Semester in Sequins #2: Bump and Grind

Burlesque wannabes get their first lesson in tease.

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Arts & Books
"Just imagine you're wearing a huge strap-on dildo and you're tracing a circle on the wall."Zora Phoenix rocks her hips counter-clockwise in front of the class as she gives 14 burlesque wannabes their first dance lesson: how to bump and grind. Phoenix, whose real name is Chris Stewart, stands 6’2” in 5-inch pumps, stockings showing the full length of her legs. She tosses the hair of her red wig ...   More
 
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 AARON SPENCER

Semester in Sequins #6: Red Wedding Dress

A former opera singer strips down.

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Arts & Books
Baby LeStrange stands before the Rose City School of Burlesque class in hamburger-print leggings and boots with gold, spiked toes. She’s teaching facial expression, a skill she’s exhibited onstage before while straddling a giant hot dog bun, but first, she wants to know our plans for our graduation solos. This is the first time we've discussed these solos, but the class already has ideas. ...   More
 
Tuesday, February 25, 2014 AARON SPENCER

Semester in Sequins #8: Wigging Out

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Arts & Books
Savannah Smackdown, who is hungover from celebrating her 21st birthday the night before, walks with me into Wigland on Northeast Broadway. Smackdown, who acts older than she is but still doesn't have a driver’s license, recalls her dismal shopping trip days earlier. "I went to all the vintage and thrift stores and didn't find anything," she says. "It was the most horrible, desperate shopping trip ...   More
 
Wednesday, March 12, 2014 AARON SPENCER

Semester in Sequins #5: The Burlesque Name

The burlesque neophytes christen themselves.

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Arts & Books
Forbidden names for new burlesque performers include Kitten, Kitty, Vixen and Honey, or anything with “Von” or “de Ville” or “Lux” or “Deluxe.” And, of course, Lolita. They’re overused, says Fannie Fuller, instructor at the Rose City School of Burlesque. “And when you start you want to be like, ‘This is me.’”Fuller knows this firsthand. As a burlesque ingenue in 2003, she ...   More
 
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 AARON SPENCER

Semester in Sequins #7: Captain Glitterbang

Facing down body anxieties in burlesque class.

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Arts & Books
The Rose City School of Burlesque class gathers around instructor Meghan Mayhem, who’s demonstrating how to apply false lashes in the mirror. Mayhem, who earlier in the course whipped her blonde mane into a beehive in less than six minutes, says every performer needs at least three things: liner, lashes and shadow. Jason, one of three guys in the class, steps aside with me.  “A lot of what ...   More
 
Wednesday, March 5, 2014 AARON SPENCER

Semester in Sequins #4: Mod Squad

One and one and one is three.

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Arts & Books
At the end of the 10-week course at the Rose City School of Burlesque, the 16 students will perform a group number. That’s in addition to the non-mandatory solos that instructor Fannie Fuller says she’s “assuming” everyone will do.But the group number for this class—made up of students of an assortment of sizes, ages and gender—has the potential to be a motley mess. Fuller says repeatedly ...   More
 
Tuesday, February 4, 2014 AARON SPENCER

Semester in Sequins #3: My First Pair of Heels

Do shoes make the man?

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Arts & Books
It’s 30 minutes before my second class at the Rose City School of Burlesque, and I’m pacing the aisles of the Lloyd Center “Cross Dress for Less” (as it’s called in drag circles), in search of some heels.Instructors told students on the first day of class to bring a pair, and though common sense told me this isn't mandatory—especially for the three men in the group—I still want to try. ...   More
 
Tuesday, January 28, 2014 AARON SPENCER

Semester in Sequins #1: Before the Burlesque Begins

Dance critic Aaron Spencer dives into burlesque's world of pasties, sequins and tear-away pants.

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Arts & Books
Burlesque is a mainstay in Portland, from the fiery stages of Dante's to the nerdy trenches of Geeklesque. It's almost too popular, sometimes with more shows than the city can support—regularly scheduled shows have come and gone over the past few years, sometimes with life spans of less than a month.Still, the town keeps cranking out peelers, and that's largely thanks to one fabulous factory: the ...   More
 
Friday, January 17, 2014 AARON SPENCER

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