Friday, 15 June 2007

anatomical burlesque

Our last circus, the one SweetCliffie directed, went pretty well. Unfortunately, the show was over-long, for SweetCliffie did not calculate the length of certain acts accurately, and also Swordswallower decided to go on forever! He not only did various fire-eating and fire-belching acts; he swallowed one, two, and then three swords; he did the bed-of-nails with four people standing on his chest thing... he just went on and on. He alone added about half an hour to the timing. But the black light acts went well, including our disco number -- we performed this once before, early in our circus careers, and it was nice to revive it with a more practiced, confident feel. The local news was there, filming, and apparently they intend to return next month and then put together a feature on us.

One thing I've learned from watching SweetCliffie direct is that I never want to do it myself. Good people, the circus folk, but not a group you want to be in the position of trying to organize.

We will be in one more circus before we leave for India. July's show has some special, out-of town guests, a married couple who perform extreme sideshow acts. Most of them are the sorts of things that one feels squeamish about watching, including suspensions, self-piercings, and variations on blockhead acts. The guy does this weird thing that involves twisting an oversized spring through his sinuses: it goes in his mouth and comes out his nostril. (Yes, it is really gross.) The acts for this particular month's circus will have a somewhat more adult content than usual; though this is not my favorite sort of show to do, our extreme shows often are very popular.

Since I don't have any self-mutilating acts in my repertoire (nor do I intend to develop any!), for this show I will do a somewhat tamer skit, but one that nevertheless is my absolute favorite piece: the anatomical burlesque. I've only performed it once before, so I'm looking forward to doing it again.Conceptually, the act is quite simple: I eroticize the act of stripping off layers of my body, rather than stripping off my clothes. The music is a classic sixties' bump-and-grind, and we also have a turntable on the stage. I come out wearing a robe, step onto the turntable, and then drop the clothing to reveal a "nude" colored unitard painted like a naked body. SweetCliffie slowly turns me like a statue. Then I descend, burlesque-dance a little for the audience, and SweetCliffie carefully peels off my "skin." Underneath is a red unitard painted to look like muscles. Dance, tease, spin to display the muscles properly -- then SweetCliffie strips them off to reveal a unitard painted with internal organs (at which, last time, somebody in the audience yelled out, "Yeah, show me your liver, baby!")... next comes the circulatory system... and finally, a complete skeletal system. The music is beautifully timed to the length needed for this act: at the last turn we end in a nice embrace.

This is our most "arty" piece, and the general response to it, from other performers as well as from strangers who've written about it, has been very positive. I wanted to play with the notion of laying onesself open, of making the body fully vulnerable to another's gaze, by taking a strip tease beyond the body's surface and into its interior. The act is supposed to make the audience think about the fetishizing of nudity, by fetishizing the body's other dimensions: the meat, the organs, the bones.

I painted all these unitards myself, and lemme tell you it was backbreaking work -- it took several days of crouching over the fabric, stuffed with pillows, trying to make everything reasonably accurate and symmetrical. (Actually, I've re-painted the internal organs since this photo was taken -- I wasn't happy with the lungs, and I changed the colors a little.) I do not normally consider myself to be particularly artistic, so I was very pleased with how well they came out. I cannot tell you how proud I am of the circulatory system one, in particular. I also want to note, for the record, that it is very uncomfortable to wear five unitards at once. Nor does it enhance one's hips.

In other news: SweetCliffie and I have just finished a major overhaul of our backyard, including turning a small structure into a steam hut. Lots of distracting work, taking me away from my writing, Ugh! But the formal opening party for our steam room will be this weekend, Yay!

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