My name is Stella Astraea and I’m a Glitterholic. Its been about 124 minutes since my last glitter. That stuff sticks to you worse than superglue. It even followed me to Baghdad, where I found some stuck to my body armour. Glitter! In a war zone! If only it was the solution to world peace!
I kind of came to burlesque by accident. Some friends and I saw an advertisement for the Sass and Tease beginners class early last year and dared each other to do it. Not one to ever turn down a dare, I paid in full up front and showed up excited for the first class thinking I’d do the term as a bit of a laugh. My friends never did. The rest, they say, is history.
What I found was a magnificent group of humans, and an experience like no other. Under the tutelage of the fierce and fabulous Abel Fox and dazzling Dionysian Ivy Ambrosia, we went from a randomly assembled conglomerate of individuals to a family, a community. One I am proud to be a member of. I think back to that first class where we all sat in a circle to introduce ourselves and how shy and retiring we all were. Fast forward a few weeks and we were jostling for a place in front of the full length mirror to get a good look at our boobs while we practiced tassel twirling. Burlesque changed us all, in so many ways. All of them good!
Before starting burlesque classes, I had no idea how big the scene was in Canberra, let alone Australia. How could I have lived in the ‘Berra for over ten years and had no idea?! It was like a secret society, but one I am so glad to have found. Its a society where tolerance, acceptance and generosity are the norm. Where respect, recognition and support are the cornerstones, and where discrimination, bigotry and judgement are stamped out immediately by your sisters/brothers/fellow humans.
I stayed on at Sass and Tease and did the Intermediate and Act Development courses as well. I’ll probably go back and do them again. I got to see myself and my classmates grow, form friendships, some of which may last a lifetime, and open ourselves up to experiencing everything this journey had to offer (yeah, there has to be at least one cliche here). I performed in group and a solo performance with Sass and Tease.
I spent a fabulous weekend at Congress of Undress and was joyous to discover that burly artists from everywhere are the same. The same community, the same character, the same feeling of being embraced by your tribe when in reality they were complete strangers up to then. Photographers, videographers, producers, and other assorted support people in the burly world are the same. The Nathan J Lesters, Catchfox Photographys and Ashlee Robertsons of the world who make you look and feel beautiful, bewitching and desirable even when you’re having days where the spoons ran out before you started.
I have changed as an artist so much since that first class, and throughout this adventure, based on the influences and experiences I’ve had. From watching different performers and exploring my own motivations and abilities.
When I first started contemplating a solo performance, I had visions of classical burlesque a la the heyday of Parisienne decadence. I’ve done a little of that, but I’ve also been able to create and perform characters like Baby Groot and Buzz Lightyear (yeah, Buzz went exactly where you think it went…. ). The wonderful Fi Bonacci - Producer gave me the space and trust to perform a piece about losing a baby. It was raw, it nearly killed me inside, but it was also very cathartic, and I think it has helped me to heal. Empress Eyrie has allowed me to do the weird stuff and let my crazy ideas come to the stage. She also lets me just wing it, at Eyrie Improv, which is a great experience for a newbie. The best laid plans of mice and men will never survive first contact with the stage - the best way to learn how to overcome those random disasters in your routines, is to do an entirely improvised routine! You learn pretty quickly how to think on your feet and keep the performance going.
I am so glad I accepted that dare. I am so glad I found Sass and Tease and burlesque. I am so glad I found Stella. I love Stella. Stella is brave and powerful and coquettish and mischievous. Stella is confident, crazy and unashamed of her too curvy body. All the things that muggle me is not. Stella will bare her soul and her skin on stage, tell a story and evoke emotions. Burlesque helped me find Stella and Stella helped me find me.
Photographs courtesy of Nathan J Lester - Visual Artist