Queen Scene

Brandy’s burlesque

When my friend Annie said she had bought me a ticket to accompany her to a Burlesque show, I have to admit, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

I’d never experienced Burlesque before and took my seat at the Adam Smith excited and with an open mind.

The revue, organised by the wonderful Brandy Monmatre from Fife, blew me away.

The artistry, the humour, the creativity, the costumes and the dance content was amazing.

And of course, I wanted to find out more about the force of nature behind the show about what led her to discover the art form of Burlesque. Here are her words...

Pic by Lorraine Ross

What led you to discover burlesque?

I’ve been interested in pin ups and ’50’s fashion since I was a teenager and around 2004, my sister showed me a video of Dita Von Teese performing.

I remember thinking the way she moved and removed her corset was magical. I also thought ‘that will never be me.’

I remained interested in burlesque from then on, but it wasn’t until 2014 when I started going to a touring show in Edinburgh called the Burlesque Ball (which no longer exists) that my passion for burlesque was reignited.

I went to stage school for a few hours a week when I was younger and in 2014 I was looking for a way to get back on stage, and I saw burlesque as my way of doing that.

I saw it as a wonderful platform to express yourself and celebrate your body, mainly run by women.

Lucky break

The way I got into burlesque was quite lucky: I was on the dancefloor at the Burlesque Ball and I realised that the producers of the show were watching me, so I danced harder.

My photo was then posted as the profile photo for their Facebook page, and I thanked them, got chatting online and eventually they offered me a slot in their show. (pic on left by Omar Salam On the Road Photography)

My second ever performance was in The Burlesque Ball in Glasgow, which was a professional show, and an unreal opportunity. I haven’t looked back since!

What do you love most about it?

I love the creativity involved, and seeing how other people are creative with their performances too.

If you’re watching a professional show, everything you see is decided by the performer onstage.

The performer has absolute creative control over their act – costume, lighting, choreography and music is all down to the individual you see performing.

In this way it is a very authentic form of self expression. I also love that burlesque is a celebration of your body as it is, and affirmation that it does not need to change – you are beautiful the way you are.

It doesn’t matter if you have any so-called ‘imperfections,’ if you have the confidence to project a message of self-love and ownership of your own sensuality and sexuality then you’re bound to be a very powerful burlesque performer.

It’s wonderful that I get to see people of all shapes and sizes owning it in their performances, I believe this is the most positive and powerful thing (and the thing I love most) about burlesque and what it can do for people who watch it.

My audiences are mainly made up of women too. A good burlesque performance relies heavily on a connection with the audience, there is no fourth wall.  

When a performer is up there not giving a hoot about the perfect ‘imperfections’ all of our bodies have, something magic happens – members of the audience feel better about their own bodies too. I love being able to spread that message.

Pic by Omar Salam, On the Road Photography

What stereotypes would you like to dispel?

This is a tricky one.

The stereotype I would like to dispel here is that burlesque is classier (in other words better) than stripping.

It isn’t, it is simply different. It’s a nostalgic revival of vintage striptease with its tongue firmly in its cheek, which is coy by modern standards and therefore more widely socially acceptable in modern times, but marginalised back in the day.

I feel that people may think of burlesque as stereotypically either the movie ‘Burlesque’ (it really isn’t) or Dita.

It is so much more than feathers and rhinestones, there are literally no rules. It is a very varied form of entertainment, there’s burlesque focused on comedy, there’s also nerdlesque which is based on characters from popular culture; there’s gorelesque that focuses on horror… and so much more.  

There is often the opinion that burlesque is not related to stripping of the kind you may find in a strip club.

I have struggled with this myself in the past, until I made my peace with my own internalised misogyny and grew as a result.

Burlesque is markedly quite different to stripping in a strip club, but that doesn’t make it superior in my opinion.

Burlesque is a parody, and pokes fun at sex (but can also be quite sexy), whereas stripping primarily aims to titillate its mostly male audience.

There is also distance between the performer and the audience in burlesque and performers are paid per act, in strip clubs it’s much more intimate and focused on private dances.  

Striptease in burlesque has its roots in American burlesque shows of the ’20’s, and the heyday of burlesque was from the ’20’s – ’50’s.

Modern burlesque was primarily started by a group of strippers in the US who were nostalgic for the burlesque shows of the ’20’s – ’50s’, with the glamour that entails.

Interestingly, burlesque did not die out in the ’50’s, it evolved into modern strip clubs.

Burlesque and modern stripping operate in two different spheres; and expectations are very different.

In burlesque you don’t have to remove anything if you don’t want to; it’s about the tease, and showing the audience less than they actually thought they saw.

In that way I see burlesque, in some ways, as quite a coy parody of stripping aimed at all genders with a very different end goal.

Dancers in burlesque will almost always wear a g-string and nipple pasties, so there is no full nudity.

Everyone can enjoy it, and it laughs at itself. It can be sexy, funny, subversive, witty and satirical – sometimes all at once. It really has to be seen before you judge it.

Pic by Max Crawford

What’s next?

I will be bringing my show, the Twilight Tease Burlesque Revue, back to the Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy on 25th January 2020.

Tickets are available via the ONFife website.

I’ve cast performers from all over the UK, included star of Britain’s Got Talent, Kath Morgan-Thompson (who performed as Theresa May in the last season). There’s something for everyone (over 18), including lots of laughs, glitz, glamour and tricks. Come join us to celebrate our 2nd Birthday in style! It would be wonderful to see you there.

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