Dallas burlesque instructor and enthusiast Lisa Carmen talks being a ham, the Burlesque Experience®, being “everybody’s cheerleader”, and stripping like you mean it.
Interview: Divertida Devotchka
Please correct me if I’m wrong, but your personal foray into burlesque started with the creation of the Dallas group Les Femmes Aplomb!, right? Care to share a little more about the development of the group and how it shaped your burlesque future?
Yes, that’s right! I like to say I didn’t find burlesque- burlesque found me! In mid 2009, a friend and I got this ‘crazy hair’ to create a burlesque group and learn burlesque. I invited 7 of my boldest, bravest friends to join us for the adventure. We created characters, routines, worked our butts off, put on a few shows, had a great time and each of us was changed, somehow, by the time we were done. It was transformative.
I want to know about Carmen Diablo the performer. I’ve read that you’ve been performing since age 2 (theater? dance? both?) and you’ve described your style as “fusion,” meaning that you’re not entirely classic or entirely neo. Please tell us about your background and your creative process for developing a new act for yourself.
Family legend has it that at age 2, I was two years too young to start tap and ballet class, but my mom had me meet the teacher and she made a special exception for me after that! I was doing solos on stage by the time I was 4 and my mother was the quintessential ‘stage mom’. I’ve always been a showgirl, or a ham, and frankly, performing was one way I quickly learned how to feel loved at a very young age. I also danced Ballet Folkorico for most of my childhood, as well as acting in many theatre productions. I’ve always loved the stage. Sadly though, once I hit puberty, like many young dancers, I rebelled and resisted, and eventually rejected my dance practice entirely. My dance practice was waiting for me when I returned to it as an adult. A bit different this time around, but it’s felt like coming home.
You’re the creator and instructor of the Burlesque Experience®, a burlesque series located at Dallas PinUp which is totally different from its contemporaries. You’ve described it as having more of an emphasis on personal growth and expression rather than a hardcore burlesque technique intensive. What else can you tell us about the journey of a Burlesque Experience® student?
I’m a life coach and personal growth champion, first and foremost. My daughter teasingly calls me “everybody’s cheerleader.” It’s what I do and who I am. For me, burlesque became a vehicle for my personal growth and empowerment. It was so important and exciting and inspiring, and served as such a catalyst for me, that I knew others would find it to offer the same benefits, whether or not they wanted a future in burlesque. Women come to the Burlesque Experience® for a variety of reasons, and more often than not, they get WAY more than they’d anticipated. They show up desiring their moment in the spotlight, but scared and full of insecurities. They move through those feelings through weeks of planning, work, rehearsing and learning, and then they “bust out” in front of a huge, loving and supportive live audience, in a gorgeous theatre setting, red carpet and all. It changes them. I’m also continually blown away at the support system they provide for one another, and the genuine love and affection that develops within the group. I think every woman deserves her moment in the spotlight and I love supporting that process.
The winter session of the Burlesque Experience® just started this month, right? Could you dish a little about your new batch of students and their progress thus far?
Yes! We are having SO much fun. I have ten women journeying with me and preparing for their “BUST-OUT”, which will be held at Quixotic World, just a few doors from Dallas PinUp, on Friday, February 24th. They’re nervous as hell, and they’re doing it anyway! It’s such a profound joy for me to watch the transformation. We get together weekly to dance, learn, laugh, tell the truth together… it’s seriously one of my life’s deepest pleasures. This particular group is blowing me away with their passion. I asked them the night of our first session “Are you ready for a new obsession?” They have all caught ‘the burlesque bug’! It’s like a flu- it gets inside you and spreads quickly, infecting everything else!
I’ve asked a few other burlesque instructor friends about this, and I’m curious to know – when teaching burlesque (especially act development, choreography, etc.), do you find that the process makes it more difficult to create new acts for yourself since you’re essentially always immersed in it? Or do you find that seeing others being inspired is what inspires you to create even more?
That’s an interesting question! As I work closely with most Burlesque Experience® students on their solo acts, I feel involved with the creative process and output of about 10-12 acts per show, even though I’ll only get on stage to dance once during that show! The energetic demand of coaching, teaching, producing and marketing each Bust-Out, while being present and available to the women for support and encouragement is intense! It’s like planning your big fat sparkly wedding every three months! Luckily I have a lot of support and help, from artists like Vivienne Vermuth, Violet O’Hara, and a load of graduates who love to stay involved in a bunch of different ways. I love it so much, and the satisfaction I get is immeasurable, but yeah, I’ve learned to keep my calendar clear for the days immediately following a show… I am so emotionally, mentally and physically spent by then! And then I get ready for the next one…
I’m curious about your project SacredSexyU®, and I’m sure our readers would like to know more as well.
SacredSexyU® is the umbrella under which the Burlesque Experience® and several other components of my work fall. I am completely and utterly in love with my work and committed to supporting women to live their most bodacious, wildly blissful, powerful, spirited lives, to heal the gap between sexuality and spirituality, masculine and feminine, to heal self-esteem, to annihilate self-loathing and to abolish shame! I think life is supposed to be a sexy, fun adventure, and I believe in joy and pleasure as a spiritual path. I have a number of retreats, workshops, coaching groups and one-on-one coaching clients that I do this with, or through. It’s an incredible honor and joy to do what I do every day. Not a day goes by that I don’t think “lucky me!”
In January you were the featured speaker at the DFW Burlesque Industry Meet and Greet. What were some of your discussion topics? What was the most memorable part of the evening?
When I speak publicly about The Burlesque Experience®, it’s impossible for me to contain my enthusiasm. I glow and overflow. It’s one of my favorite topics, and yeah, I gush! I’m really grateful to Jerry Fedora for the invitation to share my passion for this work with the Dallas burlesque community. What’s most memorable to me about that night, and every time I attend Jerry’s events, is to see everyone come together as a community. I’m a huge believer in supporting others, and I’d love to see that nurturing and supportive energy continue to grow in the Dallas burlesque community. I think the blossoming mainstream popularity of burlesque is so exciting and cool, and that there’s enough room for everyone to do what they love on this beautiful landscape of possibility. Let’s consider it an honor that our art is inspiring so many others, and let’s support the passion we’ve ignited. Imagine if no one ever wrote another song, because John Lennon wrote so well … there’s always room for more creative expression, and now more than ever, the world needs people who have come alive. If burlesque makes you come alive, DO IT. Support your local scene. Get up there and strip like you mean it.
What’s next for Lisa Carmen?
More, more, more! More adventures, more speaking, more classes, more burlesque, more Burlesque Experience® Starlets productions (my alumni group of B.E. graduates who finished and said ‘more, please’!) More connection, more healing, more tales of aplomb and transformation. More community, more joy, more success!
Anything you’d like to add?
You can learn more about me and my work at www.SacredSexyU.com and/or www.theburlesqueexperience.com. Thank you Pin Curl Magazine for this opportunity to share, and Dallas PinUp for supporting this work! The ripple effect is immeasurable.