Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Nights Out

Well this has been a lovely week! I began in grand style by joining a gym! It's something I've intended to do for a long time but kept putting it off, however with January being the traditional month of joining gyms and starting diets, I thought I would submit to the cliche and sign up.
The first couple of days I ached so much I could barely walk! It brings to mind this Dara O'Braian sketch:

But over the next couple of days I started to get into the rhythm of it, and since I can go to Pilates and Yoga classes there too, as well as have a dip in the pool after my workout, it's definitely worth it!

On Thursday I enjoyed a rare night out at Volupte Lounge watching Dave-The-Bear's show, which was lovely though it's strange to be there without a giant suitcase in tow!

Dave-The-Bear and Dave-The-Band on-stage at Volupte

On Friday and Saturday I was performing at the beautiful Proud Cabaret, and, in the words of a fellow performer "We smashed the back doors off some Cabaret!" The audiences were perfect, the line-ups were fabulous and everything simply worked. Mat Ricardo commented that it was the best audience he had performed to in a long time, and the comments from everyone after the show were wonderful! I definitely came away on a complete show high!

Mirror Picture! Friday Night with Taz, Dan, Ruby Deshabille, Scarlett Belle, Mat Ricardo, Michael Standen and Neil Lewis

Mirror Pictures! Saturday Night with Slinky Sparkles, Michael Standen, Mat Ricardo, Taz, Dan, Missy Fatale and Kai Hoffman

On Sunday I had a lovely treat with a massive Sunday dinner at one of my favourite restaurants BoDean's in the City. **So much food!**

BoDean's Sunday dinner

Monday afternoon was something I've been looking forward to for a long time - the Big Burlesque... Tea Party! A whole host of Cabaret lovelies took themselves off to the glorious Kettners in Soho for High Tea and champagne, and it was wonderful!

High Tea at Kettners

However, in true Burlesque Night Out style, it rapidly descended into carnage as we moved on to the Coach and Horses pub where we took full advantage of the piano... oh dear...

Luke Meredith having a good ol' fashioned knees up

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Quick Blog

I've delayed this blog for longer than I usually would as I've had quite an annoying weekend and didn't want to post anything I might later regret (earlier drafts of this blog prove that point!

The weekend started off with so much promise: my January has, so far, been pretty damn good to be honest - I've had a lot of fabulous shows, started work on exciting new acts, costumes and concepts, a couple of exciting developments, and it was even snowing!

On Friday I even had an audition - the first in a long time! Obviously I don't know whether I'm even through to the recalls but I miss the feeling of an audition: the nerves in the waiting area, the adrenaline rush when your music starts and that euphoria when you know you've nailed it. I'll let you know if I hear anything.

That evening I joined the gorgeous Tempest Rose at Volupte Lounge for a lovely show with some of my favourite people. The weather had put a lot of people off leaving their houses for the evening (the radio was warning people to leave work early because of expected blizzards!) but our audience was perfectly enthusiastic and lovely. Leonie and I even got a round of applause as we headed to the bar after the show!

Mirror Picture! With Tempest Rose, Dolly Rose, Leonie Soprano and Tina

Saturday, by complete contrast, was a complete write off. I'm not going into details but suffice to say it was one of the most annoying days I've had in a long time.

Sunday redeemed itself as I took myself to the Hammersmith Vintage Fair - I didn't buy anything but I love having a rummage around the beautiful clothes, hats, sparklies and furs on offer! And we got to walk through Hammersmith in the blizzarding snow which was really lovely, and shelter in a gorgeous little cafe with plenty of food and coffee - perfect Sunday!

This week has begun quite well, so hopefully it will make up for the annoyances of the last few days and I can be back to my usual upbeat self soon!

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Interview - Tempest Rose

Tempest Rose is one of the most exciting and multi-skilled showgirl artists in the world, specialising in entertaining, theatrical style Burlesque which harks back to the golden age of stars like Gypsy Rose Lee and Mae West.
An international, award winning, 5-star performer with a string of prestigious credits to her name, Tempest Rose also possesses a stunning, critically acclaimed ‘ snap, crackle and jazz’ singing voice and more on stage pizzazz than a barrel of dynamite . She is resident star and choreographer for the award winning, critically acclaimed Circus Burlesque and UK Touring show Shipwrecked and Director of The House of Burlesque.
Miss Tempest Rose is a firm believer in burlesque’s ability to inspire, uplift, entertain and dazzle audiences worldwide and she has been making a jaw-dropping career out of doing just that.

Photographer: Scott Chalmers

What was your first experience of Burlesque or Cabaret, and what convinced you to start yourself?

I began my career as a professionally trained musical theatre and classical actress and discovered the wonderful world of burlesque totally by accident when I was asked to audition for the prestigious burlesque cabaret troupe The Kitten Club. I went to see the show at Volupte and was blown away by the intelligence, sensuality, humour and confidence the performers had. Here for the first time was an art form that allowed women to be sexy, powerful, satirical, playful, comedic and intelligent all at the same time and that was only limited by the performers' imagination....and I wanted to be apart of it!

Photographer: Dress Me Up and Shoot Me

You run 'House of Burlesque' in London which produces several shows – how did the company begin and how has it evolved?

House of Burlesque was started by Lola La Belle a few years ago, who I met in the beginning of 2010 and now lives and works in New York. Straight from our first meeting we got on like a house on fire as we shared a lot of the same ideas, hopes and frustrations about performing and the industry. In the summer of that year we took HOB show Circus Burlesque to Edinburgh; the show was a massive success and off the back of that we launched Shipwrecked! in it's Madame Jojos residency as soon as we returned to London. Since then HOB has gone from strength to strength with Burlesque Idol about to start its 4th year, Shipwrecked on a UK Theatre Tour and this summer we were also resident at The Priceless London Wonderground alongside our other London residencies at Volupte and Madame Jojos and projects such as running the LGBT stage at Erotica last year. Its been amazing to watch everything grow over time and I wont lie there have definitely been stressful moments, but its been worth it.

Photographer: Click Click Boom Boom

Who are your biggest influences/inspirations?

I make no secret of the fact that I am utterly inspired by Gypsy Rose Lee who's life and opinions on Burlesque fascinate me. She was a unique performer and a clever business woman. Mae West is of course another inspiration. I am also inspired by the producers who have helped shape my career and offered me tireless support and advice and indebted to the performers who were here when I started who worked tirelessly to start the industry we now have in London today.

Tempest counts Gypsy Rose Lee and Mae West among her influences

Tell us a little about your favourite experiences so far

The first Shipwrecked tour show at Theatre Royal Newcastle this year was an amazing experience. To see something that had been so long in the making and had so much of my heart in it blossom on the stage of such a prestigious venue in front of such a wonderful crowd was very special. My other favourite for 2012 was performing at The Priceless London Wonderground this summer, such a stunning venue and wonderful crew. There have been other amazing honours for this year, let alone over the past 5.5 years in burlesque it would take too long to mention them all but I am thankful for each and everyone of them and for all the HOB artists and mentors who have helped me along the way.

Photographer Credit: Click Click Boom Boom

Tell me something no one would suspect about you

I'm really a short bald man named Todd, no Jim, no definitely Todd.

Paris Burlesque Festival

Finally, any words of advice for newcomers to the scene?

Sure, the industry you see today was created from almost nothing by a handful of dedicated performers and promoters. Take the time to find out where your UK scene came from and see the huge body of work that is being performed on your doorstep. Once you know what is out there its much easier to find your place in it and to bring something unique.

Photographer: Scott Chalmers

More Tempest

Sunday, 13 January 2013

On The Road Again

This weekend has been a wonderful whirlwind of shows and adventures! On Thursday afternoon I met with the the gorgeous Chrys Columbine for a late Christmas lunch on Portobello Road and we whiled away several hours at my favourite bistro 'Goode and Wright', with wine, champagne and lovely food. 
That evening I went to the Royal Vauxhall Tavern to watch Tricity Vogues new musical 'Heels of Glory' and it was great fun: a witty script, catchy songs and so many of the London Cabarati turned up, it was truly wonderful. It was also Tricitys birthday, so what better excuse for a bit of a party?!
After the show, on a whim, I headed over the the glorious Hippodrome Casino with Millie Dollar, for 'Boom and Bang Circus' and was completely blown away by the amazing line-up! I especially loved seeing Laurie Hagens incredible reverse striptease live, and watching one of my favourite performers, Johan Lipovich, live for the first time as I am a huge fan, and watching the world premier of Dott Cottons new act which was a fabulously executed tribute to the music-hall star 'Little Titch'. I also met the legendary Klare 'Ya Ya' Wilkinson for the first time; it's so nice meeting people that I've heard so much about and seen so much of their work, then they are just as lovely as you hope they will be (and she has the *best* laugh ever!)

Friday I was back on tour for the New Year with 'The Burlesque Show'! It's back, and bigger and more spectacular than ever before!

The Burlesque Show

We began at the beautiful Buxton Opera House; an absolutely stunning venue! 

Buxton Opera House

The show was hosted by Kiki Kaboom, and, alongside Elliot Mason and Elan Kosuk, also featured a variety of amazing performers including the Mazeppa Cossaks, Ed Muir and the gorgeous Carrie-Ann. One of the highlights of the night for me was watching Glorian Grays 'Trampoline Striptease' which was joyfully inspirational and hysterically funny!

Mirror Pictures! Sharing a dressing room with Carrie-Ann ** With Ed Muir, James Malach and Glorian Gray

After the show we headed to our hotel for the evening, and I can honestly say it is one of the most bonkers places I've ever stayed: magazine covers and articles covered the walls, mingling with framed portraits of silver-screen actors and matinee idols; glass cases held displays of stuffed toys, kinder-egg prizes and lego models; marionette puppet dioramas lined the shelves and the bar was playing Michael Jacksons Greatest Hits, projected onto a giant screen above the patio chairs and tables that served as furniture! Glorian Gray and I were staying in the 'Johnny Depp Room' - win!

Johnny Depp pictures lining the walls of our room ** The door key...

Glorian with the magazines and puppet shows ** A 'decorative' sink

The next morning we packed the cars up and headed to Northampton for the next show: this is the third time 'The Burlesque Show' has been to the Royal and Derngate Theatre, and we found out that on one of our previous visits, the show had won 'Show of the Year' for the Northampton area! So it was a sold-out, excitable crowd that awaited us that evening!

Royal and Derngate brochure

Instead of Elan, for this show we were joined by Rod Laver and Alexandra Hofgartner, which was wonderful as, not only is their double act one of my favourite routines ever, Alex is also one of my favourite people ever!

With Alexandra Hofgartner

After a hectic weekend I was happy to be heading back to London that night, and looking forward to spending a couple of relaxing days... erm... catching up on admin, filing my tax return, working on two new acts and updating two old costumes... never mind...

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

New Years Resolutions

Well we're now a couple of days into 2013! If you're anything like me you begin the year with the best intentions and set yourself resolutions that you'll probably give up on within a couple of weeks. The one resolution I set myself last year was to keep this blog, and it's the only time I saw a resolution through for a whole year! Proud!

I'm a smug kitten

I usually find that writing things down makes me more likely to stick to them, especially if they're written in a public place, as then you feel like you're letting people down if you fail or don't follow through with your intentions! So in the spirit of New Years Resolutions, here are mine for 2013...

1) Begin Dance Classes Again!
I trained in Musical Theatre and for three years took daily classes in Jazz and Ballet, and several classes a week in Tap, Ballroom, Pointe and Street Dance alongside various other complimentary dance styles and regular partner work classes. Outside of college I also went to various Hip Hop and Contemporary dance groups and took private Pole Dance classes for over two years!
However, due to various physiological issues (I was born with a shallow acetabulum) that caused me a lot of pain during my years of intense dancing, I was warned that if I continued dancing at the level I was at, I would probably be in a wheelchair by the time I was thirty! (I am also a complete klutz and injure myself constantly so there's still a chance this prediction may come true!) Added to the fact that I moved around several times over the following years, often in areas where there were no adult dance classes offered at a professional level, I let my dancing lapse, and while I took Ballet classes here and there, it is a source of great disappointment to myself that I no longer dance regularly.
So for 2013 I intend to join Pineapple Dance Studios in Covent Garden and re-join classes there! With the best intentions I would like to go to at least two Ballet and Jazz classes each week, and as my confidence re-grows, maybe go back to Street Dance and Tap classes and possibly even try out a new style I've never done before!

2) Take Horse-Riding Lessons
Yes, I know it's super-girly, Ballet and Ponies in one fell swoop, but one of the things I would love to do this year is take horse-riding lessons. There's a lovely stables not too far away from where I live, the prices are actually quite reasonable and they offer different levels of lessons from complete beginner to advanced and jump classes.
I have only been horse riding a handful of times in my life but it's always been something I've wanted to do better; I've been on a few guided treks through forests or countryside and there's something so wonderful about these magnificent animals.
It's also a very selfish resolution as it is something that is completely for myself; most of my resolutions have some kind of professional aspect to them and are quite career-centric, whereas horse riding lessons will be something I love that is totally removed from other aspects of my life. And it'll be good exercise and great fun to boot!

3) Learn A Language
Okay, not exactly a unique resolution, but sue me, they're mine! I can speak a little French and Spanish, and one or two words of Italian but I would love 2013 to be the year I become 'proficient' as opposed to just 'basic' as I'm hoping to travel abroad more this year and don't want to be a typical 'Brit Abroad'!
I love the French language; it's romantic and flowing and beautiful. I also adore Spanish for the same reason, and Italian is so musical and passionate.
It's probably not realistic to expect to learn three languages so I'll probably focus on French as it's the language I currently know more of anyway (so it's a bit of a cheat I suppose!) so it'll be easier to become more fluent, which will hopefully give me the confidence to also look at Italian and Spanish too!

4) Apply for International Festivals
I'm a little bit scared of competitions and things like that, for a couple of reasons; for a start, Burlesque styles are so unique to each performer that I don't really see how they can be judged and compared as one being 'better' than another. Also, I'm scared that I'll be shit and make a tit of myself on an international stage, which petrifies me!
However, New Years Resolutions are all about achieving things and conquering fears, so in the spirit of this I have decided that this is the year I apply for a couple of international competitions and festivals. I probably won't even get accepted, but even just applying will mean I have conquered a fear in a little way!

And there we go - they are the goals I have set for myself in 2013. There are many, many more things I would like to achieve and so many experiences I want to have, but many of them are not really within my control. My New Years Resolutions are achievable targets that are in my sphere of influence and things that I can work on myself.

What New Years Resolutions have you set for yourself? What did you set yourself last year, and did you achieve them/maintain them for the whole year?
Comment or Tweet Me @MiaMerode

Sunday, 6 January 2013

No Rest For The Wicked

Well it has been a splendid start to the year - definitely no rest for the wicked!

Proud Cabaret - my home away from home for the weekend

The weekend began with a lovely little show on Friday evening for a small but perfectly formed audience - they were certainly enthusiastic, and with a wonderful line-up they had a lot to be enthusiastic about!

Mirror Picture! With Taz, Teddy Boylesque, Electra, Kai Hoffman and Hayley

On Saturday I was back at Proud; and don't you hate that moment when you show up in the same outfit as someone else...

For the love of Leopard Print

It was another fabulous show, with a great line-up. I even managed to get the two acts I performed that evening recorded: the leopard-print costume is for my 'Shake it Doll' act - an old routine that has recently had the costume well and truly pimped by the gorgeous Louise O'Mahony and is probably one of my favourite outfits now!

Mirror Picture! With Abi Collins, Beau Rocks, Kai Hoffman and Jolie Papillon (and Taz is in there too - hidden behind the tape on the mirror!)

I love shows at Proud as it feels like a big, albeit highly dysfunctional family. And the following day was no exception with an unprecedented number of burlesque reprobates descending on the club for an extremely random, but fun photo-shoot day!

Behind the Scenes

With two fantastically talented photographers and more performers than you could shake a swarovski-covered stick at, it was a long, tiring but very fun day and I can't wait to see the results of all of our shenanigans!

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Disney Princesses

Previous Disney Princess posts have focussed on the realism of the Princess themselves, but what about the costumes they are wearing? The Disney films are based on traditional fairy-tails, which were set in specific time periods, usually around the time they were first told. So the Princesses outfits should surely reflect the times in which they are set?

Now, artist Claire Hummel has re-imagined the Disney Princesses: creating for them beautiful gowns that fit the period the stories are based in...

Snow White
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves - 1937
A traditional Bavarian folk tale, the best known version is that of the Brothers Grimm, collected in 1812. It is set in 16th Century Germany (which is the most likely time-frame for the first appearance of the folk tale) and Hummel's version is based on fashions from the early 1500's

The origins of this story are considered to be the Ancient Greek historian Strabo in the 1st Century AD. However the most popular version comes from Charles Perrault in 1697. Ballets and Pantomimes based on the tale gained popularity in the mid-1800's and it's this period that Hummel has depicted her Cinderella wearing to the ball as it bears the most resemblance to the time-period of the Disney film.

Princess Aurora
Sleeping Beauty - 1959
Based on a classic Brothers Grimm fairy story, the first translation was by French author Charles Perrault in 1697, however it was set much earlier in Medieval Europe. Hummel's version is based on French court fashion from the late 1400's.

The Little Mermaid - 1989
Firs published as a ballet in 1837, Hummel states that Ariel's wedding gown in the Disney film with the 'embarrassing' 1980's sleeves was also reminiscent of the slash-sleeve evening gowns of the 1890's so this creation would not look out of place in a mid-century wedding dress

Beauty and the Beast - 1991
The first published version of the traditional tale 'La Belle et la Bete' appeared in France in 1740, although the abridged version gained more popularity towards the late 1700's. Hummel has created for Belle a ballgown in true, 18th Century French court fashion.

Princess Jasmine
Aladdin - 1992
One of the most popular tales from the legendary 'The Book of One-Thousand and One Arabian Nights' - Hummel has placed Jasmine within early 18th Century Persia: the first translation from Arabic was via French scholar Antoine Galland around 1709.

Based on the historical figure from the early 17th Century, the movie is very liberal with the actual facts (when the 'real' Pocahontas first met John Smith, she was around the age of 10!) however Hummel's depiction (apart from age!) is true to Native American dress of the period

Hercules - 1997
Hercules is the Roman adaptation of the Greek demi-god Herecles: he first appears around 350 BC however fashions of both empires were relatively similar and simple and this version of the mythological characters first wife (according to one version of the story he killed their four children in a fit of madness - not very Disney!) is simply elegant and beautiful - like a Doric column or marble muse.
**I know she's not an official Princess but she's the only non-princess in this series and I didn't want to mess up the chronology!**

Another example of Disney playing fast and loose with historical fact: Fa Mulan (the historical character) probably lived around 386-534 AD, however the Hun invasion of China took place much earlier (around 200BC) and both the clothing the characters wear and the Emperor's 'Forbidden City' is from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Given this historical confusion, Hummel has still created a beautiful costume reminiscent of the late Ming/early Qing dynasty fashions.

The Princess and the Frog - 2009
The Disney film is based on 'The Frog Princess' by E.D. Baker from 2002, which in turn is based on 'The Frog Prince' by... you guessed it; The Brothers Grimm! Disney based their movie in 1920's New Orleans and Hummel has re-imagined Tiana's 'Princess dress' from the movie's finale as a true 20's Flapper dress.

Tangled - 2010
Now, the story first appears written down in 1812 by the Brothers Grimm and is an adaptation of an earlier tale 'Persinette' from 1698, which in itself bears striking resemblance to a 10th Century Persian epic poem. However, Hummel describes her version as 'late regency... circa 1820' reasoning that the Disney version is not tied to any particular land or time, and I suppose it bears a little passing homage to the time period of the Brothers Grimm

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

The Final Countdown...

The last week of 2012 was pretty damn spectacular - what a way to end a wonderful year!

On Friday I joined a motley crew of some of the leading lights of the London cabaret and burlesque scene at Madame Jojo's for a truly bonkers night: Tempest Rose and the House of Burlesque joined forces with The Kitten Club and The Folly Mixtures for a night of Girl Power! It was a pleasure to join such an amazing cast and I got to watch several performers I'd never seen before, which was wonderful, all rounded off by the most insane, girl-powered finale!

Backstage shenanigans! ** Spice Girls!

Spices! Chrys Columbine, Tempest Rose and Dave the Bear

Drunk? With Tempest Rose and Gracie Disgrace

Off to the Hippodrome! With Bettsie Bon Bon and Hansel Mannish

After the show, I headed off with Hansel Mannish, Bettsie Bon Bon and Ooh La Lou to the Hippodrome Casino to watch Boom and Bang Circus and another stellar line-up including Dusty Limits, Kitty Bang Bang, Kiki Kaboom and Sarah-Louise Young! I have to confess it all gets a little bit hazy after that... bubbly wine...

Dusty Limits on stage at The Hippodrome

After feeling rather fragile the following afternoon, I tentatively ventured out of the warmth of the house to The Duchess Theatre to see The Boy With Tape On His Face - and it was wonderful! One of the most beautiful shows I've ever had the pleasure to watch and I can honestly say I laughed until I cried!

The Boy With Tape On His Face at The Duchess Theatre

Now I have to say that New Years Eve is jinxed for me. Every year that I have been performing burlesque, my NYE booking is cancelled at relatively short notice for various reasons, and this year was no exception with my plans being rudely cancelled a couple of days ago.
However, my wonderful cabaret family rescued me from malaise (sitting on the couch with the cats and a lone glass of prosecco) and I dolled myself up and took myself back to Madame Jojo's to join Tempest Rose and The House of Burlesque for their masquerade ball!

New Year nails!

It was so lovely to spend my New Year with such amazing people - the cast was fabulous and the audience were bonkers!

Mirror Picture! With Dolly Rose, Audacity Chutzpah, Gracie Disgrace, Kat Would, Jo Llewellyn and Tempest Rose

With Dolly Rose after the show

The whole wonderful night was rounded off by a trip to Volupte Lounge for the after-party where we met with Delores Deluxe, Dave The Bear, Leonie Soprano and various members of the cabaret family, for New Year champagne!

So... Happy New Year everyone! I hope 2013 is as wonderful as the last twelve months have been!