Sunday, 22 August 2010

Harem Honey Hunt (21st August 2010)

Some 3 weeks ago, Catherine Prescott, the creator of Miss Burlesque New Zealand and also Wellington based burlesque dance troupe, The Harem Honeys, asked me to perform at her upcoming event, The Harem Honey Hunt, a competition to seek 2 local female talents to join The Harem Honeys. Yes, finally I’ve got a gig! It has been very quiet in the performing front since my last show at Footlight Follies in April and this would be a good opportunity for me to curb my performing itch AND come up with a new routine too :)

The past 3 weeks had gone past in a flash busy with work and social activities, and with Jono not around most of the week due to his performance in Palmerston North, I made the most of my solo time finding my music, putting my costume together, nutting out the dance routine and rehearsing my dance at Webb St Studios. I had several ideas of what I could do this time round and eventually settled for a kimono dressing gown with a baby pink bow belt (purchased from TradeMe), parasol (bought from Wilkin Formal Wear on Lambton Quay for $19.50), and found a well-known Chinese oldies song from album Shanghai Jazz titled “Gei Wo Yi Ge Wen” (translates to “Give Me A Kiss” and is actually a Chinese cover for the English country tune “Seven Lonely Days” by Patsy Cline) re-recorded with a jazz base that was cheerful and catchy. I had to purchase and have the CD shipped in direct from Sydney from the composer/producer of the album, John Huie himself! I could have used the original version of this Chinese song from the 1950-60s sang by Zhang Lu but the audience would probably cringe listening to the singing of a somewhat high-pitched voice of a now deceased Chinese woman. I’m not sure the audience would appreciate the introduction to Chinese oldies if I had used the original version…

Of course, my costume would not be complete without a trip to see my fabulous milliner, Amy, who made a gorgeously striking headpiece for me to match the costume – it had a huge red hibiscus and even a little butterfly at the side :) It’s funny that every time I see Amy with regards to my costume/routine, she would send me on a shopping task to get other bits and pieces to complete my look. This time, she put me on a task to find stockings and slip-on heels. I had a lesson in the difference between stockings and stay-ups; the former has cloth while the latter has a sticky band at the top and not suitable to use with garters which I had figured out by now after the last few shows using stay-up lace stockings with my garters – what a pain it was to secure the garters to the lace! There’s still SO much to learn for baby burlesque performer me!!

Finally, tonight’s the night where I will be debuting my new dance routine using the parasol – I can’t wait till it’s all done and over with! I know, I know…even though I’m not competing this time, I still can’t help but feel nervous and wonder how the crowd would react to my new performance (or maybe I’m just nervous because Mum’s coming to see my show??). As you all know, my previous routines were focused on dance itself with lots of smiles and making lots of eye contact with the audience, being cute with tease, but most of all, standing out from the other burlesque performers in that I do not take off my clothes. The parasol routine is no exception – just the heels and stockings are coming off! Oh, you wouldn’t believe how much research and practice I had to do to master the art of stocking removal with my teeth!! Thank god for YouTube – one could learn almost ANYTHING and it’s a key source in my research for my routines, make-up and hairdos ;) Frankly, it takes a lot of time, effort and cost for a performance that is only 4 minutes long. It isn’t about the money (I spend more $$ than what I get paid), but love for arts and performing. And I hope the audience would love my performance too, at the very least, brings a smile to their faces from my cute dance ;)

I arrived at Ruby Lounge on Bond St around 6pm for the performers briefing and met several new faces, including another Harem Honey, gorgeous red head Nicole (stage name Ruby Smooch) who will be debuting tonight, the 5 contestants vying for the 2 spots in the Harem Honey troupe, and Shay, MC for the night, better known as drag queen Felicity Frockacinno. It was interesting to have some of them come up to me to shake my hand, having identified me as Shanghai Rose, while others thought I was another competitor. No, no, I’m not competing – once was enough!

I spent the next 3 hours chatting with people as I waited till the show officially started at 9pm. What a long wait – I just want to get it done and over with! Mum arrived around 7.30pm and shortly, Amy and her mum arrived too so I had some company for awhile, us four chatting and laughing together. I’ve previously seen Amy’s mum at WOW – she was one of the pre-show entertainers dressed up as a frumpy lady, telling people off for no particular reason. I wonder what she’ll be doing this year as she too, like me and Amy, would be back helping out at WOW. She’s definitely not mean like frumpy lady but such a joy to be with!

Around 8.30pm, I headed to the dressing room for last minute checks on my attire and make-up before the show. So far, I’ve not performed at a venue that had a proper dressing room – this time it was the male washroom! Ok, I’m no big shot or diva but it would be nice to have a proper dressing room with good lighting and a full-length mirror rather than a tiny washroom and several of us crammed inside trying to get dressed, put on make-up and not bump into one another (or the male urinals that kept flushing when it senses motion). Hmm, perhaps this what they call the performers lifestyle, grungy places to get ready for a shot in the spotlight…Thankfully, I was well-prepared knowing this would happen so had my make-up and hair all done at home. All I need to do now is slip into my kimono dressing gown :) Shay was also in the washroom getting ready for the show and I felt I was invading his space when I had to change in the shared facility, more so than him invading my privacy (changing in front of a man but he’s gay so that shouldn’t matter). He’s totally ok with it so OK!

If you thought having to get ready for a burlesque show is hard work, wait till you watch how a drag queen gets ready. I was in total awe (and apologized for staring) as I watched Shay morph into Felicity – tucking away his man bits, cellophane taping himself from bum to chest so that the bum and chest would protrude and tummy sucked in, the vast amount of make-up on the face and dramatic false eye-lashes, not to mention wearing stocking on the head and sticking on a wig with spirit gum! It took SO much effort just for her to look diva-licious, with friends Shirley and another drag queen, Nikita van der Kamp (she’s Miss Drag Wellington 2010 and also one of the judges) helping out. Even I chipped in to get him ready, looking for things as instructed from his pile of stuff thrown all over the floor. I knew that dressing in drag is hard work but had never imagined it would be this hard until I witnessed it myself today. I salute you, Shay/Felicity! You’re amazing!!

Around 9.30pm, the show finally began with Felicity opening with a song and teasing dance with lots of shimmying that got the crowd cheering wildly. The next performance was by the current Harem Honeys made up of Kimberley Grace, Rosa Belle and Ruby Smooch, followed by my parasol performance, and solo performances by Miss La Belle, Kimberley Grace and Rosa Belle. I’m glad I was the 3rd act – that meant I got to watch the rest of the show! Hehe…I joined Amy and our mums in the audience most of the evening (was stuck in the dressing area till the end of part 1 as I couldn't get past the crowd to where Mum was at), catching up with friends during the breaks. Mum looked so proud of me and like Amy and her mum, they were all showering me with compliments on my performance. Aww, thanks *hugs* This was the first time I had performed at Ruby Lounge and I must say, I’m not a fan of a carpeted stage (and one that also had a pillar/pole slightly off the middle of the stage) – there were several moments where a heel got caught and I had to steady myself, smoothing my moves over and conscious not to show worry on my face but smile as if nothing happened. I also had to be really careful not to get my parasol caught by the drapes on the ceiling – the drapes, though looked classy with the interior design, were impractical from a performers point of view as it heighten moves which meant certain moves didn’t look as obvious as it should (on stage, moves have to be exaggerated so that people sitting far back could see it). But despite its challenges, I would say my performance went well :)

A short 20-minute break and then it was time for the Q&A section where Felicity asked each of the 5 contestants a question, either of their opinion on burlesque or how they felt about becoming part of the Harem Honeys. Amy and I were rather taken aback when one of the girls said that burlesque is about showing a bit of pink. Huh?? That sounded like showing way too much…definitely not what I foresee myself doing in public…Each girl then performed their routine: a pole dance, a fan dance and 3 others performing burlesque dances with use of the chair.


Hey, the woman sitting in front of me is wearing the identical costume I wore for the Miss Burlesque New Zealand competition! Black ruffle knickers with garters strapped on lace stockings and the ivory corset - the only difference was she had a black fascinator and was white i.e. not Asian. How bizarre to find someone copying my look!


Another 20-minute break and more performances followed, this time with Felicity kicking it off, performing her song and dance “Dildos Are Forever”, a rendition to James Bond movie theme song “Diamonds Are Forever” with change in lyrics and actions to suit, getting the audience laughing in stitches. Felicity Frockaccino is a wonderful presenter and totally knows how to rock the party! Next up was a repeat performance of Elevator (ob)Scene by Miss La Belle and Courtenay L’amour (they performed this at the recent Burlesque Masquerade Ball, also held here at Ruby Lounge), Anastasia with her tribal belly dance, Miss Taken (that’s Shirley!) singing “Fever” as Harem Honeys Rosa Belle and Kimberley Grace danced, Ruby Smooch’s debut performance (ooo, love her shinny costume and sultry moves) and Kimberley Grace closing off with her fan and chair dance, the same one she performed at Miss Burlesque New Zealand 2010. Perhaps it would have been a better idea to slot me into the second half of the performances instead of the 3rd act so that it gave more variety (and a break from seeing tassels and knickers) to the show. Towards of the end of the second act, I could feel the audience getting restless, possibly having seen too many performances that all ended with stripping off clothes (someone in the audience shouted “just take it off!” – whatever happened to enjoying the tease?), or perhaps just too many performances altogether so the show felt as if dragging on into the night. Hmm…


It was very clear which 2 girls would win the competition as their performances really stood out. Congrats to Mia Cherie and Athena Di Lure who will now join the Harem Honeys! Both girls did a brilliant job in their respective routines, showcasing their neo-burlesque style performances to alternative/rock music and the crowd loved them :) Look forward to see them in action again soon!


General admission tickets for the show varied from $10 - $25 and as performer, I got 2 free general admission tickets, one for Mum and another for Rissa. Rissa had brought along Ben and Sam as well who all saw my performance – thanks guys for coming! I hope you all enjoyed the show :) Pity Jono couldn’t be here tonight – he has missed every one of my show except the very first one at Dr Sketchy because our show schedules always clash. For those of you who missed out, here’s the YouTube video of my performance taken by Ravi Kambhoj:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XsuPjNpcQ8

Photos taken tonight:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157624815898394/detail/

Around 12.30am, the show ended and it was time for me to send Mum home. “Gosh, what would my neighbours think, this lady in her 50s, out partying past midnight!” said Mum and we both cracked up laughing. Hey, fun doesn’t stop with age you know, plus it’s not like you have a curfew at your age, Mum!

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