It has been 6 sparkly weeks that I’ve been attending Toronto School of Burlesque classes. That is 6 fun filled Sundays spent shaking, shimmying and sparkling. We practiced pulls, peels and presentations. Six weeks of working towards a very revealing performance. Picking names, creating personas and finessing our formats. It’s been a grueling end of term.
What’s in a name- Let me introduce you to Gracie Klutz, the beautiful disaster. She’s all those bits of me that drive me crazy. The first bite of dinner that luges down the front of my nice dress. She’s the booger in my nose. The loveable try-hard who never gets it quite right. They say that art imitates life, and write what you know. I know the mess shoved in the closet that spills out every time it opens. I know stepping in dog poop. I also think it’s funny when people fall down. I think that falling montages set to classic rock tunes are pretty much the best thing since, well ever. So, you may not think it’s fitting or flattering but just wait, and I’ll inadvertently prove you wrong. Artist- know thyself. And it’s taken a very long time for me to accept who I am, so putting her on stage, well, that’s huge.
Back to My graduation assignment; should I choose to accept: French maid. I didn’t relate to it. I was uninspired by the worn out archetype. Pretty girl in black and white, feather dusting…Oh la la lame. It’s such a stereotype. And I am anything but stereotypical, almost stereotypically so. I spent a week wrestling with the idea, looking for french-piration…then I broke it down. The archetype itself is the service woman and I have always been fond of laundry (which, stills sits at #8 on my to do list). So I thought what about airing dirty laundry. I stumbled into the Andrews Sisters collection and found a song called “Scrub me Mama, with a boogie beat”; eventually settling for this version’s diction. I love clear diction;) And the #WishyWash Woman was born.
Fast forward- through classes on poise and character, a trip to Disney, my Hubby’s increasing acceptance and some solid procrastination until it was the night before the big game. I had practised. I had trouble-shooted…trouble-shot?…tried to dream up the worst case scenarios and create my contingency plans and their contingency plans etc. I was integrating the notes from previous passes. I had completed 3 run throughs with a-typical ease. It was then I should have known something was wrong.
I arrived early to be greeted by the bark of a Burly-Mom, which is kinda like a dance mom only better. Her tone telling me more than her words: Play time was over and we’re getting down to business. Ladies start your engines, it’s time to begin. My class started with 9 girls and was whittled down to the measly 5; of which I am the tallest, by 3 heads or 2/3’s of a leg depending on empirical or metric. It was time to dress and present. Now, what people forget about burlesque is that it may not take that long to take those lovely layers off, but it takes a heck of a long time to put them on, make sure they’re flat, they aren’t pointing, poking or pinchy, it’s a production before we even begin. Then sitting there excited for the show to start I almost forgot it would eventually be my turn. I was just happy to be invited. When my stage name was called I forgot who I was…until it all rushed back to me. I am the #WishyWash woman from Harlem in 1941. All my knots were tied. All my zippers were zipped. I took a breathe and stood up. My music started and it all fell apart.
Right off the hop I hit rock bottom. The first prop was the hardest, that amazing vintage washboard was abandoned and over-shadowed by unscripted hijinx
1. My sexy headscarf got caught in my hair and over my eyes throwing me off balance
2. The ties on my apron which wouldn’t stay tied last time wouldn’t untie, forcing me to slip awkwardly out the arm hole
3. My ironically unsexy rubber boots were vacuum sealed to my sweaty bare legs, tipping me ass over tea-kettle and flailing across the stage only to then shoot like yellow missiles in opposite directions
4. Topped off with the burlesque world’s worst nightmare: The dreaded Zipper stick- it was stuck halfway between indicate and reveal. It wouldn’t go up over my head or down over my hips: Stuck between my rocks and a wide place I struggled, wiggled and yanked to little avail
1. Giving great face
2. Remembering the sexy beats around the disasters
3. Staying in character…good thing my character is so clumsy and surprised
Finally, righting this sinking ship I found myself exactly where I was choreographed to be and revealed my final peel with the last orchestration flourish- almost as if on cue. The feelings blanketing my body; a strange mixture of anger, embarrassment, confusion and relief. And as badly as it went, I think I stumbled onto another routine. To be aptly named: The Gracie Shuffle. As there is no video, you will have to take my word for it. But why would I lie about disaster like that? Even though it was a disaster. It was Gracie Klutz: a beautiful disaster. You won’t be able to look away.