L’intervista inedita: DIRTY MARTINI

L’intervista con Dirty Martini che segue è stata realizzata da Lorenza Fruci per il libro “Burlesque. Quando lo spettacolo diventa seduzione” (Castelvecchi 2011) ed è inedita perchè non è stata pubblicata all’interno del testo. Risale al 2010.

Dirty Martini foto di Ted D'Ottavio
Dirty Martini foto di Ted D’Ottavio

Dirty Martini è una famosa performer americana di New Burlesque, fa parte della compagnia Cabaret New Burlesque ed è tra le protagoniste del film Tournée di Mathieu Amalric.

How did you get to burlesque? From the dance form, from another form of stripping, from the theater world… or did you start directly with burlesque?

I’ve been a dancer since I was 6 years old. I grew up on the stage and I always loved it.  I devoted my life to dance at that very young age and when I graduated from college (BFA in Dance performance from Purchase College) I moved to NY and worked very hard and auditioned for companies such as Mark Morris, Bill T. Jones, Micheal Clark etc. etc.  I couldn’t make it past the first cut because of the shape of my body.  I was at the same time looking for some sort of performance that I could make by myself, because I was working collaboratively in modern dance with a few choreographers.  I had to think what my body type was suited for so that my over all look put my body into some sort of context.  I had seen some old burlesque reels from Something Weird Video and started studying the movement vocabulary.  Burlesque was kitschy and and glamourous and most importantly could make a very pertinent statement in the modern day about women’s changing sexual identity in our world.  I decided that burlesque was the showcase I was looking for.  At that time there was no burlesque scene and most people didn’t know what the word meant.  I started performing a fan dance that I developed in a show with a theater company called Pink Inc. I added a classic striptease, a tassel twirling finale, called myself Dirty Martini and that was that, I’ve been a peeler ever since!

Napoli Teatro Festival 2008

What is burlesque to you?

Burlesque to me is the ultimate in DIY self expression. Burlesque is glamour, performance art and can be transformative for both the audience and the performer if done correctly.
As I responded so strongly to the different sizes and shapes of women that were presented in the old burlesque reels, people now feel that passion when they see the neo burlesque shows.   In the 40’s and 50’s there were gorgeous ladies that looked similar to me shimmying and strutting and ever so proud of their assets.  I feel that audiences respond to the power of that self confidence and glamour and it looks very accessible, as if anyone could get up on the stage and do it.  Looks are deceiving though!  Burlesque is an intricate and specific form and it’s much harder than it looks to execute well.  It’s not just a women’s movement either, performers like Roky Roulette, Jett Adore, Tigger!, and the current Mr. Exotic World, The Evil Hate Monkey show men that they can bust out of their shells and social norms and join in the fun with the ladies.

How do you see the future of burlesque? Will it go on for a long time or will it be a momentary fashion?

I find that the sort of possibility for expression through the form of burlesque can be very strong for women and men to break the normal stereotypes of gender.  Now that the rest of the world is starting to see burlesque as a sort of retro revivalist show with models in sparkly underwear, I find that it’s more important than ever to continue to innovate within the form.  I love what everyone is doing with burlesque from performance art to classic striptease, but I think that it’s important for the form to grow and change with the times and perhaps leave the audience with a little something different to think about after they leave the theater or nightclub.  I believe that the media has picked up on the public’s love of burlesque and, like any artform, is transformed through the popular culture’s lens.  The heart and soul has been surgically removed from the image leaving a pretty, glittery shell as evidenced by films like Christina Aguillera’s Burlesque and parts of the film 9.  I also worry about the survival of the scene.  I hope that burlesque can sustain the constant waves of trend.  I would like it to continue as a genre from the glamour burlesque to the more experimental.

Napoli Teatro Festival 2008

While performing in different cities of the world, have you noticed any behavioral differences in the audience reaction?

Absolutely!  There are very distinct differences in audiences from the US to Europe.  In New York, our home audiences are vociferous boisterous and often their energy makes the show more fun for the performers.  I’ve found that in France and in the Netherlands the reaction is one of thoughtful quiet watching which sometimes can be misconstrued as vacancy!  In Europe, though, there is more of an understanding of theatrical tradition and burlesque is just one form in a long line of theatrical genres.  In Italy there is so much energy in the audience.  It’s palpable!  They might be quiet during the performance until the end, but you can feel them with you the whole way through.  Finland the party that surrounds the show is a blast!  Those people love to throw down and dance and they dress so well.  In the UK, I’ve always felt like I’m the underdog football team -and I do mean that in a good way.  They are very trend oriented and generally successful burlesque is done by more socially acceptable body shapes there, so when they see me and performers like Leyla Rose and Fancy Chance they get very excited about us.    Anywhere I go though, I feel such support and love.  I feel very lucky that my generosity as a performer is given back in spades!

Spider web Zorita tribute Chris Blakely
Spider web Zorita tribute Chris Blakely

All Burlesque shows have some common features. What distinguishes you from the other artists?

When I started performing burlesque routines, I was pretty unique.  There wasn’t much happening in the world with burlesque, there was more drag performance and in NY it was the tail end of the club kid era.  Now that there are so many people performing in this genre I’m not as unique as when I first started, but I have alot of friends all over the world that I have some things in common with and enjoy networking with.  I still think that because I have so many hours of performance time clocked in, I’m able to present a show that you can’t see anywhere else.  Burlesque isn’t only my job, it’s my life and love!  Also my look is very different from other performers because of my drag influence and the gifts given to me by my parents DNA!!

Stripping is often regarded as commercialization of the female body. Do you think that the same applies to the new-burlesque?

Because modern burlesque is created, performed, run by and glorified by women, the voice of the revolution is different than conventional stripping.  Although I’m not the foremost voice of this discussion academically, I can say that the difference is in the preparation, intention and presentation of the show.  The exchange is led by the performer and any situation is guided by that performer to their specifications.  No one in the room is allowed the privilege of guiding that experience or choosing the person or exchange for their cash.  Most of the time, the venue has no control over that either.    The only recourse for guiding the show that the audience may have is not applauding or participating or going to get a drink when they don’t like what’s going on.  That said the curator of the show creates an atmosphere that may be interpreted in any way by the audience and some audience members may have preconceived notions and beliefs that the performer cannot control.

Can the new burlesque be considered a new feminist movement?

I believe in myself as a feminist super-hero!  I myself and many of my colleagues do consider themselves feminist or queer artists, but the trouble comes in defining all of burlesque. I believe that any step in the direction of glorifying and not objectifying womanhood – that is the, strength, beauty, sexuality, ingenuity and thoughtfulness of women – is a step toward freedom.  Burlesque may be a bit advanced for some countries and cultures to handle but I think it can be very liberating for women and their admirers in this world of male supremacy.

Napoli Teatro Festival 2008

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