by Jessica Price
[We know, BurlyCon is WAY over, but people are still talking about it—not least of all because of the terrific—and fully controversial—”State of the Union” address given by Miss Astrid, which have been widely distributed by our sistah over at 21st Century Burlesque. We are so bummed to have missed it. AND the panel discussion, “Sex Work and Burlesque.” Read on. —ED]
(The following originally appeared at Burlesque Seattle Press on October 24, 2011)
This afternoon BurlyCon 2011 completed its Closing Ritual (led by World Famous *BOB* and “Bishop of Burlesque” David Bishop), winding down four days of tightly run classes and social gatherings. The fourth incarnation of Miss Indigo Blue and Jo Weldon’s burlesque conference saw some changes this year: BurlyCon now operates as a non-profit organization, resides at the more accommodating DoubleTree Hotel in Seatac, and is managed by a Board of Directors to ensure the integrity of the conference’s future.
Though the vast majority of attendees are performers or performers-in-training, this year it seemed there was a heftier presence of non-performing community members- writers, videographers, photographers, historians. The general feeling of inspiration and community among the always- expanding attendees is hard to describe- you truly have to be there to experience it.
Guests of Honor Miss Astrid and Scott Ewalt raised the bar for worthwhile classes. In “History of Boylesk”, Scott gave a presentation culled from his extensive collection of memorabilia and rare video footage from the years 1885-2000. Scott is the first to actually document a comprehensive timeline of Male Burlesk (spelled this way so it would fit on venue marquees, attendees learned). His encyclopedic knowledge of nearly-forgotten names and cultural intricacies is unparalleled. Ever heard of an all-nude male troupe circa 1930? Scott has, and can tell you all about it- with photographs and theatre handbills to prove it.
Though everyone connected with a different class or presenter, one of the most interesting for me was panel discussion “Sex Work and Burlesque”. Moderator Johnny Porkpie navigated 5 esteemed professionals (Miss Indigo Blue, Jo Boobs, Jesse Belle-Jones, Lucy Flawless, and Peekaboo Pointe) through questions relating to the distinctions and parallels between burlesque, stripping, and other types of sex industry-based professions. Like it or not, both within and without the community there’s often a stigma associated with the word “stripper”, who should or should not be referred to as such, and how audience perception and expectation may make “burlesque” feel comfortable, while an interest in “strip” may be shameful. The panelists seemed to agree that there are certainly moments of creativity and service in both burlesque and strip (many of the Legends can attest to that) as well as in other forms of sex work. Confidence, or the illusion of confidence, is certainly an art form in itself; one that runs through burlesque, various forms of striptease, and many sexually-based forms of entertainment. The conversation was lively and the hour-long panel length was only enough to scratch the surface of this vast and fascinating topic.
Thank you to all the organizers, vendors, panelists, and guests that made BurlyCon 2011 a smashing success. Save the date: BurlyCon will take place at the DoubleTree November 1-4, 2012.
Jessica Price is the founder of Burlesque Seattle Press.