Aug 23, 2015

5th Anniversary Show with Black Diamond Burlesque, Sarasota Florida

Performing at the historic Asolo Theater with Black Diamond Burlesque 5th Anniversary show, Sarasota, Fl. Photo by John Jones.
Last weekend I flew down to Sarasota, Fl to perform with the Black Diamond Burlesque troupe’s 5th anniversary show at the historic Asolo Theater. I’ve been aware of BDB for a few years when I first met Miss Petite Coquette at the New Orleans Burlesque Festival in 2011. We hit it off right away and since then she has come up to perform in NYC with Laura Daniel Gale, producer/owner/co-founder of the Black Diamond Burlesque. When they invited me to come down and be their guest performer this year naturally I jumped at the chance. I love traveling (more than anything else as long as Chewie is with me!) and performing second, and truthfully, its the only way I can spread the “Asian Sexsation” gospel, Amen! In many cities I tour in, I am often the only Asian person on stage and I would go for days without seeing another Asian face. It’s not an “issue” or anything, just an observation. But I just think it makes me as a performer even more impactful being an Asian burlesque performer for many eyes who have never seen one before. I also enjoy getting to know other cities' burlesque scene and the community, always interesting to experience what works in other cities and what different audiences like to see.

When I landed in Sarasota’s airport, small and charming, a nice respite from the insanity of La Guardia/JFK airports, I was greeted by Laura, Petite, and Vixen! I was floored to be met at the airport this way – such a great start after the 7am flight!
L to R: Laura, Petite, Vixen (our MC of the evening)
We hit the ground running after a very delicious brunch. First it was the radio interview with WSLR. I was impressed that the DJ did his research and asked me about the music video I was in with Moby's metal glam band Diamondsnake, my shade of lipstick with RED Burlesque, and Huffington Post. Laura has been on WSLR many times before being such an entrepreneur and business woman in Sarasota, everyone knows her.
At WSLR with Laura
I really like what Petite and Laura are doing for burlesque in Sarasota. They are representing the art form honorably and legitimately in a town that is still relatively conservative. Even though Sarasota has an extremely supportive artist community with the rich history of circus luminary John Ringling, the impressive Ringling Museum and the prestigious Ringling College of Art and Design, there are still obstacles the troupe have to overcome being the only group to educate the masses what "burlesque" is.

After the radio interview it was time for my beginner burlesque fan dance workshop in a posh downtown yoga studio that Laura organized. I was thrilled that so many people attended, half were first timers and half were members of BDB troupe, and a couple of girls from the Tampa scene even attended. I love teaching this class so much. Every one brought their own special flare to fan dancing and it was such a great way to meet everyone in BDB and play with them in a workshop atmosphere.
Big thanks to Cindy at Fancy Feather for sponsoring all my fan dance classes and loaning me extra fans for students to use!
Great job ladies and Johnny! So much fun with you!
The next day was the big show date! The historic Asolo theater has an amazing history:
The theater was originally designed and built in 1798 in honor of Queen Caterina Cornaro, the widow of the King of Cyprus, who ruled over Asolo, a small town near Venice, from 1489 until her death in 1510.
Reconstructed in 1857, the theater – U-shaped with three tiers of boxes, with an architectural plan and scale of construction common in 18th century court theaters – remained in its original setting in the castle until 1930, when it was dismantled and removed, its ornamental panels and decorative elements kept in storage for the next two decades. In its place, a movie theater was built and named for the great star of the age, actress Eleonora Duse, who first performed there in 1885, retired to the town and was later buried there.
This historic theater was the one we performed in on Saturday night, the interior transported from Italy to Sarasota. It was a magnificent space. I've been so spoiled from my touring in other cities with real theaters, luxurious stages, multiple green rooms, union lighting has made coming back to NYC a little lackluster. As Tigger once said to me, "Make your name in New York, and make your money else where."
One of the VIP balcony booths
With Miss Petite Coquette backstage between sets
Photo by John Jones
The Saturday show was a phenomenal success! BDB sold out the theater and it was an incredible high to perform for such an enthusiastic crowd. That is one thing I have noticed in my travels - in other cities people treat burlesque shows as a theater event. They get dressed up, they treat it like a big night out, and they are willing to pay $30+ for a ticket. Whereas in one would dream of paying more than $30 to see a burlesque show! And its NOT because there are free shows competing for other people's attention, its just because here, no one thinks of burlesque as "theater". Theater in NYC is strictly broadway-related. Burlesque is like the bastard weird child that is half nightlife, half theater, but neither completely. Time Out NY even gave Burlesque its own section away from Theater, Comedy, Nightlife, but even that was short-lived as the editors have decided to kill the Burlesque section completely a few months ago. In NYC, we also don't have incredible, affordable, non-black box theater spaces to work with. The ones that exist ask for minimum rental fees that start in the thousands. The only proper theater space that is burlesque-appropriate is The Slipper Room.
Opening group number. Photo by John Jones.
Curtain call. Photo by John Jones.
One of my favorite post show photos at the party at Selvo in downtown. L to R: Matthew Holler, amazing photographer based in Sarasota and NYC; Spikey van Dikey, an incredible drag king performer and also a total babe and fantastic cook; Miss Petite Coquette co-founder and star performer of Black Diamond Burlesque. Photo by John Jones.
With Candy Muldane, member of BDB. At Gator Club upstairs. It is the oldest building in Sarasota and was once a brothel. Photo by John Jones.
The next morning, by sheer will power and not willing to break appointments, I squeezed in a Sunday morning photo shoot with House of The Broken Dragon and Little Skull Photography to model some of their custom, handmade kimonos. It was a sheer miracle that I was able to wake up early, put my face on, do my hair, and power through a 4 hour shoot! Once I got to the studio and saw the amazing lighting that Mike and Jocelyn created for each set, I knew this was going to be great. We did several shots in 4-5 different kimonos and used cool props to create a series of photos that are very evocative of chinoiserie reminiscent of some of the art work I saw at The Met’s “China Through the Looking Glass”. I can't wait to get the final series and share them! If you are in the Tampa Sarasota area and need pinup photos, you gotta hit up Little Skull! And you have to try to catch a Black Diamond Burlesque show!

Beautiful bay views from the tiki bar where Laura treated me to delicious fish tacos and a cold beer! I saw some dolphins here too.
I loved waking up and falling asleep to this lightbox that Petite made for her guest room.

Here are some of my favorite shots from the show by John Jones:
Photo by John Jones
Photo by John Jones

Photo by John Jones
Photo by John Jones
Photo by John Jones
Photo by John Jones
Photo by John Jones
Photo by John Jones
I loved these name boards BDB used for our intros. Classy! Photo by John Jones
Shine on, Black Diamonds!

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