A R T I S T S T A T E M E N T
My work is about sexuality. I believe that a woman onstage enjoying her sexuality is a revolutionary act. Through dance I expose my vulnerability by connecting with my audience and giving them a shared intimate experience. By being naked onstage I reveal my own sexuality; it’s danger and allure that seduce the audience into an unexpected conversation about passion, power and feminism.
In the burlesque tradition I employ drag techniques to transform myself into our society's “ideal woman.” I meticulously design every element of my performance, utilizing costuming, staging, choreography and technology to create a live cinematic experience. Using striptease I reveal everything: my physicality, humor, sadness, and my joy. I put myself at risk and empower my audience to do the same.
I use my performances to create a through line from my grounding in contemporary dance and choreography, 15 years of cabaret performance, and my years as a stripper to connect to a personal narrative around my identity as a queer woman. By weaving my experiences into these different performative expressions, I have created a body of work that can co-exist in both traditional performance spaces and the world of nightlife entertainment, as well as the space in between. I believe that it’s just as important to present work to those of us in the academic art community as it is to be able to present that same art in a nightlife entertainment setting. My work walks easily between the two. Often times, I believe that performing thought provoking performance art in a nightlife setting has the potential for more of a political impact on an audience.The political, conceptual and the entertainment factor are all of equal importance in my work.
Over the last 15 years I have created a body of work in the Burlesque community, cultivating my craft and using the world of popular nightlife as a platform to talk about larger political topics: women’s sexuality, feminism, sex work, queer politics, intimacy, and vulnerability. My work in this genre consists of short vignettes to make one clear statement. Given most performance slots are 4 minutes in length I have developed a simplicity of concept and movement, carefully crafting each second of the performance to make the largest impact for the viewer. I believe in simplicity of concept.
In a recent piece I created for nightclubs, “Superman”, I set out to expose softness and the oftentimes hidden vulnerabilities of men. So often in public life, masculinity is shown in a very specific, harsh, cold way. By exposing my femininity and sensuality, I invite men to show another, softer side of themselves, when it is often only in private moments that most men expose their vulnerability. In this work, I set out to find a way to place these private moments on the stage.
“Superman” begins as a classic burlesque dance; I wear a beautiful rhinestone encrusted gown with a diaphanous chiffon train that becomes a scarf which I dance with in the style of dance legend Loie Fuller. I strip out of the gown, down to a rhinestone encrusted bra and panties, when my focus shifts, and I am no longer just performing a striptease. I turn my attention to the audience and reach out my hand. Slowly and with purpose, I focus on one man in the audience. Hand outstretched, I walk off stage and right into the audience. I make soft eye contact with the chosen audience member, take his hand, and quietly ask him to join me onstage. Once onstage, I silently position him in front of me. As we face each other, holding hands, I look into his eyes, smiling softly and take a deep breath. After a long moment there I silently and deliberately guide him into a duet with me. It starts playful and light at first, gradually moving into a more intense but still sweet connection. We dance, we hug, we smile, we hold each other, then tension builds as we walk to the back of the stage where I motion him to sit on a chair. I face him. Remove my bra. Touch his arms while I sit on the floor in front of him. Gazing up at him from below, my hands gently resting on his knees. I hold that moment for a long time, then make my way to standing, sit on his lap, and curl my body into his. The final moment (held for a full 2 minutes) is him holding me. All the audience sees is my body in his arms and his face.
Outside of the Burlesque and entertainment world I create interactive performance pieces that explore radical intimacy. In 2012 I was asked to create an installation for the Coney Island Museum where I was given a 4x6 room. In this piece, everyone who entered the museum was brought into my “room”. There were eight chairs arranged around the edges and eight people at a time were guided into the room and sat in the chairs while a piano played softly in the background. I stood at the entrance wearing only stilettos. Once everyone was seated I would make my way to the first person, gazing into their eyes as I brought my hands gently to their face. After about a minute of eye contact, I would bring my cheek to theirs and allow them to hear and feel my breath on their skin. I would pull back, have another moment of eye contact, and make my way to the next person. I did the same thing to all eight people in the room and then returned silently to the door. The participants then exited, and eight more people entered the room. I performed this piece for 2 hours.
Sensuality in performance is easily dismissed in our culture, and my work seeks to find a place that can open a conversation, inspire questions, or just elicit a feeling. Hopefully one day we will have a sense of acceptance of the female form, coming to terms with the power of the female form. There is power in our pleasure and that makes us dangerous. Outside of the world of sex work this kind of expression of femininity is rarely seen. My work takes this out of the traditional stripclub and into everyday as I ask the audience to look at intimacy and overt sexuality in a different and open way. I seek to discover intimacy in all aspects of my art. I get close to my audience to inspire them to get closer to themselves.
Learning to accept the intricacies of our sexuality is complicated matter and, as a queer woman I know this well. By capturing intimate scenes in my own life, I am showing that that it’s these moments that connect us all. My art strives to assemble stories into a narrative that makes sense of a world where female sexuality is still considered taboo. I put small moments into the spotlight to facilitate big change.