Interview – Talk Nerdy to Me: A Byte of Burlesque
Phoenix Comicon has now gone over the horizon; and with it, the memories and experiences that many Arizonians only experience once a year. The capes are hung up, the $5 prints stored safely in the back of a closet (I’ll get a frame for them one day, I swear!), and cosplayers are already drawing up plans for next year. There is, however, one memory that still lingers with this particular writer/content creator. The Friday night burlesque show. With 3,000 people in attendance, there’s a good chance that a few of the people reading this know what show I’m talking about. I had the privilege of being able to attend Talk Nerdy to Me: A Byte of Burlesque, and the added bonus of being able to interview some of my favorite performers!
Among the performers interviewed from that show were Sable Switch (Resident Evil performance and woman in charge), Mia PiaCherrie (Amazing feather-fan dance), Annie-Mae Allure (Sailor Sexy), and Guy Fawkeswell (Stupid Sexy Flanders!). I had a chance to sit with all of them and chat about themselves and their careers in burlesque. Here is our interview:
Gumbers: To get started, why don’t you guys introduce yourselves and tell us a little bit about you.
Sable Switch: I’m Sable Switch, I produce the annual “Talk Nerdy to Me” burlesque show at Phoenix Comic Con. I also produce with my troupe “Burlesquepades” here in Phoenix. We’re known for our nerdy burlesque, but we do a couple different types of shows. My Co-owner and troupe mate, Mia PiaCherrie, and I produce a couple of other themed shows, along with Vis A Vee (One of the performers and co-host of the Talk Nerdy to Me show). I’ve been doing burlesque for about 3 years now.
Guy Fawkeswell: Lets see….Born and raised in Phx AZ. In about 2008/09, I had just finished college and was looking for something to fill my weekends. My mother was actually the person who introduced me to my first burlesque producer. She had been taking belly dance classes from Lucy Morals, the producer of Romantasy Cabaret. Lucy needed some help setting up for a show and I volunteered. I got to watch the show and liked it so much, I kept volunteering. After a while, some of the performers needed a “dude” for an act and I guess I was pretty funny because people kept asking me to be in their acts.
Mia PiaCherrie: I’m Mia PiaCherrie, also a producer of Burlesquepades. I’ve been performing for 5 years now.
Sable Switch: She’s also an amazing feather fan dancer!
Mia PiaCherrie: I broke my fans tonight. 🙁
Gumbers: *Totally not nervous giggle*.
Sable Switch: And we have our headliner from tonight’s show who’s here from Kansas City, freshly returned from London.
Annie-Mae Allure: I’m Annie-Mae Allure. I’m from Kansas City, Missouri, as confusing as that sounds, and I’ve been doing burlesque for 5 years.
G: What inspired you to get into burlesque dancing?
SS: Mine was super random. I never had any aspirations to be a burlesque dancer. In fact, I pretty much had a reputation of almost being a prude, and in my troupe I still am. I did bellydance, and in Chicago I did a style of bellydance called “Egyptian Caboret”. I couldn’t find a teacher here (Arizona) that did that style, and I was really missing dance. I’ve always loved dance. I had a friend who was going through a divorce and was kind of down on herself, and I saw this advertisement from a local teacher, named Lucy, for a burlesque class. So I was like “You know what? Let’s just do it! F’ it, just for fun!” I had NO intention of performing. So we did it, and we were the only class with organized practices because I MADE my classmates do practices. The teacher was like “Hey, you guys have your stuff so together. I want to have a student show.” So I asked, “Is it ok that I am NOT taking off my bra?” And she said, “That’s fine, you’ll never be a professional burlesque dancer.” And I said, “That’s fine, I don’t WANT to be a professional burlesque dancer!” So I did the show and didn’t take off my bra. Then I did another show; we did a group piece. Everybody else wanted to do their reveal, and I was like “Fine, but I’m gonna do it and I’m gonna cover up my ta-ta’s immediately.” We did that show and I literally had to be pulled off the stage by my dance team, because I was like, “This is awesome! This is really cool… You know what, cheer for me more!” Then I was hooked. What a great way to empower myself. I get to dance, which I love. I get to dress up and play, which I love. And I get to do it all with some of the most talented and creative people around. You know, as a burlesque performer, you kind of have to be a jack-of-all-trades. You need to be able to dance, you need to be able to..
SS: .. Well and THAT I fail at. I am a terrible seamstress. I can’t even sew 2 pieces of cloth together, so I’m very lucky in my troupe. But really, most people do; they make their own costumes, their own props, you come up with a script in your head of the act. You have to come up with a costume that not only looks pretty, but that you can be able to get out of it in a creative way. I’m sure you saw a bunch of different ways tonight that people were doing their reveals. I think it’s a very challenging art and people don’t necessarily realize that it’s not just about shaking your booty and it really does take a lot of skill, and I love that. I love challenges.
GF: I was starting to become a regular in shows like Romantasy and helping out performers like Team Teurff so much that I decided I wanted to try and do something for myself. In 2015, Burlescapades was putting on a show called ‘Merica. I submitted a “Construction Worker” strip tease act. I created it to be stupid and dumb and funny and I didn’t REALLY think it would go anywhere, but people really seemed to like it. Afterwards, the producers from Burlescapades asked if I wanted to understudy them. I accepted. Eventually they accepted me as a full member of Burlescapades and I’ve never been happier!
MP: I was Go-Go dancing for a local band, and the lead singer decided she wanted burlesque. So Vis A Vee, before he became Vis A Vee, decided to volunteer me. He said I was going to do Jessica Rabbit, and they ran with it. My name was printed on the flyer and they had so much fun talking about how this was going to be so awesome, and I was just freaking out. I’d never done this before. The most I’d been on stage is with people around me and it was just, you know, having fun. I wasn’t taking my clothes off. Well, I went ahead and took some private lessons with a local burlesque performer, and I created a routine. The night of, I was so terrified that I was ready to throw up. I went to Vis A and I was like, “I.. I can’t do this. I can’t. You have to tell them to just skip me. I just can’t..” And he’s like, “Oh, you don’t have to do it. It’s fine!” I said, “REALLY!? I don’t have to do it!?” And he’s like, “Noo you don’t have to do it, it’s fine.” …… They pushed me on stage.
SS: I mean that was sort of how my first solo went. I was weaned on troupe pieces. The teacher I learned from was very much, “Troupe, troupe, troupe, troupe.” So when I joined this troupe, she was like, “Well, you need a solo.” My audition for the troupe was a solo, so she told me to perform it, and I go, “Noooo… I’d rather just do the group one.” She said, “No, you’re going to perform it because it’s on the setlist in 2 weeks.”
AMA: I got into burlesque because I’m a professional actor and I was doing a musical theatre show with some people who were in burlesque, and they invited me to come to one of their shows after rehearsal. I’d never seen or heard.. anything about burlesque, so I was watching my friends do it and I was like: “I.. I must. I must do this!” From there, I joined a troupe and got tired of that, so I went off on my own. Now I’m traveling the world, and this is the hottest place I’ve ever been in!
SS: Well we are very happy to have her here.
G: Next question: How much effort goes into preparation for a performance?
MP: It kind of depends on the costuming itself. Inspirations, you pick, and I can have a song, an idea, a dance routine, it all done, except for the costume, within an hour. But..
SS: You’re quick.. I usually have a team of professionals.
MP: I do knock mine out pretty quickly. And then I really just build off of that, but I think it’s really just the costuming that takes longer.
G: So it’s the costuming and not so much the choreography?
MP: When I do a solo, yes. The choreography, the song choice, the theme, that all comes really easily to me. Getting the costume done in time for a show, that’s always the hard one. Group numbers on the other hand..
SS: Mine are always complex as hell. I always have random actors, and this was prop-light. Normally I have– I mean I have this Monty Python skit where I literally have guys in real 13th Century armor. They do the Can-Can line and they fight on stage. I had the Psycho act where they built a shower on stage.. I’m getting less complex, but yeah, obviously I still had 3 zombies in my act (Referring to that night’s show). So I would say for me, like Mia said, it depends. An act can take maybe a month. I have one act I performed in our last show, 2 years I was planning it. I had the song and 90% of the costume, but it just wasn’t where I wanted it to be, so I just kept working on it until I knew it was ready for the stage. On average, I would say 3 months is usually how long I take. I’m very much like a project manager. So it’s like there’s the planning stage, there’s development, then execution, then there’s tweaking for quality.
GF: Honestly it depends on the act. Sometimes I get an idea from a song I stumble across. Other times I go looking for inspiration for an act because there’s an upcoming show with a specific theme. And still sometimes I get other performers who want to partner with me and we have a chance to create something really unique. Usually once I’ve got an idea, I’ll go over and over it again and again. I’ll listen to the music I’ve chosen over and over. Then, I’ll sit down at my computer and typing out my ideas, and choreography and start planning out costume ideas. After that it’s a matter of doing it over and over in my living room or if I’m lucky enough to get some studio time. Once I think I’ve got it right….ish, I record it and send it to a producer. Then I cross my fingers and prepare myself for feedback.
AMA: For me, I agree with you (Mia), costuming takes the longest. But once I have an idea, and a song, and I know, “Ok, this is what I want to do”, choreography for me is just.. and I’ve done maybe 2 group numbers in my life, so that’s just not how I was burly-raised. I have a big background in improv, so most of my choreography, when I start performing a number, I have an outline. I don’t have “counts”. So it’s like, “At this point in the music, I’m taking this off. And at this point, I’m taking this off.”
MP: Me too.
SS: Where-as I’m the exact opposite.
AMA: Right, so 2 performers can be completely different. So for this performance, I’ve been doing it for 4 years, so it’s not really changing. It’s to the point where I’ve done it so many times–
SS: The “Sailor Sexy” act.
SS: The “Bearded Lady” one, I had her change and I was like, “Can you make it a dwarf act??”
AMA: And I said “Sure, why not?” So “Sailor Sexy” has been a part of Annie-May for so long that I don’t even have to practice it anymore. That’s the one people look for all the time, so that one now has kind of set choreography. But most the time.. I have a routine in a month and I haven’t even started it yet. I’m producing that show, and there are more important things to me. As long as I can make other people look good, they’re going to forget me.
G: So for the last question, do you have any words of inspiration for any aspiring performers out there?
MP: Take dance classes.
AMA: Mm hmm.
SS: I was just going to say that.
G: So take dance classes?
AMA: Right. And no matter how long you’ve been performing, keep taking classes.
SS: And not just dance classes, necessarily. Most of my troupe goes to, what’s called, Burley Con, which is a burlesque convention they do once a year where they bring burlesque teachers from around the world. I’ve taken improv classes, I’ve taken comedy classes, acting classes, business classes.. I mean, that’s the thing. You don’t know where your inspiration is going to come from. You just never freaking know. I have one act that I literally took my inspiration from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” as it was interpreted by a local director at the Botanical Gardens. You just never know where your inspiration will come from. Just always be exposing yourself to new things, whether it’s fashion, art, comedy, it doesn’t matter. Always be looking for that new thing. And also, pick 1 thing to be really good at. Mia is really good at feather fan dancing, Annie-May’s really good at stocking pulls, I’m very theatrical. So find a specialty and make it your thing.
GF: I’ve gotten to this place by saying YES to a lot of things. Even if they’re things I didn’t know I could do. It can certainly be intimidating but there are a lot of resources and people out there to help. Which brings me to piece of advice number 2. Always keep learning. There are classes and workshops and conventions and plenty of people who have generations of experience to dole out. And I guess my final piece of advice is to have fun with burlesque. Sure it’s a lot of work and can be really expensive but it’s all worth it if you’re having fun entertaining people and making them feel good.
G: Alright, well thank you all for joining me and I appreciate you taking the time to sit down and chat.
Of all of the burlesque shows I had attended throughout my life, this one was definitely my favorite. The Burlescapade troupe does a fantastic job of putting on a show that feels both scripted and improvised, making you feel like you, as the audience member, are in on an inside joke with the performers. They are personable, entertaining, sexy (obviously), and definitely worth the time to go out and watch perform. You can see their next performance on Sept. 10 at Joe’s Grotto, where they will be putting on a movie themed show called Cinelesque: Netflix and Chill. Be sure the follow Burlescapades on Facebook for updates on their performances and their impressive photo gallery. Annie-Mae Allure is not part of the troupe, but you can follow her website for information on when she will be performing in your area. Please take a look, she is definitely worth the attention.