Pin Curl Magazine’s Best of 2009 Issue Release Party- Dec 5th during Gifts and Garters! Come on out and get your very own full-sized, full color, glossy copy & have the fabulous cover girl Miss Angela Ryan autograph it for you! This first ever best of issue features all of your favorite entertainers, models, and articles from the online version of the magazine. You won’t wanna miss the opportunity! Tickets for Gifts and Garters available at www.giftsandgarters.eventbrite.com If you miss the party, issues will be available for purchase online starting Dec 10.
Pin curl had the opportunity to visit with the Jigglewatts: Ruby Joule & Coco Lectric and talk assassins, Madonna, zombies, and baking.
Photo: Through the Looking Glass
Q: Who founded the Jigglewatts and how has the troupe evolved since its inception?
R: The Jigglewatts has three original founding members: Ruby Joule, Coco Lectric, and Cherry Zap. Coco brought along the Jigglewatts name from an earlier incarnation, which was the inspiration for the electrical theme of our names, and also spoke to our philosophy. Since the troupe was founded, a handful of dancers have come and gone but we’ve remained small in number, keeping an exclusive “boutique troupe” feel. Because of this, we’ve moved away from the idea of group numbers, focusing instead on developing spectacular solos and engaging duets.
CL: Before the Jigglewatts was a burlesque troupe it was a club I created for women to support each other in their endeavors and to appreciate how we’re all beautiful and unique. As a troupe we strive for these goals and really demonstrate how women who realize their unique beauty and sensuality can be powerful and inspiring. When we first started out we were still trying to find our niche. I was more serious about culturally inspired numbers that utilized my dance and gymnastics training. I also used to choreograph a lot more and we had more ensembles. Now we do a lot of solos and are very intense about our costume choices and engaging the audience instead of just hitting them over the head with our dance moves.
Q: Both of you have extensive dance and theater backgrounds. Can you give us the highlights?
R: Gosh, where to start? I’ve been dancing since I could walk, and was on the prima ballerina career track until I had a serious foot injury as a teenager. I couldn’t bear to leave the performing arts, so I transitioned into theatre and started learning other, less punishing forms of dance. I have fond memories of performing with Ballet Austin in The Nutcracker and Snow White, and later as the “palest hula girl in town,” performing Tahitian and Polynesian dance for about 9 years. I am particularly proud of originating the role of Eva in the musical, The Cafe du Cache, and following in Madonna’s footsteps to play Karen in Speed-the-Plow.
CL: I began dance training at the age of 3 and began dancing professionally at the age of 14 in Houston. I performed with Ruby for years in the Austin area in the Polynesian arts, belly dancing and Afro-Caribbean styles. I began my professional choreography career in Austin where I was the house choreographer at Paradox Nightclub. Austin has known me as a featured dancer for years. As a vocalist I’ve performed with award winning band, Salsa Del Rio and toured Europe with an operatic choral group with top performers from the state of Texas. As a pop/R&B singer I performed with Liquid Stereo Project and co-produced and recorded as a solo artist on my album, Alive. My most notable film appearances have been as associate producer, choreographer, vocalist for the female lead in Z: A Zombie Musical and as Isabella Montoya in Green. I now teach Classic Striptease and Go-go Cardio and am coordinating the Austin Academy of Burlesque.
Q: In your opinions, what makes a “great” burlesque piece? What elements should it possess?
R: In my opinion, a great piece starts with a concept that is original or meaningful to the performer, and utilizes the elements of music, costuming, movement and stage presence to the fullest and most detailed extent possible to illustrate a story or transformation. As a spectator, none of these elements can be a weak link, or the act falls like a bad soufflé!
CL: In addition to what Ruby mentioned, a great burlesque piece is all about what makes the performer tick. She has to really look like she’s enjoying herself, like there’s nowhere in the world she’d rather be. I also love watching performances that have a little twist or a well thought out theme.
Q: Many of your signature numbers involve elaborate costumes and props that add to the glamour. Can you describe your creative process in developing a new number? How much of the prop and costuming is yourselves, and how much is commissioned?
R: For me, the creative process can be sparked by anything- a theme show, a character I want to portray, a song I just HAVE to dance to or a special prop I want to play with. Then it seems to come together in bits and pieces, like a jigsaw puzzle. I make (or repurpose) all of my props and costumes. It’s one of the parts of the process I enjoy most, plus I like having complete creative control over the finished product.
CL: So far all of my props and costumes have been created by me, or have been fashioned from something that already exists. Jupiter Moon Corsets recently made me a fabulous cocoa colored ensemble that I’m working into a signature Coco solo. New numbers or themes pop into my head several times a day. Sometimes a theme of a show will inspire a new number, for example, at Gifts and Garters where I’ll BE a gift from Tiffany’s. I find myself wanting to BE something non-human like a pony or a tangerine, I’m working on a cobra number and a dragonfly number, now. Lovers, friends, family and the politico-social climate inspire my numbers quite often, but I’ve got to keep some things a secret, right?
Q: Speaking of glamour, our cover shoot is having fun with image of an over the top glamour girl as the image of burlesque, and has you ladies baking in the kitchen in fabulous dresses. Do either of you ladies actually cook? What are your contributions to your Thanksgiving spreads this year?
R: Ha! I’ll let Miss Coco handle this one, as I do not cook! At Thanksgiving feasts, I’m usually relegated to bringing the relish tray.
CL: When I do cook, it’s to die for. But–I’ll let you in on a little secret — I hate to clean. I love to cook, but I hate to clean the gigantic mess that accompanies a delicious meal. My Czech grandmother taught me to make all kinds of pastries and jams, and a close friend taught me how to make some traditional Chinese dishes, but for the most part I like to discover food on my own. I made Thanksgiving dinner a few years ago and people are still raving over it. I’ll bring the turkey, dressing and gravy if they let me this year.
Q: Recently, Dallas has had the privilege of seeing a lot more of you lovely ladies. Each of you has performed at various Bewitching Burlesque events as well as Dallas Burlesque Festival and Hot Rods and Heels. How does the Austin burlesque scene different from the Dallas scene?
R: The Dallas Burlesque scene is so exciting in its rapidly blossoming growth! I love coming to Dallas to perform because the shows are such bombastic events and there is a feeling of mutual respect and support for every role in the burlesque community, from dancers to producers, photographers and designers. The Austin entertainment scene is saturated with talented artists trying to be noticed, so it can be quite competitive as we are pitted against theatre, indie film, live music and myriad other entertainment choices every time we perform. Perhaps for this reason, Austin has been a great place to hone professional, attention-getting acts.
CL: Dallas really knows how to appreciate local talent when it sees it. You all are very good business people and on top of your game in entrepreneurship. Austin is more a town of artists with far fewer business people in the arts, but that part is growing. We are all on our own, in a way, but like Ruby said, there are so many of us. People come from all over the world to live in Austin for that very reason and there are more bands and performers than I could ever hear about in town. I’m so proud to be a part of the longest active burlesque troupe in town.
Q: Ruby Joule, you’ve been working a lot as an actor lately, and even jokingly referred to yourself as the “music video queen”. What acting projects do you have in the works currently?
R: Haha, that’s right! I love working on music videos because they are often quick shoots and can be very creative. Up next, I am pleased to report that I’ll be appearing as “Midge” in the feature film, “A Mind of its Own,” which will be shooting in Dallas in late 2009. In it, I play the main character’s co-worker, a fiery redhead from Scotland. Winning this role was quite a feather in my cap, as I hear they auditioned in Texas and LA before making their final decision.
Q: Are you switching your focus from burlesque to acting?
R: This burlesque adventure has actually marked a grand detour from my acting career. The aspect of burlesque that had me hooked was the ability to cast myself in any role I felt like dreaming up! No waiting around for a good character to come along, auditioning, and hoping the director likes you. It’s DIY from start to finish, with complete creative control. However, while I love the art of burlesque dearly, I’ve realized that for me its scope is limited. I wouldn’t say that I’m switching my focus as much as trying to find a happy balance between burlesque, legit film and stage, and modeling while keeping it all in perspective. A lofty goal when there are still only 24 hours in a day!
Q: Miss Coco Lectric, you recently stared in an ass kicking martial arts film. Tell us a little about your character?
My character is an assassin in a futuristic sci-fi action film. She’s caught in the crosshairs of a scandal between warring factions in the not so far future in the United States. She’s trying to find herself and avenge the death of her father. I loved doing this film. Isabella and I are very similar only she gets to beat people up all day and she has to lay low. Coco doesn’t lay low.
Q: Though you’ve done film and television as well, your love affair with burlesque is your main focus. What is it that has you so captivated?
CL: Burlesque combines dance, music, singing, acting, costuming, modeling and playing dress up; why am I so captivated? But really, burlesque is an art that has the ability to inspire and heal people at a deep level. Women have been given so many mixed messages regarding their bodies and their sensuality, and for that reason many women are unhappy with themselves. Burlesque gives me an opportunity to show a healthy and fun portrayal of sensuality and the beauty of diversity. As a performer I’ve always made an attempt to make the audience feel special, happy, and alive. Burlesque gives me that opportunity. The audience reaction is such an integral part of the show, they are all a part of it. It’s truly an honor to be able to share even just a few moments with everyone in the crowd.
Q: The last six months have been successful and busy; we’ve found you ladies in Las Vegas, Dallas, New Orleans, Austin, and Los Angeles! Being able to be a part of so many fabulous events, and finding yourself surrounded by so many amazing performers has to been inspiration as well as informative. What’s the biggest pearl of wisdom you’ve taken to heart in recent months?
R: For me, it has been inspiring to greet those mythical places and people who previously only existed in my remote imagination; The Viper Room, Marilyn’s handprints, Catherine D’Lish, Jo Boobs… they have shown me that perhaps the world is smaller and friendlier than I once thought.
CL: I’ve found that, no matter where we perform, audiences want to be enchanted. When we get up on the stage and dazzle audiences they are more than willing to accept the escape from their every day lives. I can’t help but want to create a more and more spectacular numbers.
Q: It is human nature to always want bigger and better. What does 2010 hold for the Jigglewatts, both as a troupe, and as individuals?
R: We’re continually dreaming up ideas for “our next big show” with the troupe; perhaps one of those ideas will be brought to fruition. We have both been invited to perform at the Southwest Burlesque Festival in New Mexico, and I plan to make as many stops on the festival circuit as possible. I would also love to devote more energy to helping our younger Jigglewatts develop their burlesque presence and refine their acts.
CL: As a troupe we are working toward producing more shows in the Austin and San Antonio area and getting our name and reputation for quality performances out there. The Jigglewatts have a very high standard of quality when it comes to performances, we work very hard at what we do and that should continue. We’re always learning about ways we can improve, so traveling will also be in store for us next year. As a solo artist I plan to keep trying to outdo myself as a performer and costumer. I also am looking forward to teaching more burlesque workshops and classes on the road. I’ve taken in upon myself to create more of a classic burlesque presence in San Antonio–it’s a risk–but burlesque is important to me.
Q: What would be your dream performance?
R:My dream performance would involve a stage in Europe, a large prop of some kind; crescent moon, swing, champagne glass, or maybe a disco ball that I “hatch” out of, and a live orchestra… all of this wrapped up in a well-produced film. I’d also love to play Mistinguett (legendary star of the Moulin Rouge) in a film about her life. A girl can dream, right?
CL: Every time I dream up something I try to make it happen. I’m working toward being a Broadway performer later in life, but for now I want a big stage, big props, and big smiles in the audience.
Catch Ruby Joule & Coco Lectric at these upcoming events:
R: Dec 5: Gifts & Garters, Feb 2010: SW Burlesque Fest. (Filming in Nov)
CL: I will be filming a couple of movies in November, will be in the next issue of Bachelor Pad, performing in Chicago on November 12th a the Blue Bayou and Vaudezilla Presents The Absolut Comedy Show + Punk Rock Red Carpet on November 14th, performing in Gifts and Garters on December 5th, and The Southwest Burlesque Festival February 20.
Austin based Burlesque Entertainer Erin Go Braughless talks drag queens, comic books, and being hot.
Q: You recently won the title of “most outrageous” in your luche libre costume that made audiences roar with laughter. We think outrageous is a great way to describe the over the top hilarity of your burlesque numbers. Have you always been a comedian of sorts?
Believe it or not, I am actually a really quiet person. I think backstage at shows, people a lot of times think that I am rude, but in truth, I am super shy! Once people get to know me though, I open up and become a totally different person and I have a really citric sense of humor and act pretty outrageous all of the time. I also think it helps that I work full-time year round at Lucy In Disguise with Diamonds, an over the top costume shop in Austin, read comic books, watch professional wrestling several times a week, worship drag queens, and wear over the top fashions most days of the week.
Q: In your submission to Pin Curl, you wrote ” [I] give the audience just what they came for- a close and personal encounter with the endangered species of the confident woman.” We were taken by this. In your opinion, why is the confident woman an endangered species?
I think that most women are so caught up in being hotter or thinner or younger that we forget to take a look in the mirror today and go “damn I look good”. You hear women say all the time “when I was 17 I thought I was so awkward and ugly, but now looking back, I was a real Bettie”, so my goal is to always find something that I love about the way I look that day. Sometimes I have a breakout so I focus on my hair, or on a bad hair day I focus on my awesome rack, so I always feel confident and sexy; I don’t ever want to look back and feel like I missed out on a single experience because of my own insecurities.
Q: Your email signature includes your self-given title “Big Fat Burlesque Queen”. In a society that frowns upon the word “fat”, you have chosen to embrace it. Why do you choose “fat” instead of gentler words like “plump”, or “full-figured”?
Fat is just what I am. To me saying you are offended by the word fat is the same as being offended by the words short or blonde. I am all of those things and I don’t call myself “flaxen haired” or “vertically challenged”, I don’t call myself fluffy, chubby, or anything else. I also choose to use the word fat because when you use it, it is impossible for others to use it against you as a weapon. I am fat. I always have been. I always will be. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Q: You are a founding member of “Big Star Burlesque”. Tell us more about the founding and mission of BSB.
Our founder is Blue Valentine and she was inspired to create BSB after seeing the Fat Bottom Revue in San Francisco. She came back to Austin and started an all plus-sized troupe to help inspire and empower plus-sized women all over Texas. After Blue moved to San Antonio to found Stars and Garters Burlesque, I took over our troupe and have been carrying on the mission of empowering women of all shapes and sizes through dance, strip tease, and soaking up the spot light. Myself and the other girls feel a huge sense of responsibility in carrying on the mission and ideas and she set forth in our founding.
Q: Do you find that there is a smaller audience for a troupe of bigger gals, as opposed to a more diverse troupe?
I think that we tend to draw in a crowd that appreciates full figured women as we often perform at functions that are for plus-sized women and their fans. I also think that we draw in a lot of first timers because we have a gimmick, and if there is one thing you need in show business, its a gimmick!
Q: You recently started the Erin Go Braughless School of Burlesque. What are the top three things you would like your students to learn from your classes?
1. Anyone can twirl tassels
2. There is a big drag goddess in all of us
3. Fat girls take up more room in the spotlight
Brownsville based pin-up model Ili Jean discusses Andy Warhol, makeup, and inspiration.
Q: What songs are in heavy rotation on your MP3 player right now?
Right now anything by: Johnny Thunders, France Gal, The Clash, The Velvet Underground, Wanda Jackson, The Shangri Las, The Ventures.
Q: You do a lot of conceptual shoots. How much of that is you, and how much of that is the photographers you choose to work with?
One can’t function without the other; a pack of wolves is as good as the hungriest wolf, and we’re all starving to do exactly what’s on our minds. I am very fortunate to be able to work with such artistically driven individuals; we work together on producing photo concepts that fill our goblet of creativity. As of late we have been taking a more avant garde approach which has kept our minds busy with tons of new in depth ideas.
Q: You don’t see a lot of pin-up models in Brownsville, Texas. What’s the scene like there? Do you find yourself mostly traveling for shoots?
Brownsville is a small town with a lot of room grow , the photographers I work with regularly, live here in the Rio Grande Valley, but I do mostly travel to perform more so than shoots.
Q: What are your top three favorite cosmetic products and why?
– Magic Power by Prescriptive is a translucent powder that gives skin a shimmery glow after you have applied your make up. I never leave home without it.
– Show Dior mascara is the only mascara on earth that has ever worked for me. The consistency is thick but not clumpy. I used it even after applying false eyelashes; it is a female must have!
– Dior black eyeliner maybe the most difficult eyeliner to take off, but by far the best! It will not budge!
Q: If you could sit down to dinner with 5 people, living or dead, who would they be and why?
A famous Baroque painter named Peter-Paul Rubens. Definitely Andy Warhol just as long as he doesn’t leave me barefoot and glamorous in New York City like Edie Sedgwick. Come to think of it I would really love to see what Rubens would have to say to Warhol about art and vice-versa. Jayne Mansfield, because a dinner party requires both beauty and class. Then maybe Buddy Holly and Joe Strummer. Joe Strummer has always had allot to say so I’m sure the conversation won’t get boring- as for Buddy, I could be the girl in “True Love Ways”.
Q: Your weight and weight loss have been topics you are open about through your blog. In a modern society of “thinner is better” beauty ideals, you have still maintained a high self-esteem. What advice would you give ladies who are struggling with weight issues?
My weight loss was a gradual process taking over a year. My weight will continue to yo-yo give or take a few pounds. I believe it was an overall good decision to get some more exercise and be healthier. I was never dissatisfied with what I weighed before; I just knew I was not getting enough exercise.
Today’s socially imposed beauty standards are unrealistic and frankly unachievable. One can spend a life time trying to climb the beauty ladder to perfection, but the truth is our bodies will continue to change as we do. I hope to inspire women to accept themselves and realize you can be beautiful and full figured.
Q: You maintain that higher education is a top priority. How do you manage to keep a firm head on your shoulders, and balance your shooting/performing schedule with school?
At times it feels there are just not enough hours in the day for it all. I have a planner I write in religiously, planning day by day. After I graduate with a bachelor’s degree I would like to get my master then continue school and get my PhD. So looks like I have to start getting used to the busy life early!
Q: You talk about the concept of re-invention. Do you view your alter egos as extensions of yourself with personalities all their own?
I view them simply as extensions of myself. A prism has many facets, and this is just one reflection of my many colorful artistic genres. I am constantly reinventing and craving creation; it’s a concept that never leaves me.
Q: If 100 years from now, there is an “Ili Jean” legacy, what would you want it to be?
Ultimately, I just want to have a positive influence on women, I would like to inspire through burlesque, art, and education.
Q: What does the future hold for Ili Jean? Any upcoming projects we should know about?
At the moment I am going to school full time, and hopefully by next semester will continue my studies at the University of North Texas in Denton. Right now the sky is the limit; I am excited to see what the future holds for me. When I think of what the future holds I always remember a great quote by Leslie Caron, which I hope to live by.
“I think it’s the end of progress if you stand still and think of what you’ve done in the past. I keep on.”
- Leslie Caron
We recently asked Pixie O’ Kneel, co-producer & stage manager for Bewitching Burlesque to give us her tips and recommendations for auditioning for burlesque shows. Here’s her list:
- Put your music on a CD and bring 2 copies. Make sure you use the blank discs that say “CD-R” on the packaging.
- Have the music for your audition piece and only that music on the CD. Don’t use your practice CD that is looped.
- Don’t expect the place you are auditioning to have hook ups for your IPod, or other MP3 player.
- Move the furniture around so it is not blocking the view of you.
- Clear the room of pets and children, they are unpredictable and distracting.
- Have someone help you with the camera and the music or edit out the parts of you running over to start the camera and then running over to start the music.
- Make sure you are vertical on the screen and not horizontal.
- If you are not using a video link to your audition from a site such as YouTube, send a DVD and not a VHS tape.
- DVD vs. Video link? It is best to send a video link, unless you are specifically asked to send a DVD.
- Be on time.
- Tardiness shows a lack of respect for others and that you are unreliable.
- Get directions, gas, and make sure you have all of your bits (costume, music, etc.).
- Have the contact info for the people in charge of the auditions in case of emergency or getting lost.
- Allow for an extra 15-20 minutes of drive time for traffic.
- “Closed audition” means the auditions are closed to the public.
- It can be very nerve-wracking to other “auditionees” to have people they don’t know at an audition. Seasoned performers may feel like they are giving a free show and debutantes could be just plain freaked out.
- Leave your friends at home. You can call and celebrate or commiserate when it’s over.
Gig Bag & Checklists
- Have one bag that you use just for gigs and auditions.
- Put everything you will need for the night in that one bag.
- A checklist is an invaluable tool.
- Make a list, save it on your computer and just print a copy every time you’re getting ready to audition.
- Be nice to the other performers in all aspects of the audition process.
- Don’t gossip. If you get the reputation of a gossip, you might just find yourself sitting in the corner by yourself.
- “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
- Lend a helping hand.
- Be respectful of others and their pre-audition “process”.
- Introduce yourself to the “newbies” and people you don’t know.
- Be humble.
DIY Pasties with Vivienne Vermuth
Photos: Courtesy of Miss Vermuth
One of the most fun things about being in burlesque has to be making pasties! These little circles of delight can really bring out your creativity, and lets you express your personality on your…well, personalities! Once you get the basics down, you’ll be a pasty making princess in no time!
As far as materials for pasties, I tend to use buckram, which is a stiff mesh-like fabric that’s used commonly use for millinery (hat-making.) Other materials that are good to use are vinyl and stiff felt. I tend to use Aleene’s Fabric Fusion or E 6000 as my glues of choice. If you choose to attach tassels to your pasties, you will also want to grab some metal grommets to ensure a smooth twirl. I’ll go over tassels more at the end.
Measure how big you want your pasty to be, by measuring the dark part around your nips. That should be the size of your pasty. Then use a protractor, set it at 1/4 of an inch more than your size, and draw 2 circles on your fabric. Cut them out, and cut out a small “pie slice” from the edge to the center. Your circles should look like a PAC MAN.
Take your glue and run a small line of glue down one edge of the pie slice, then bring the other edge of the pie slice to the glue side. You’ll find that your pasty now has a prominent upside down “V”, or tent shape. Take your finger or Popsicle stick and smooth the glue down over the edge so its seamless, and it will get rid of the edge a bit. If you are attaching tassels, snip a TINY hole in the tip, and place the grommet into the hole, and glue the edge, leaving the hole clear.
DECORATE!!! This is the fun part! You can use sequins, rhinestones, glitter, fabric- whatever your heart desires! Keep in mind the weight of the pasty – the heavier it is, the harder it will be to keep on! Also, if you attach pasties, make sure everything is smooth and laying flat – you don’t want to catch your tassel on an edge!
STEP FOUR (ATTACHING TASSELS)
Starting from the outside of the pasty, take the non business end of the tassel and thread it through your grommet, just enough to poke through the inside of the pasty. Then take your glue (I prefer hot glue for this because it’s waterproof when dry) and drop a bead big enough to cover the back of the grommet and the tassel, then place s small circle of fabric over it to protect your nip. Once dry, your tassels should swing freely! You can also experiment with using necklace chains as your tassels, because then you can change out your tassels!
USING YOUR PASTIES
My favorite adhesive is toupee tape made for wigs and hairpieces, but you can also use eyelash adhesive, double sided tape, spirit gum, etc. Keep in mind how you will use them, i.e. if you are a performer, you may want to use tape to ensure that they stay on. If you want to use liquid adhesives, I would advise putting a small layer of hot glue on the back of your pasties, because once it’s dry it will be waterproof and then whatever adhesive you use won’t stain or damage your pasties. Take the adhesive, and line around the edge of the pasty, then press onto the nip. You are set to go!
Enjoy your new pasties!
Cheers! Vivienne Vermuth
By: Hella Goode
Perfumes have been around since the development of recreation and civilization and not just the mere search for food, sex, and shelter. And, thank goodness, we took the time do take care of our odor needs. Over the centuries people have made taking a bath a more frequent activity, but this was not always the case. Imagine au natural smelling au natural….it wouldn’t likely smell pretty.
Surprisingly, it is not the French who began the perfume industry. Perfume, in its most basic form-incense and other natural fragrances have been used since and before Biblical times. Frankincense was even brought to baby Jesus, for Christ’s sake. Since ancient time in the Americas, native cultures have used the fragrant smoke of different herbs and wood to wash and perfume the souls of others.
However, it might surprise you that the Egyptians were the real perfume freaks, even entombing their dead with perfume ready for the afterlife. They used a wide variety of scents, mostly from oils and used decorative bottles to encase them. The Romans picked up on the perfuming habit through their visits to Egypt and brought their discovery back to Europe where it became custom for both Romans and Greeks. They used them both before and after baths. Through trade, war, and recreational travel, the use of perfume spread, wafting behind travelers. Then, an Arab chemist, who caught wind of the new fad, developed a distillation technique for extracting oils from plants and did it so well, that many still use his techniques today.
The French did get hold of perfumes, as we well know, and went a bit crazy with them, especially amongst the upper class. With Louis XV, perfumes were even used on clothing. The French were so crazy about perfumes that they incorporated these scents into their culture and maintain their reputation as one of the world’s top perfume industry leaders.
Today celebrities have taken over the perfume market. Some have done it well and others have just watered down another form of art. For me, just like any other taste (or do I mean smell), it really is what the nose knows.
Shake a tail feather with Black Mariah
No need to post an emailed question this month because I have had DOZENS of emails from burlesque dancer wanting to purchase ostrich feather fans. I thought these emails came at a great time as I just purchased my third pair of ostrich feather fans, and let me tell you, I thought I knew everything about fans, and I did not. With that, let me educate all of you potential feather flaunters in how to purchase your first pair of fans wisely.
When I bought my first set of ostrich feather fans, there were only a few websites selling “Sally Rand” fans. I must have searched over a month before I settled on a fan vendor and sent my payment for my fans. When I received my fans from the company that shall not be names, I was incredibly disappointed. They weren’t nearly as full as they appeared in the picture, and they didn’t open up to even 45 degrees the fan staves were wooden but not painted to match the black feathers, just wood. I made the best with the purchase and went on to make a great number with them. I just chalked it up to a life lesson of “You get what you pay for”. The fans I purchased were really only about $120 less than the fans I COULD HAVE gotten from a competing company which I would have been extremely happy to have. I purchased a pair later from ostrich.com, but had bought the cheapest fans which were the full sized single layer fans. When I received them, I was not satisfied as they too were not as full as I thought they were, which was no fault of ostrich.com, as the pictures on the website accurately depicted the product. I just didn’t know any better. Here are the important details I wished I had known before I made both of those purchases.
1. Buy at least double layer fans — Ostrich feathers are thin and dainty quills. If you hold a large sized feather (the size used in feather fans) up, you can see through them. If you hold two together, one in front of the other, the objects behind the two feathers are hidden; hence your naughty bits will not be exposed. Triple layer is best, if you purchase fans with clear staves. The third layer is a short set of feathers set low on the staves, starting just about the connecting screw. The third layer actually covers the clear part of the bottom of the fan staves that would be a point of exposure. Some vendors also sell fans with colored staves, in which case the third layer would only be a preference and not a need.
2. Purchase pre assembled fans I am incredibly crafty and know my way around all of the tools in our garage. I would even go as far as to describe myself as the very definition of DIY. However adding a second layer of feathers to a set of white feather single layer fans was a very humbling experience. It took me three days of wrestling with wire, wire pliers, clamps and ostrich feathers which I might explain, do not like to lay flat- EVER. They rolled and moved, and caught the wind easily and slid out of there places. It was very difficult. The Ostrich.com website suggests that the approximate assembly time is 75 minutes per fan. I am pretty sure it took me much longer when dealing with two feathers per stave. The lesson here is that it is not NEARLY as easy as it sounds. The last purchase I made from ostrich.com, I purchased pre assembled. It was worth the extra charge to let a professional do it and make it look nice.
3. Wide open spaces Know the dimensions of your stage before you commit to using your fans in a show. A stage that is 10 ft wide is too small. Full sized fans should measure 30” from the anchor screw to the tip of the feather. My arm measure 25” from shoulder to thumb. In a full arm extension with one fan out to the side of your body, you would need 55” of clearance just to perform a basic extension swirl. That is 4.5 ft. So double that for the other fan on the opposite side of your body and that is 9 feet of space just to complete two arm extension swirls, leave one tiny foot of space for your body to move about. Constrained movement does not make for a beautiful fan dance.
4. Quality feather fans are made from male ostrich wings. Not until this fact was pointed out to me did I realize the stark difference between male and female feathers. Male feathers are the feathers used in the most beautiful fans. In the bird kingdom males have the ornate and brightly colored plumage, solely for courting and mating with females. Oh the irony that we humans are quite opposite. Male feathers will also bleach completely and thoroughly to a bright white. While female feather will bleach to white, they are likely to retain dark brown or black spots of color. I am not clear as to why, but the male feathers will bleach all the way to white. I looked at many websites offering “quality” feather fans at much more desirable prices. It was only now that I noticed phrases like “femina wing feathers” in the sales description. Be very diligent when you read the descriptions about a potential fan you would like to purchase. Remember that “you get what you pay for” and this phrase is incredibly true with fans. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Second hand fans are the exception to this rule.
5. Unique, like everyone else Ostrich feather fans are a beautiful, unique addition to your repertoire, however there is at least one fan dancer in every major city. In a festival, or competition setting, you can guarantee that most dancers will want to enter their fan dances, as it is no doubt their strongest, and the most glamorous of their routines. Imagine, one show getting auditions from 20 dancers, and 18 of them want to enter the show or competition with a fan dance! Understand that although you may have a unique routine, or feel your fan dance is worthy of a national level of performance, almost every dancer or troupe has a fan dancer, and they all feel the same way. You will be more likely to get a slot in a competition or festival showcase by submitting anything but a fan dance. In fact, as a rule across the board of performances, I would stray from entering ANYTHING that might be a commonly used song, or theme. (i.e. fans, cabaret chairs, top hat and cane, Sarah Palin, Little Red Riding hood)
6. Lessons and Practice A fan class from a professional or even a fan dance instructional video will do wonders for your technique, and give you a good set of basic fan dance skills to which you will have the tools to create unique moves and choreography on your own. You should work to develop your own style and personality with fans. After all, while you are concealing yourself with beautiful plumage, your feet and face have to make up for all of the body that you are not showing.
7. Choreography The internet has opened the doors for information to just appear right at our fingertips. It helps to watch as many fan videos as you possibly can. Some of the performances available for your viewing are simply amazing. You may be tempted yourself to utilize some of the moves or tricks you see in these videos. I have been asked if that was OK to do, and I warn all of you to tread this line carefully. “Moves” can be named but not copyrighted. Sets and combinations of moves in the order they were performed CAN be copyrighted and is definitely stealing choreography. If you are unsure, email the dancer and explain the move that you would like to use in your routine, and ask permission before busting a fan move out as your own. Many dancers are flattered for a newbie to love their creations, and don’t mind a bit if they are borrowed.
I personally use ostrich.com for my entire feather and fan needs. Cindy is the best and is the most personable customer service rep I have ever experienced. This company cares so much for their clients and it’s no surprise that much of their business is repeat customers. I have only received the best product from the company and have always been satisfied with my purchases. Ostrich.com has an incredibly diverse selection of fans in a huge budget range.
I know that many of the top performers and teachers also use featherstore.com in which you can find fans with colored staves.
A new feather fan designer here in Dallas by the name of Meleea’s bazaar shop creates custom fans for her customers and as I know a few dancers who have utilized her very talented fan making skills, they were very happy with their purchase from her. Meleea appears to serve much of the belly dance community so you may find other very unique items for your dances in her store!
Thanks so much for reading and if this article helped you in selecting your own fans, send us a picture!
Ok, so it sounds odd. But give it a try — it’s delicious!
- 1 oz Malibu rum (substitute vanilla rum if you’re not keen on coconut flavor)
- 1 oz Kahlua
- 4 oz milk
- 1/3 tsp cinnamon
- 1 TBSP pumpkin pie filling (depending on desired taste)
- Graham cracker crumbs (very finely crushed)
Blend all ingredients together in a blender with a few cubes of ice. Serve in a glass rimmed with very finely crushed graham cracker crumbs. Sprinkle more cinnamon on top for garnish. Enjoy!