something for everyone, so to speak. It’s also pertinent to note that we NEVER do full nudity, and that is out of respect to the art form
Lowell Cremorne: What is the gender split of your audiences usually?
chryblnd Scribe: I would say since we opened the Factory, we are more evenly split. The smaller club can only take 20 avis, and fills up fast. Until the release off the video and the opening of the larger club, I would say our audience was 75% or more female.
Lowell Cremorne: So you’ve got more men since the video? How has the response been?
chryblnd Scribe: We have absolutely had more males since the release of the video, and more couples, too, and we hope that that’s because people are realising that we are “flirty” rather than “dirty”, and possibly even that there are some clever things to see at our shows. The video reponse has been exciting for me, but I’ve never followed one before, Watching it spread has been very interesting. We’ve still only small numbers, but they are growing every day, and they are reflected in our attendance.
Lowell Cremorne: Back to the Australian scene – how do you believe RL burlesque performers would perceive the work you’re doing?
chryblnd Scribe: Well … I think they would need first to understand the limitations of the platform. The video has been posted on at least one RL burlesque scene, and was considered to be nice but poorly animated … and that, of course, is because the viewers don’t play the game or are involved in more mainstream animations. And I read one blog where it was noted RL performers would kill for a dressing room like ours. I think RL Burlesque is probably a lot more collaborative, here we must build or buy our own sets, and have sole control over the animations we can access. But I like to think the “ethic” would be appreciated – we rehearse for hours, we aim our acts very carefully and we adhere as much as possible to the idea of wit and eloquence.
Lowell Cremorne: So have you been to RL burlesque shows to get ideas etc? Where do you see the home of burlesque to be worldwide?
chryblnd Scribe: I have not been to a RL burlesque show. I live in a very small town in regional NSW lol … it’s NOT a big market here. But to a one, the girls I work with have done, and some are former RL burlesque dancers. I would consider New Orleans to be, or at least have been, the home of RL burlesque, but I know Canada has a very strong scene, and I suspect their opinion would differ. I get my ideas from old movies, Youtube clips, and songs that I love, incidentally.
Lowell Cremorne: A final question: who would your biggest burlesque inspirations be as far as performers go?
(Slappy Doobie enters the interview)
chryblnd Scribe: My biggest inpirations are my fellow dancers, who are vastly more learned in the art. The rest comes from a love of old movies and a grandmother who never gave up being a wild child, leading to my suspicion that there was a WHOLE lot more going on in that era than we would believe I do think, however, as it is Slappy whose vision directs us all, that she would be eminently qualified to answer on my behalf.
Lowell Cremorne: What’s your vision for all of this and who inspires you in RL burlesque?
Slappy Doobie: hmm.. well..my original vision was to basically have a place that gave the people in SL something that didnt quite exist here and to be honest it became even more than I ever hoped. I owe that to all the people that have been involved. As far as my inspiration in Burlesque? Well I’d have to say of course Gypsy Rose Lee for traditional, and Ellie and I are big fans of the Velvet Hammer – a present day burlesque club in Los Angeles. And I’ve always been a big fan of dance in RL too.
E&S Burlesque Factory