What?! There’s Burlesque There? Part III: North Dakota

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Bad Weather Burlesque talks burly-q in North Dakota.

Queerfest2014: Queerfest was produced by Bad Weather Burlesque as an all-Fargo entertainer fundraiser for the Pride Collective Community Center. Pictured back row R-L: Brick Smash, Mia Starr, Sinfull Siren, Charlie Valentine, Myst Eerious Mr. P, Jack Fantom, Enchanting Erica. Front Row: Miss Kitty, BJ Armani, Bender !Flames!, Tansy Tassels. Photo courtesy Douglas Klettke

Queerfest2014: Queerfest was produced by Bad Weather Burlesque as an all-Fargo entertainer fundraiser for the Pride Collective Community Center. Pictured back row R-L: Brick Smash, Mia Starr, Sinfull Siren, Charlie Valentine, Myst Eerious Mr. P, Jack Fantom, Enchanting Erica. Front Row: Miss Kitty, BJ Armani, Bender !Flames!, Tansy Tassels. Photo courtesy Douglas Klettke

Q: What is the population of Fargo, ND?

A: 113,658 in Fargo proper; 223,490 in the Fargo-Moorhead metro area and surrounding communities.

Q: Please tell us a little about the beginning of Bad Weather Burlesque?  When/where/how?  Describe your style.

A: Bad Weather Burlesque was founded in 2010. Amanda Standalone formed the group with The Alabaster Disaster and Anytime Jones after collaborating on other shows and performing at the Best of Midwest Burlesque. The first major production of BWB was Cindryelley, a burlesque retelling of Cinderella, which was a theatrical production interspersed with variety acts like music, comedy, belly dancing and hooping. It was originally a classic Vaudeville-style variety show. With the addition of new members the group then evolved to add more of a rockabilly/pinup style and did shows in conjunction with a monthly classic car show during the summer. As the years have gone by those original members have moved on to other things, but have passed on the torch to new members. With the addition of more male performers, and more performers with a music and theater background, we boast everything from feathers and silk to a burlesque tribute to Silence of the Lambs. We incorporate bellydance, drag and occasionally hoop/flow artists. Anything goes and we are full of surprises!

Bender !Flames! performs at Queerfest 2014. Photo courtesy Nate Mickelberg Images

Bender !Flames! performs at Queerfest 2014. Photo courtesy Nate Mickelberg Images

Q: Do you have a local burlesque community to speak of?  With their being little, if any, burlesque in your town and/or state, how do you stay inspired and how do remain informed of issues/evolutions in the burlesque community?

A: Bad Weather Burlesque was the first burlesque troupe in ND, and the only one to incorporate boylesque. We are now one of two troupes in Fargo so it’s a growing community. Since there are still so few of us we’ve become a burlesque family. We inspire each other, give feedback and share skills. We also have friends in the drag, bellydance and pole fitness communities. They are great inspiration, and collaborators. We all help each other grow.

One of our members noted that there is an advantage in being a bit isolated, in that you are not distracted by what everyone else is doing, and your acts become more of a reflection of yourself rather than the scene at large. But then you wonder if what you are doing is completely nuts. Our general rule is that there is no wrong way to burlesque.

We are also lucky to be fairly close to Minneapolis/St. Paul, where there is a thriving burly-q community, and we have friends in that area as well as St. Cloud, MN. BWB often brings in guest performers too, like Scarlett Revolver, Bombshell LaBelle, Paco Fish, Jeez Loueez, Tomahawk Tassels, Black Hearts Burlesque and the Stage Door Johnnies. We rely a lot on the internet – Facebook and YouTube – to keep up to date on the global scene. But it’s not the same as seeing it in person.

Q: Do you travel often to see burlesque?

Some of our members are able to travel to the Twin Cities and St. Cloud, MN to see shows and perform with our burlesque friends there. When there are so many miles in between we have to make an effort to travel.

Sinfull Siren, performing at the All-iday Show, Dec. 20, 2014. Photo courtesy Douglas Klettke

Sinfull Siren, performing at the All-iday Show, Dec. 20, 2014. Photo courtesy Douglas Klettke

Q: How have your audiences responded to your shows?  Was it slow growth in audience numbers or a big boom from go?   Is there a pattern among your audience (mostly male or female/ age/ socioeconomic class)

The Fargo/Moorhead area has three colleges and a thriving downtown nightlife. We’ve been really lucky to have a great audience from the beginning, and it is always growing. We have a fairly even gender split among fans, who are mostly in their 20’s and 30’s, but range all the way up to the 60’s. We have a pretty hip crowd, and they like to be surprised and challenged by what we have to offer.

One of the best things about our fans is the great response we get for charity shows. If our proceeds are going to a good cause you can bet the house will be packed and people will be generous with their tips. It’s really very moving, and our audience inspires us to do our best always.

Q: Is education an uphill battle?  Have you had any push-back involving your town at large/venues/ or the law?

Occasionally we do run into someone who doesn’t like “that sort of thing.” In terms of the general public that is usually an individual basis. The population is not large enough for anyone to be an entertainer as a full-time job so we all have day jobs of course. Some of our members have to be really careful about their employers or colleagues finding out too much. It can feel like leading a double-life sometimes. We have lost a member or two because of that concern. However, a lot of people are at least open to talking with us, and we have to explain a lot about what we do. We have been employed by both large and small venues for a variety of events. Fargo is more diverse and open than one might imagine.

 

Oxford Snow, 3rd Annual Naughty Novice Night, 2014. Photo: Nate Mickelberg Images

Oxford Snow, 3rd Annual Naughty Novice Night, 2014. Photo: Nate Mickelberg Images

Q: Any interesting blue laws you have to work around? 

North Dakota’s Century Code prohibits the regulation of stripping (as free speech), so we have not really had many issues yet. Our sister city of Moorhead, MN has an ordinance that requires strippers to be licensed, and West Fargo, ND has such an ordinance up for review by the Attorney General. When members travel to Grand Forks, ND for shows we are even more restricted in what we can show. This is more in response to concerns about human trafficking than prudishness. That’s not to say there is no prude factor at all, but it is not necessarily the reason for the laws. For the most part, as long as we keep our pasties on and our cracks covered we are OK. We’ve never been hassled by authorities. They’ve actually been pretty nice to us.

Q: What are the pros and cons of running a burlesque troupe in a smaller town/state?

The pros of running a burlesque troupe in a smaller city are that we’re unusual fare. You can see a band anytime, but if you miss one of our shows you might have to wait a while to see another. One of our members described it as being like a special holiday.

The cons are that it is difficult to find new members, and to find appropriate venues. We often have to use storage rooms and employee break areas for changing our costumes. That may not be a problem that is specific to small communities though. Also, if we go outside of Fargo proper, like to Moorhead or Grand Forks, we have to be conscious of the restrictions on bodily exposure as they are different in different locations.

Fargo Pride Parade 2014, Left to Right: Tansy Tassels, Myst Eerious Mr. P, Enchanting Erica, Cheeky Delight, Bender !Flames!, Eric W., Charlie Valentine, Lily Vino. Front: Franklin the dog. Photo courtesy Douglas Klettke

Fargo Pride Parade 2014, Left to Right: Tansy Tassels, Myst Eerious Mr. P, Enchanting Erica, Cheeky Delight, Bender !Flames!, Eric W., Charlie Valentine, Lily Vino. Front: Franklin the dog. Photo courtesy Douglas Klettke

Q: Do you feel under recognized in the national scene?  What are three things you want everyone to know about Fargo, North Dakota burlesque?

A: We don’t necessarily feel like we would have more or less attention than any other smallish city troupe. If there is anything that really sets us apart it is our boylesquers. We were able to do an all-male review one year, and it was a smashing success!

3 things everyone should know about burlesque in North Dakota?

  1. Burlesque is thriving in Fargo, and we all put our hearts and souls into our acts.
  2. Performers come from all walks of life – teachers, students, artists, office workers, IT, etc.
  3. Fargo is a lot more open, diverse and cultured than most people realize. Come up and see us sometime!

Q: What are three troupe goals for 2015?

In 2015 Bad Weather Burlesque wants to:

  1. Create a stronger business entity
  2. Continue to recruit new members
  3. Find new venues

Want More?  Part 1: Alaska , Part II: Montana

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