New York burlesque performer Peekaboo Pointe, “the Fastest Tassel Twirler from East to West,” talks low brow art forms, modern dance, Nancy Reagan and D.A.R.E., starting over and festival friendships.
Interview: Divertida Devotchka
Q: You earned your BFA in Dance Performance and Choreography from George Mason University and as a classically trained modern dancer you studied under Bill T. Jones, Mark Morris Dance Group and others. Your early background is in ballet and tap, and you also had a “rare and unusual tour of Cuba studying Afro-Cuban Dance with the group Cutumba.” When and how did you go about incorporating burlesque into your repertoire?
A: I was actually always interested in lowbrow art forms, and especially fascinated with strip clubs and strippers. Although I mainly studied the more classical performing arts, I couldn’t get enough of the sleazier side of performance. I saw so much more in the raunch than I think the average strip club patron saw. I have always believed that there was an art there that most of our society didn’t see. I think stripping is important.
It was when I moved to New York in 2002, when I was dancing for a modern dance company, that I discovered that there were people in the city performing Burlesque. I had studied the history of Burlesque in my Dance History course in college…but was blown away when I saw there was this tiny group of women bringing it back in the city. I jumped in head first, not knowing what I was doing, and pretty much never looked back! I found so much more in performing burlesque than I had ever found performing modern dance.
Q: I read the most fascinating candid blog post of yours from last August in which you credit Nancy Reagan and the D.A.R.E. program for your career as a stripper. I absolutely loved reading it; your honesty was so refreshing. You said, “… I knew that someday I would be a stripper, and that there wouldn’t be anything wrong with that. I knew at 10 years old that you didn’t have to be a junkie to be a stripper.” Could you briefly share the background of your story and the context of this quote for our readers?
A: In that blog post, I am tracking my desire to be a stripper back to my earliest memory of learning what it was and when my fascination started. Like I said before, I have always been fascinated with strippers, lowbrow art, and the seedier side of life. My first memory of this part of me was in 4th or 5th grade when the DARE program came to my school and a woman recounted her horror drug story, all I heard was that she was a stripper, and I wanted to be just like her! It was at that moment that I knew one day that I would do that…I didn’t know that it would be 20 years later, but I knew it would happen!
I started performing burlesque in 2003, but I didn’t work at a strip club until 2009. And I loved performing in both areas of stripping!! Although, there’s actually very little connecting them other than dancing naked, I feel like they really complimented each other. My strip club work really fed my burlesque performance in a positive way. I do have to say that I would never recommend it to anyone, but I am so grateful for the years I spent working in both avenues of stripping! (Editor’s note: Read Peekaboo’s entire original blog post here, if you like.)
Q: You’re headlining and teaching at the Purrlesque Festival in Greensboro, North Carolina on January 18th-19th and then you’re also a headliner at Toronto’s Girrrlesque Show on January 26-27th. It sounds like you’ll be very busy this month. What else does January have in store for you?
A: I do have a busy month! But that’s actually been pretty normal for me lately. I travel on average at least one weekend a month! I love to travel and visit other burlesque communities. It makes my soul happy to teach workshops and meet other performers. I love it.
As far as what else is in store for January…there’ll be a focus on resting up, snuggling with my kitties, taking dance classes, and of course doing my regular shows in NYC.
Q: February 1-3 is the Minneapolis Burlesque Festival, where you’ll be a featured performer and instructor. What are you looking forward to most about the festival?
A: I’m really looking forward to spending time with friends that I don’t get to see very often! And hopefully there’ll be lots of snow!!! I love the snow, so I’ll be very disappointed if I go to Minneapolis and it doesn’t snow.
Q: Are there any other upcoming projects or events you’d like to tell us about?
A: Yes! I’m so excited about it! I’m working on an evening length dance show that blends my background in choreography with my love of stripping. It’s a large project a couple years in the making, that’s interactive, narrative, personal, and really, really sexy. Stay Tuned!
Q: While reading your blog, I also learned that last fall you and your husband of 5 years divorced, and because you live in New York City, trying to find a new apartment to “start over” is not really a practical solution. I loved your attitude with your approach to completely reinventing your apartment and reclaiming it as your own. You decided to move out and move back into the same apartment in a sense – packing all your stuff, cleaning thoroughly and rearranging all the rooms and redesigning everything. Could you tell our readers about your process (I especially loved your Stripper Painting Tips!) and how it helped you during that transition?
A: I try to keep a positive outlook on life, even though it’s really hard to do sometimes. Especially when dealing with something as life changing as a divorce. I knew that the change was for the best, and that I had to make the best out of a hard decision. And if my space felt the same as it did when my husband lived here, then how would I ever move on? And so, I decided to make it as fun as possible. I have never lived alone and this was really exciting for me! I had some friends help me with this, and I pack up all of my stuff…literally…put pretty much everything in boxes then I was able to paint the apartment all new colors, then bought a new couch and a couple other pieces of furniture, new linens, and donated a lot of old stuff, then I moved back into what really did feel like a brand new apartment. It felt like mine. It ended up being a really positive experience during a time that was really difficult. Then, after my apartment was all put together and I was settled into my space, I got a new kitten to be friends with my fluffy white cat! It turned out to be a really great year! (Editor’s note: Read about her entire process here in her original blog post.)
Q: Your performance résumé and accolades are impressive and you’ve traveled extensively. Care to share some of your fondest memories from your burlesque career (either onstage or off, locally or touring?)
A: Oh man, I don’t know…I love ever moment of my career, I don’t even know where to begin!
This past summer’s tour of Australia with the Australian Burlesque Festival sticks out as one of my favorite recent moments. I always love traveling no matter what the gig, but this summer I was partnered up with another performer who I had never met before, Anna Fur Laxis. I knew that we were going to be rooming together for a few weeks, and I was really hoping that we were going to get along! You never know how those situations are going to work out, but I honestly could not have asked for a better tour roomie! The first night in our room together we stayed up almost all night talking forgetting about our horrendous jetlag. I made a friend that tour that I will hopefully have for the rest of my life! We had so much fun together for the entire trip, and even got tattoos together! Then, when we met up with the other 2 headliners Coco Framboise and LouLou D’vil it became even better. It really was like we were filming the feel-good-chick-flick of the year about showgirls bonding on the road. It was fantastic!
Q: Do you have any advice to offer for aspiring performers?
A: My biggest advice for new performers is to take risks! Don’t imitate what you’ve seen before- make something new, make it your own!! It’s our job as artists to innovate and excel the art form.
And… it doesn’t matter how many rhinestones you have…You should be able to entertain and enchant your audience with no costume at all. If it doesn’t work without the costume, it doesn’t work. It’s all about your passion for what you are doing onstage, if you’re passionate and you love what you do, your audience will love you too!
Q: What’s next for Peekaboo Pointe?
A: I want to keep on doing what I’ve been doing for the last 10 years, performing and creating. I love what I do! I’d love to tour Asia…