The idea of burlesque-themed vacation may seem a little risky. Burlesque’s natural habitat is rather the city, the club, the night. Meanwhile, a group of burlesque fans (both female and male!) under the leadership of our burlesque mother, Betty Q, went to New Kawkowo for a burlesque summer camp.
I have written many times that burlesque is not a dance style. And, as I expected, there were no dance classes during this trip. There was a series of workshops on a variety of topics, very widely associated with burlesque – from a mind map, through history and discussion on scientific text (there are such in existence!), though classes on body awareness and coordination, and of course a YouTube party with watching the most interesting burlesque performances from all over the world. In addition, a short instruction class on tassel twirling was a must. Everyday we could (but were not obliged to) participate in a morning warm-up and typical sports class conducted by Vila Vanilla. Another interesting addition was a presentation and discussion about the art of drag and how it connects to burlesque, led by two drag performers (Yalla Yalla and Chirusska). In short, there was no way we could complain about being bored!
I really, really liked how diverse a group we were. Our group had people of all ages, with varying degrees of stage experience and knowledge of burlesque, but also with a whole range of own interests and skills that could be useful in burlesque and in everyday life. As a result, we were also extremely self-sufficient – we cooked out own (delicious!) food, organized all our activities and trips to the nearby lake. The sense of community between us all was very, very nice.
The house were we were staying was great. At the end of the post I put a link to its website so that you can find more information, but let me just write that a place where in each room you can find a record player with a collection of vinyl records, a swing (sic!) or a huge bookcase, has my seal of approval.
Most classes took place either in the living room or in the barn. The barn was very spacious and equipped to have physical classes there, so we used it almost every day, no matter the weather. We also had two improvised showcases there – one was the culmination of a burlesque challenge, during which we had to create acts-tributes to the burlesque legends. The other was a presentation of acts on which we wanted to get feedback from the audience.
Let me tell you, performing in a barn is a real school of life for any performer. Zero backstage, no stage, one spotlight – in such circumstance the strength of the performance is everything. I don’t think it’s possible to have this intimacy with the audience on a club stage – but maybe it’s also the matter of the fact that we performed for each other. We were, however, joined by the house owner and his friends, as well as a team of yogins who were also staying in the house.
Was it worth it?
The program of the trup was planned in such a way that both the people who are completely new to burlesque and those who already have some experience, had something to do. It somehow happened that in the group I was the one with the longest “seniority” after Betty (it’s been… 4 years already?) but I too learned something new, both about burlesque and about myself as a performer.
It is important for me that one of the aims of the activities was to make the people who often make up our audience realize that there is something more to burlesque than just attractive visuals. I don’t think I will forget the discussion about whether burlesque and striptease are different, how, and whether they are feminist. The same goes for biographies of some of the burlesque starts who I knew by their names but did not know anything about their personal stories.
The whole experience was a great pleasure for me and I will be most happy to repeat it. Anyway, even before leaving this magical place we agreed with the owner for a date for the next year! Who knows, maybe next time I will play the role of the teacher?