The North Wales Burlesque Festival

15:59

burlesque
bəːˈlɛsk
noun
  1. An absurd or comically exaggerated imitation of something, especially in a literary or dramatic work; a parody.



Growing up I had only ever heard of Burlesque as a past dance form that I would like to get involved in, but I thought that it was no longer as popular and accessible as it actually is. Until I went to university, and in taking Cabaret as a module in my third year, I learnt more about the world of Burlesque and all things Cabaret in general and I felt instantly enticed by it all.

Since leaving university just over a year ago now, I have spent most of my time in France and travelling round, for different gigs or for pleasure, charity work and of course being a Mermaid, so fitting in Burlesque as well had unfortunately been forced to take a temporary back seat.  And when in my last gig as an Elf, a fellow Elf said to me, "You would be such a good Burlesque dancer it would so suit you!" Well, it has only put the idea in my head even more! Then just over a month ago an injury brought me back to my parents home and forced me to take rest, whether I liked it or not. But everything happens for a reason and my mother in knowing my love of dance and Cabaret, pointed out an article to me from a local newspaper - there was going to be a Burlesque & Cabaret Festival! In My Home Town! (Seriously considering the small area where I'm from, what are the chances of something like this!? Very slim!) I instantly booked a ticket for the whole weekend to The North Wales Festival Burlesque & Cabaret and emailed offering up my services as free help for the weekend so that I could be as involved in and learn as much about Burlesque as I could - which they accepted!

The whole weekend was honestly an Amazing experience! People had come from all over the world to take part in the festival and to enter the competition for Burlesque beginners on the Friday night, Seren Yn Codi, (Rising Star). I helped out backstage running to and from the dressing room to let the acts know their queue and on stage setting up for each act and clearing away for the last one. (So. Much. Glitter!) I was extremely surprised that all of these acts entering the competition all counted as 'newbies' in the world of Burlesque and Cabaret. They were all genuinely so entertaining that they each challenged any preconception that you could have of the word 'amateur'.


Burlesque is a form of performance that to those who are uneducated of its potential and value, would discredit as just another form of stripping. Au contraire, mon ami! There is a very significant difference between the conventional stripping that one would think of in a strip club and that of turning taking some of ones clothes off into a style of art. I myself have been privileged to have now seen many a Burlesque performer, and each time never have I felt awkward or unsure where to look, but always left in awe of the performers. Of their confidence, their pose, their comic timing and yes, sometimes their bodies! (Only because I would hope to have to have such a lush one myself and the chance to perform in such a way!) I have never been to a strip club, although I imagine the outcome to be the awkward and not knowing where to look one. I even had this theory confirmed for me at the Burlesque festival by one of the dancers who used to be a stripper in a 'gentlemen's club', in which she insisted on there being a huge difference to what is taking your clothes off there, and what is taking your clothes off in Burlesque. As one member of the festival goers pointed out, when you watch the Burlesque dancers it is almost as if they are not near naked at all because you are distracted watching them as a performer - not them as a body. The dancer is only in nipple tassels and underwear for the last moment of the routine and this is for the wonderful tongue-in-cheek shock factor that Burlesque so historically provides, (although it can still be done with out and some do.)


The main factor about Burlesque dancing that makes it so wonderful is that it is all about Body Confidence. And promoting that in all shapes and sizes. Many times after a Burlesque show you will hear the compere ask whether the people in the audience have felt inspired and whether or not they feel good about their bodies - I am yet to see a grim face or anybody utter a 'no'.

Burlesque, unlike many other forms of dance, does not discriminate against Any Look. It is open to males and females and everybody in between, you can be 18 or 88, a size 6 or a size 20 - none of it will stop you from being a kick-ass Burlesque dancer. All you need is the creativity to design your act and the will to go for it! Afraid that you don't have the confidence? Burlesque will give it to you!

I asked Fifi Von Tassel, one of the performers in the Seren Yn Codi competition, what got her so into Burlesque dancing. "Poor body confidence." She answered. She then informed me that she used to struggle with her weight and eating disorders until she decided to take control and found Burlesque. Fifi Von Tassel joined a Burlesque class to build up her confidence and to learn to love her body and now here she was in Wales, Burlesque dancing all the way from Norway and going on to win the Peoples Choice award in the competition! Which was much deserved by the way! Her act was hilarious and sexy and even consisted of her mocking her weight in which she kept taking off items of clothing after every time of stepping on the scales, ended in her stuffing her face with a cupcake and throwing cupcakes into the all ready excited crowd!


Over the weekend I met so many amazing, inspiring people who all shamelessly flaunted being able to be who you are, the way you are and the way you look and to own it! Never have I felt so comfortable and casual about telling people about my being a Mermaid!

There were so many awesome workshops in which I raced around to be a part of all of them, including Beginners Burlesque with the wonderful Liberty Chimes, (picture above), making my own feather boa, (which I failed at - picture below), The History of Burlesque, a photography workshop with the legendary and award winning Vintage photographer Neil Kendall, and even a workshop about blogging with Chelsea Louise Haden, (hey, it never hurts to pick up some extra tips!)


I also made the most of the awesome opportunities that I had to do a Dance Fitness class and a Hula Hoop workshop with Hoola Nation Conwy, (although of course still taking it easy for my knee...okay I danced my heart out, but hey, I've had weeks of rest! I earned it!) Both workshops were ran by my wonderful former dance teacher and cheerleading coach growing up, Louise Satinka, who also Belly Danced in the festivals show Pysgod a Sglodion. The Hula Hoop workshop managed to make it into the Daily Post in pictures and a video which includes an interview with one of the organisers, Kimberly 'Foxee Stole' Edmunds and wonderful photographer Neil Kendall. Check it out here.

But it wasn't just Burlesque performers that the weekend had to entertain. There was also the areas favourite Magician, Jay Gatling, comedians, the amazing pole acrobat Sir Midnight Blues and my new favourite band, Victor and the Bully, whose dress sense is as diacritic as their lyrics. Much a fan of Victors very strong Vinatge moustache game...

There were also some great stalls at the festival. I was grim that I never got the chance to buy a beautiful Vintage bow from Yurei Burlesque and Vintage Boutique , I was too distracted falling in love with the just amazing art work of Flying Viper Illustration and with my love of Dragons, I could not resist this absolutely adorable Dragon embryo drawing! (How Epic And Cute Is This!?!?) 


I also could not help myself to a mask or two from the stall Wrestling Masks UK - except mine was not a wrestling mask! Have a look below, this beautifully lit photograph was taken by Tyre Tracks and Broken Hearts Photography.


The whole weekend seemed to be full of all of the things that I love and more so thus obvious to say, I had an Awesome time at The North Wales Festival of Burlesque and Cabaret! And again challenging the conventional acts of a festival in the best of ways, instead of ending the festival in an event where everybody proceeds to get drunk, we did something even better... We had a Onesie Wind-Down Party! With free popcorn and watching the movie 'Gypsy', about the beginning life of legendary Burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee, (although the film was actually more about her mother, yet still entertaining).

If I wasn't set on further entering the glamorous and creative world of Burlesque and Cabaret before, The North Wales Festival has certainly inspired me! Thank you again to Kimberly 'Foxee Stole' Edmunds and The Conwy Jester Russel Erwood for organising such a fantastic event! I can't wait until next year...!


All photographs in this blog post are by Robert Mann MA Photographyexcept as previously stated, the one with myself in a mask by Tyre Tracks and Broken Hearts Photography.

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