Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Adventures in Burlesque: the naming of cats

You only get to call yourself Kitten if you can live up to it...
I got very stressed by burlesque a while back. Actually, that's not true: I think I was disappointed at the show I was due to be in getting cancelled, and then pressure in other parts of my life manifested as a dissatisfaction with burlesque because that was about the only part of my life I could just drop, so I seriously considered dropping it. However, it seemed stupid to give up when I'd spent so long learning, so I decided to stick with it, and I'm so glad I did. I'm really enjoying classes again.

I think part of it is getting to know my fellow students better. I find the room full of people less intimidating, and I feel more part of things. Also, we've moved on to developing our stage personae. I've enjoyed that immensely, though coming up with a name was hard – T S Eliot may have written 'The naming of cats is a difficult matter', but he'd never tried to name a burlesquer. That's a difficult matter. In a way, you're bringing out your fantasy self, which is hard enough, before you start piling other significances onto your choice of name.

I initially wanted to be Sabrina Seagoon, an in-joke for Goon Show fans, but I was told in no uncertain terms that Sabrina was a 'young' name and I am no Sabrina! If that sounds harsh, it felt bad at first because being told anything's 'not for you' can be hurtful, especially if you're considered too old for it. However, Dulcie's keen for us to get the right names, ones we can work with and that aren't clich├ęs (anything involving 'von' would get kicked to the kerb immediately, not that any of us wanted to use that). And she's right to be firm, because there are lots of forgettable names on the circuit, and also a name carries expectations of performance style: you know just from their names that Vicky Butterfly will be dainty while Dirty Martini is rather raunchy. On top of that, if you're going to have a pro/semi pro/amateur career of any length, not that I'm going to, you need a name you can age and develop with. Being a cheesecake cutie called Bebe is fine when you're 20, but it's all a bit Baby Jane when you hit 40... Short version: I listened to Dulcie, and dropped Sabrina Seagoon.

After lots of names that failed to meet my teacher's high standards, one I'd thought of and forgotten came back to me and Dulcie loved it. And what is my (more Eliot!) 'ineffable effable/ Effanineffable/ Deep and inscrutable singular Name'? I am going to be MAI CARAMBA! Mai's even got a biography...

Travellers claim to have encountered Mai Caramba sailing down the Irrawaddy river, smoking cohibas in a backstreet bar in Old Havana, and buying cheap champanska in St Petersburg. She admits nothing, though she does deny ever dating George Clooney, says the stories about minor European royals fighting for one of her discarded stockings are all lies, and claims to have been nowhere near Cannes on the night of the £89 million jewel heist. All you can know for sure about this international woman of mystery is that she is here for you tonight.

The best bit is, it's all true. I have indeed done, or not done, all those things.

Now I have a Name, I need to get to know Mai better: how she moves, what her style is. Initially I'd been inspired by classic adventure stories and had her down as a sort of female Dick Barton, but the more I think of it, the more she fits in with the spy-fi lover in me, so I think I'll end up drawing more inspiration from Alexandra Bastedo in The Champions, Modesty Blaise (the 60s fictional character, not to be confused with famous burlesquer Immodesty Blaise) and the tougher Bond girls. So far it hasn't impacted on my stagewear, though my debut routine will be 60s-inspired anyhow, but I do have strong feelings about how Mai Caramba dresses when she's offstage. She's more strongly 60s than me, with brighter colours and bolder patterns. Dare I say it, possibly a bit Tara Thornton. (I know she was the least entertaining of the female Avengers, but she did have some splendid outfits.) I suppose I need to work out how to carry that over into stagewear.

Knowing Mai makes me want to learn some additional skills, to fit in with her character. Foreign dance steps, perhaps. Something acrobatic. Finding time to learn will be tricky, so perhaps a couple of teach-yourself DVDs are in order... If you know of any good ones, feel free to recommend them.

26 comments :

  1. I love it!

    I have absolutely no advice for you, as I don't know anything about burlesque, but I'll cheer you on and wish you all the best.

    So you didn't want to go with, "Tits Eliot" eh?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Tits Eliot is *fab*.

      Burlesque is an odd sort of hobby, but I am having fun with it.

      Delete
  2. Fantastic name! I know nothing about burlesque although it always looks like great fun but what the name conjures up for me is maracas, shimmying and lots of rolling of the tongue!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. On the surface it's basically posh stripping - Dita von Teese is probably the best-known exponent currently. However, there's a lot more to it than that; there's a mix of homage and parody on top, and if you're going to 'do' something you need to know the subject you're burlesquing.

      My dance teacher does have a giant pair of maracas for her Carmen Miranda routine. They're giant because Carmen was less than 5 feet tall, but my teacher is quite tall, so the giant maracas are to make her look tiny. (Knowing the subject!)

      Delete
  3. Wonderful! I can see Mai sashaying, holding a cigar in her ample bosom and doing a bit of Tango legwork!

    Have you been watching Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries? There's a burlesque episode where Miss Fisher plays a South American stripper who wears one of those classic black Spanish hats, you might look good in one of those.

    Can you learn to throw knives?!

    xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can throw darts...

      Something like knife throwing or whipwork is something I've been considering. I ought to ask my teacher if she knows of those or any local dance classes that might suit - all I've found is pole and aerial, which is good but not really in character (well, some of the aerial might be). Tango would be good! Maybe I'll have to get myself some dance DVDs from Amazon...

      Delete
  4. Love the name and the back story. Look forward to hearing more of your burlesque adventures, makes me think I should have kept up mine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad I didn't give it up. Did you go on stage at all, or were you still at the learning stage when you stopped?

      Delete
  5. It took me ages to tear my eyes away from those gorgeous kittens of yours.
    I'm glad you carried on with your burlesque and I love the sound of Mai Caramba and her back story especially as I'm a Modesty Blaise fan. xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are adorable, aren't they? I'm the equivalent of one of those obsessed new parents, I keep wanting to go, "LOOK THEY HAVE FOUR LEGS? HAVE YOU EVER SEEN ANYTHING WITH FOUR LEGS? AND OMG THEY EAT STUFF, CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?" They were really cuddly last night, so perhaps the fireworks were good for them...

      Delete
  6. Glad you're enjoying it more now, great name! I have nominated you for the Liebster award, hoping you haven't already done it!
    http://pearlsandpurlsvintage.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/liebster-award.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oooh, ta! I have been getting behind on my blog reading again...

      Delete
  7. What a good thing you didn't hang up your ostrich feathers! Very happy to hear you have rediscovered burlesque mojo - it's all in the name, obviously. (Mojo would make a good burlesque moniker, don't you reckon?)
    Mai Carumba sounds like a fearless and feisty sort, she won't have any trouble with saucy moves and killer costume removal, I'm sure. Goodness only knows what Tits Eliot would do for her routine... xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oooh, mojo would be good. My favourite current name of anyone working the circuit is 'Cherry Shakewell', which is just a fab name.

      I think Tits Eliot would have to burlesque a lot of classic literature. An Ophelia routine with lots of flowers, or an homage to Jane Austen. The routine I'm working on for my debut is Avengers themed. (Steed and Peel, obvs, not Marvel superheroes) I've also got one to the tune of Alice Cooper's 'Welcome to my nightmare' in my head.

      Delete
  8. Love the name! With a name like that you deserve your own range of trashy (but not that trashy) pulp spy novels!

    Mai Caramba and the Stilettoes of Doom!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe one of us should write them. :-D

      (Though at the speed I write, and given my general lack of literary talent, that should probably be you - my idea for Test Match Special Agent, a comedy novel about a cricket commentator employed by MI6, never went anywhere...)

      Delete
    2. You should totally do that it sounds like a fab idea!

      Delete
  9. Also the kitties are soooo cute!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are gorgeous. I'm so glad we got them.

      Delete
  10. Fabulous name, can't wait to set eyes on Mai xxx

    Oh and kittens!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. KITTENS!

      I do love my tiny cats. Every time they get a little bit braver and friendlier it feels like a MASSIVE achievement. They've gone from tiny, cowering, wild things to cuddly little monsters.

      Delete
  11. I like the sound of Mai, the little biography really sets the scene!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We all do biographies of sorts. It's a good exercise, it helps work out an overall personal style.

      Delete
  12. LOVE your burlesque name, it really suits you and I think it will be a great one. Your back story is fab. Glad that you never gave it up. It is nice to get away from the mundane for a while. Looking forward to hearing about all your adventures. The cats are beautiful. Xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I realised yesterday that it's my graduation dance in March, and after that the adventures will probably end. That makes me rather sad.

      Delete
  13. That's awesome! Thank you for sharing a heartfelt look at what into your new moniker, dear Mim. It's a real gem of a stage name!

    ♥ Jessica

    ReplyDelete