This week on the Tuesday Tease we feature Austin, Texas’ premier burlesque troupe The Jigglewatts Burlesque Revue.
Since 2006, the Jigglewatts have kept things hot and steamy in Texas and beyond. Members have headlined shows in New Orleans, Las Vegas, New York, Montreal, Toronto, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Founder Coco Lectric also founded the Austin Academy of Burlesque, is a board member of Burlycon and started the Austin Burlesque Alliance, which gives Austin burlesque performers a forum in which to share ideas and collaborate.
I find producers like Coco so inspiring. Her lack of ego and undying support for her community and art form ensures the survival of burlesque as an art form for years to come. It’s producers like her that help burlesque continue to evolve and flourish.
I see this a lot in the burlesque world: performers attending fellow performers shows and cheering them on, producers staggering their shows so that they’re not competing for audiences and performers sharing their techniques with each other. It’s inspiring and I think other artistic communties should take note. Contrary to the notion that competition encourages quality, I’ve found that, in burlesque’s case anyway, collaboration has been the key to its survival, especially in close-knit communities like Austin, New Orleans or Seattle.
Coco’s been busy preparing for the Jigglewatts first full-troupe tour but she was kind enough to take time out to answer some of my questions and to offer her valuable advice to all you burlesque newbies out there.
Oh, and if you want to help the girls’ fund this tour, of course attend one of their shows but also visit their Kickstarter page. The campaign ends on Saturday, August 17 so you still got time to throw a little cash their way and get some great perks in return.
So, enough from me. Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Coco Lectric!
The Jigglewatts started in 2006. Was there much of a burlesque scene in Austin at the time? How much has it grown since then?
When the Jigglewatts got started there were a couple of troupes in town, Kitty Kitty Bang Bang and Red Light Burlesque. The scene wasn’t big though, that’s for sure. We mostly performed alongside rock bands and as an add-on to fetish shows and rockabilly events.
Today, we have a very active burlesque community and over 100 active members of the Austin Burlesque Alliance spread out among eight troupes and collectives. It’s a real honor to be one of the early Austin troupes and the longest continuously running troupe in town.
Who are the other Jigglewatts?
The Jigglewatts are Ruby Joule (co-founder), Goldie Candela, Pearl Lux (tour performances in LA and San Diego), Jolie Goodnight, Ruby Lamb (tour performance in Austin) and our touring emcee is Jade Esteban Estrada (tour performances in Tuscon, San Diego, LA and Las Vegas).
Would you consider the Jigglewatts to be a more traditional burlesque troupe or more of a “neo-burlesque” troupe? Who are some of the troupe’s influences?
We all have our own personal style and we draw from different performers and aspects of life and art. We have a deep appreciation for the golden age of cinema and love to watch Russ Meyers, Busby Berkeley, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Katherine Hepburn, Amalia Aguilar and Louise Brooks movies, just to name a few. We love the live theater and musical musings of Josephine Baker, Annie Sprinkle, Phillis Diller, Ella Fitzgerald, and Cab Callaway. We drool over the Ziegfeld Follies and Catherine D’ Lish’s costumes. We love to study with burlesque legends and other performers, too. We actively take a variety of dance classes and performance instruction. Historical figures such as Cleopatra VII, Salome and Queen Elizabeth I occasionally come to mind almost as much as spiritual and mythological figures such as Aphrodite, Ishtar, Laka and Pele, Tlazoteotl, and Isis. There really are too many influences to name in one article and each Jigglewatt’s influences are unique.
I think we’re known for more of our classic style, abroad, but at home we do all sorts of burlesque and cabaret. I feel that neo-classical burlesque is accurate for the Jigglewatts. We’re always examining how best to put our themes and story across, all while maintaining classic techniques and style. No matter how political or performance art-esque our performances are, we never drop the tease.
What makes the Austin burlesque scene unique compared to other cities around the country?
The simplest answer is that we are more connected than other towns I’ve performed in. I created the Austin Burlesque Alliance in 2011 and we have a private forum to communicate with each other on any of our concerns or to celebrate together. We aren’t really a big town, so we try to stagger our performances as much as we can. Each troupe has its own signature style, so we give our patrons a full experience. We support each other as much as we can and we learn from each other.
The Jigglewatts are heading out on tour! This is your first tour right? Any shows you’re especially excited about? Are you performing with any performers that you admire while you’re out on the road?
Our first performance will be in Tucson, Arizona at the Surly Wench this Thursday, the 8th of August. We’ll be studying with legend Shannon Doah and performing with Keyhole Cabaret in San Diego. We are very excited about taking over Monday Night Tease in LA, performing at Tiki Oasis (individually and as a troupe in San Diego), we’re collaborating with Live Burlesque in Las Vegas and performing at the Onyx Theater! While we’re in Las Vegas we’re also studying with burlesque legends Tiffany Carter and Gina Bon Bon! When we’re in Albuquerque we’ll be performing with Sammich the Tramp and Lola Van Ella with Burlesque Noir. We are really very excited about everything we’re doing on tour!
You also founded the Austin Academy of Burlesque in 2008. What do you like most about teaching burlesque? Have you seen an increase in interest in burlesque classes over the last five years? If so, why do you think that is?
To be honest, my favorite part of teaching burlesque is helping to make my students’ burlesque dreams come true. So many students have dreams of becoming more confident and feeling better in their own skin, even if they don’t plan on performing. I try to give them the tools they need to approach the stage. We learn about history, movement and story. They all create their own acts.
I think there has been a dramatic increase in burlesque over the years and it think it’s because of more media coverage. Burlesque maintains its popularity because it welcomes performers of all ages and sizes and allows women to express their sensuality. Mainstream entertainment tells women…and men… that being sexy is only for the young and very thin. Burlesque calls bullshit on that and proves it over and over again. Our audiences love that we all deserve a chance in the spotlight and applauds the idea that everybody likes something different.
Finally, do you have any advice for burlesque performers that are just getting started?
For performers getting started, I recommend that you inventory what you like to see in shows. Determine what really does it for you, it could be pinup, 90s music videos, politics, food…it could really be anything. If you have a message you’d like to convey, come up with a creative way to show it. Think about what you’d like to share with your audience or who/what you’d like to be when you grow up. Base your personal style on what is really YOU! Also, watch a million burlesque videos go to as many shows as you can. Watch burlesque with an open heart and an open mind.
Want to catch the Jigglewatts when they come through your town in the next few weeks? Here are the tour dates. Dates marked with an * are ticketing by Brown Paper Tickets!
Thursday, August 8 I The Surly Wench Pub – Tucson, Arizona
Saturday, August 10 I The Merrow – San Diego, California
Sunday, August 11 – Wednesday, August 14 | Contact the Jigglewatts to schedule private instruction in Los Angeles and San Diego.
Thursday, August 15 to Sunday, August 18 I Tiki Oasis – San Diego, California
Monday, August 19 I Monday Night Tease – Los Angeles, California *
Wednesday, August 21 I Live Burlesque in Las Vegas – Las Vegas, Nevada
Thursday, August 22 I Classes at Las Vegas Burlesque Classes – Las Vegas, Nevada
Saturday August 24 I John Lewis Theater – Albuquerque, New Mexico
Saturday, August 24 & Sunday, August 25 I Classes at New Mexico Burlesque Academy – Albuquerque, New Mexico
Friday, August 30 I Gibson Guitar Lounge for Dixie Evans Week – Austin, Texas