ib: you’ve been performing in many different burlesque festivals – the one in Berlin will be Berlin’s First International Burlesque festival. What are your expectations? Berlin is à vibrant city, where so many interesting performers are living right now. Seems like everyone is moving here! We are honoured to be a part of the first Berlin festival, especially since several of us have been performing as solo artists in the city before. We believe its gonna be a wild and exciting weekend. It’s about time Berlin gets its own festival! Way to go Else and Marlene!
ib: how would you compare the Stockholm and Berlin Burlesque scene? The Stockholm scene traditionally has been more focused on classic burlesque, and has many really, really good performers, but it’s always nice to have some variation and lately we’ve been seeing new and interesting developments from performers trying out other expressions. The Berlin scene seem to have influences from so many different subcultures and genres! It’s an exciting place to be, like a hub for European burlesque.
ib: do you have a tip for the newcomers at the festival? Enjoy the atmosphere and the fantastic people involved. Get inspired by all the brilliant performers. Remember to have fun 😉
ib: fashion, lifestyle, dance, drama or … what is your favourite aspect of burlesque? Our favourite aspect of burlesque is being part of an open-minded, gender-bending and empowering community that dares to challenge and make fun of existing taboos and social structures. It’s amazing to be a part of a scene with so many strong women.
ib: you are part of the blackbird burlesque cabaret – can you tell us a little bit about the crew? Blackbird burlesque cabaret was born as a troupe three years ago, but we have been working together for 5 years previous to that. Blackbirds combine singing and dancing in a devilishly decadent cabaret. We were brought together by the vision of creating a burlesque collective where everyone is equally important, and participates in the creative processes; making costumes, choreography, music, strategies, gigs etc. We run the troupe as a democratic, flat organization where each member contributes different talents and skills, on stage and off.
The blackbirds are:
Contessa Blackbird, the Sinsational Siren
Lola van Dyke, the Dancin, Drinking and Winkin Gal
Miss Diamond, the Double D Delight
Pepper Potemkin, the pearl of rock’n roll decadence
Grandma Blackbird, age never looked so good
ib: what has been so far the highpoint and the lowpoint of your burlesque career? Last autumn we got the fantastic opportunity to put on a whole “dinner & show”-show, at one of Swedens best-known entertainment establishments. Together with the man called Mr Showbiz in Sweden, Hans Marklund, who has directed EVERYONE in Swedish showbiz, we created a sold-out show called “Grandmas Tease’l Tassel”. For the first time in history the Swedish public got to see a whole burlesque cabaret show, with comedy, singing, live band and of course burlesque. And of course all the festivals we have been to, Paris, Milan, New York, where we performed in a 14th Century church (!) in Sicily… All have been high points in their own way.
And the low point… Goes to Eurovision Song Contest 2013 held in Malmö. We were asked to make a burlesque appearance in a number together with the host and other dancers. Having 100 MILLION viewers it was hard to resist, even if it a bit out of our scene. Anyways, we accepted, and looked forward to show the mainstream (and the more conservative) Europe how fantastic burlesque can be. But the day before the show we were handed bras, forced to cover our tassels, transformed from burlesque bombshells to plastic looking Miss Inga from Sweden. What could have been a ground breaking, daring act turned out to be a 2 second short clip of us as smiling barbies. What we learned? Never let fame and fortune blur your art.
ib: what would you say to a girl wanting to perform but not feeling comfortable with her body? Burlesque is about everybody being beautiful, and you are! Forget media, advertising, everyone telling you to look or be in a certain way. Trust yourself to be fantastic just the way you are. The burlesque community can really boost your confidence, being part of a scene where so many different people, genders, bodies, minds and artists are involved makes you realize the beauty of difference.
Entering the burlesque stage for the first time can be the moment of success, when you feel you have overcome all issues you might have about your body not being perfect just as it is. It’s a magic experience to hear people cry for you, to make them scream when you take off that glove. Take the leap and dare. It might just be the best thing you have done! Most important is that you do it for your own sake, not for anyone else’s.
For us burlesque is about breaking norms, creating new ideals and most of all having loads of fun. We set the rules and we never let anyone put us down.
Interview: Mia Morris / photo right: Bernie Gogo / photo left: John Paul Bichard