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.