I recently got an e-mail from Holly Dai, who used to be with the Frim Fram Foxies, (who we did a feature on back in July of 2012) among other troupes, and she told me about her exciting new venture: the All That Glitters Burlesque Academy. Her partner in this new venture is Tana the Tattooed Lady, who is a veteran of the Seattle burlesque scene and a former member of one of the pioneering Northwest burlesque troupes, the Atomic Bombshells.
It’s always an exciting time when you see burlesque schools start to pop up in towns like Portland because it’s a sign that the scene is growing and certainly, will continue to grow as students leave to produce their own shows and form their own troupes. I’ve certainly seen the Portland burlesque community grow significantly over the last three years. While the scene still remains relatively small, I think in a couple years, Portland’s burlesque scene will rival that of Seattle or San Francisco. I also have a feeling that All That Glitters will be, in no small part, responsible for that growth.
Holly also teased (how appropriate!) some exciting news. Oregon may be getting its very first burlesque festival! They aren’t saying much at this point but we’ll be waiting with bated breath to hear more news on this exciting development.
We sure appreciate Holly and Tana taking time out of their busy lives to chat with us about All That Glitters, their influences, their history, the Portland scene and more. They even offer a little advice to those of you out there that’d like to start your own burlesque academy.
So, without further ado, I give you Holly Dai and Tana the Tatooed Lady!
Tana: My first burlesque troupe endeavor was in 1998 with Chico Creek Theatre Company aka The Blue Room. I choreographed six collegiate beauties in a fan dance to Edith Piaf. We were all terrified to show our boobs. Hilarious when I think of it now. In 2004 I joined the Atomic Bombshells of Seattle who’d learned in the classic style from first-generation women of New Orleans. I had a partnership with Lily Verlaine (who produces the Burlesque Nutcracker in Seattle) called Lily and Ruby Present. We were among the first people to produce shows at the Can Can. In 2006 I started the Glamorama Girly Show which toured to Portugal, France, Germany, Canada and various U.S. cities. I asked my old pal Vincent Drambuie to come along as host. My troupe featured Vienna La Rouge (Miss Viva Las Vegas) Bettina May, Go Go Amy, Meghan Mayhem and Ruby Rocket with some guest spots from, then newbie burly gals, Shanghai Pearl and Fuchsia Foxx.
Holly: I began performing in 2009. Prior to living in Portland, I had been living in Seattle and moonlighting as a kitten for the Sinner Saint Burlesque show. I had really wanted to go to the school for burlesque in Seattle but still was hesitating. After a year of kittening I moved down to Portland and noticed that there were very few performers who were just doing burlesque and it seemed like I might be able to try it with little experience. I debuted with the Rose City Shimmy and then began performing in Portland at a variety of shows. After a year of performing I was approached to create a school for burlesque. Knowing that I was inexperienced, I gathered the people I knew to be performing the longest and then created the first burlesque school in Portland. I then created the Frim Fram Foxies alongside Tana the Tattooed Lady. Our troupe lasted awhile but due to scheduling conflicts we decided to go alone again as solo performers.
Who are some of your influences?
Tana: I have no idea where my ideas or inspiration come from. Most often if I’m writing a show or creating a character I hear a piece of music and go from there, but all burlesque is derivative. No one has any original ideas anymore. I’m just a crazy, lunatic, drag queen. I am certainly not the best at anything I do, I’m just not afraid to try new things and fail horrifically. One person I really relate to won Miss Exotic World before my very eyes, Miss Julie Atlas Muz. I have great admiration and respect for her incredible, raw, unparalleled talent.
Holly: I think this has changed as I have grown as a performer. I still love Michelle L’Amour as she is a hard working performer who kicks my butt every time I take a class from her. But my biggest influences come from the best costumers. I just love what people create and for me costuming is what I love most about burlesque. It’s hard to tell who makes costumes for who sometimes but I love the costumes made by Jaimie Von Stratton, who is also known as Honey Deluxe.
Tell us a little about your new venture, the All That Glitters Burlesque Academy. You advertise yourself as “Portland’s premeire school of classic burlesque.” Is that primarily your focus or do you incorporate elements of neo-burlesque? Are boylesque performers welcome?
Tana: Our focus is absolutely classic burlesque. Classic music and costuming or music that’s got the feel of the era will be encouraged. Boylesque performers are welcome. Transgender are welcome. Drag kings and queens are welcome, wanted and needed! I get approached all the time by my friends in the drag community who want to learn classic burlesque. Burlesque in the old styles is not a “5,6,7,8” business. It’s basically walking and stripping with some serious hutzpah. Striptease is synonymous with burlesque, but in our opinion could be just the removal of a glove ala Gypsy Rose Lee!
Holly: I think Tana summed that up nicely!
What do you think separates All That Glitter’s classes from other burlesque classes? What do you both bring to the table that’s unique? What do you hope your students will take home from your classes?
Tana: I’ve got nearly a decade of being a professional burlesque performer (no more “day job” as they say) and sixteen years as a dance and theatre arts teacher. I started my own children’s musical theatre company at 18 in the back warehouse of Chico Ballet Academy. I feel like I’ve got a keen eye for direction – motivating people and helping them dream up a world of the character they are creating for each dance.
Holly: I think our focus based on the performer bringing that theater to the stage. I keep saying “polished” all the time and what I mean by polished is really getting all the details in step before going on stage. Burlesque can be a transformative journey of the self, but beyond that it is not just for the performer. It is absolutely an art for the audience and the audience needs to feel like they are a part of the performance. I think that our students will take home a breadth of knowledge and a keen understanding of what they did well on stage and how to move forward to continue in their own sparkly careers.
Usually when you see more than one burlesque school open up in a city the size of Portland, that suggests that interest in burlesque is growing. Do you think that’s accurate?
Tana: Big time. Burlesque has been booming since its second wave resurgence.
Holly: We see all of these people specifically moving to Portland. It makes you question what we are doing differently that the rest of the world wants to share in. We are craving that culture that is getting cut from our schools and so many cities. I would say that burlesque has really emerged in Portland from the seven or so performers that were about when I started in this city.
Who are some of your favorite performers in Portland?
Tana: I always enjoy watching Sandria Dore perform.
Holly: I second that about Sandria. I also enjoy watching Isiah Esquire and Ecstasy Inferno. And of course I have to mention Ellie Darling, who not only is a performer but an amazing producer of the Giggle and Blush Peepshow. What is wonderful is that we are able to bring in big national performers in for an amazing show and then feature them at All That Glitters Academy with a workshop. It is a great win for touring burlesque performers.
Any big plans for the future?
Holly: There is a rumor that Tana the Tattooed Lady, Ellie Darling and I might just be teaming up for the first Oregon Burlesque Festival….OK it’s true! All That Glitters Burlesque Academy will definitely be a big part of its production but as for the details, we are keeping tight lips right now!
Do you have any advice for burlesque performers that are thinking of starting their own burlesque school in their hometown?
Tana: Wait five more years or apprentice/team up with someone who’s had at least five years of professional performing and a background in education. If you’ve never taught but you are a dynamite performer take classes on being an effective educator and maybe some acting classes too!
Holly: Coming from someone who started a school after a year, I think if I had to do it over again I would have definitely waited. You need to know who you are as a performer before you start a school. Also starting a business can be tricky if you start by involving people who are your friends in the burlesque world. You may end up in sticky business situations when conflicts of interest arise and you have to draw the lines between friends and business. Having my own school also taught me how to run/and not to run an operation and what people really want from a burlesque school. Figure out what your focus is and be very clear about it in your descriptions. This can clear a lot up for potential students who may feel that they didn’t get enough education in the right fields.
Thanks again to Holly and Tana for the great interview. Looking forward to seeing what these two have in store.
There’s lots of great burlesque shows and classes coming up this month around the Pacific Northwest and we want to feature some that caught our eye including the VERY FIRST class from All That Glitters!
Saturday, January 18 I Burlescape! – Portland, Oregon Burlescape! is a monthly burlesque revue hosted by Zora Phoenix that takes place every third Saturday of the month at Crush Bar. This beloved revue promises “a tantalizing temptation of burlesque and boylesque wrapped in a taste of tease!” and always features the hottest burlesque talent currently gracing Portland stages.
Saturday, January 18 I Striptease Expertise with Jo “Boobs” Weldon – Portland, Oregon You’ll be a better performer after you leave this class! You’ll learn how to make everything from slipping out of a button-down shirt to removing your earrings into a devastating act of theater. The instructors at All That Glitters Burlesque Academy will start with what you already know (and you may not even know you know it) and incorporate it into innovative and effective ways to handle any article of clothing. While both dance and theater training are excellent background for burlesque performance, the element of striptease is what makes burlesque unique. If you are looking for a better understanding of how to heat up your numbers, how to best connect to the audience, and how to create reveals that thrill them over and over, explore striptease with a master of the form, New York’s Jo “Boobs” Weldon!
Monday, January 27 I Learn Burlesque with Cherry Manhattan! – Seattle, Washington Ever wanted to try your hand at burlesque, or see how it could build on your existing performance skills? Want to gain the competence and competitive edge of adding a new genre to your tool kit? Curious about creating your own burlesque alter-ego? Learn everything you need to know to get started in burlesque in this 10 week workshop class taught by one of Seattle premiere burlesque personalities, Cherry Manhattan. Each week you’ll acquire new skills in the two-hour technique and exploration classes, as you are guided in creating a new burlesque character and building your own unique act. Discover how to ‘peel, pose and parade’ your way around the stage while letting your creative impulses flourish as you gain mastery over being fully present in front of an adoring audience!
Friday, January 31 I Blonde Ambition Presents! Burlesque Fairy Tale Theater – Seattle, Washington An evening of burlesque inspired by the works of the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen & more. Hosted by Elsa Von Schmaltz! Featuring performances by: Alexa Perplexa, The Brothers Lykya, Bunny Von Bunsmore, Czech Mate, Jesus La Pinga, Kiki Cosmosis, La Petite Mort & Kevin Incroyable, Lana Milk-n-Honey, Penelope Rose and Queenie O’Hart.