Posted by Jules V Moorhead | Posted in burlesque, Meet the Variety | Posted on 06-04-2015
I first saw Lady Fancy at GalHaus Review‘s Big Show 6, the student showcase put on by MICA’s burlesque club annually. My co-producer Betty O’Hellno and I attended to support the club and were blown away by her artistry and poise. We immediately booked her for our next show, where she effortlessly wowed the crowd. You never would have guessed she was new to the scene.
I recently had the chance to ask Lady Fancy some questions about what attracted her to burlesque and her first impressions so far.
What was your introduction to burlesque?
There was a burlesque club [GalHaus] at Maryland Institute College of Art that had a few shows I attended, and afterwards I was curious and started looking up videos of other performers on the internet. I stopped attending MICA as a student, but the club was kind enough to let me still participate in their activities, and I was hooked from there.
What drew you to performing?
I’ve been involved in the performing arts for pretty much all my life, mostly through music. Piano and voice recitals, musical theater, leading music at my church and at conferences…I’ve done a lot of different things. Looking back, even at the church stuff, I got so much out of interacting with an audience. There’s a kind of energy the audience gives you, and by performing, you take that gift and give it back. It’s a very powerful feeling. I get a lot out of making people happy that way. Being able to make someone smile, or convey some kind of meaningful message through performance is really special.
How did you choose the name Lady Fancy as your stage name?
My friends have been calling me Fancy, Miss Fancy, Fancy Pants, etc. for a while. It’s really to the point that hearing my real name is almost a surprise. Fancy just fits and I love it. It’s my true name, if you will. When it came to picking a stage name for burlesque, I picked Lady to go with it because I really admire the poise and classiness so many dancers bring to their routines. The poise of a Lady, the playfulness of Fancy….that’s what I want to bring to my performances.
What background contributes to your style?
Musical theater and belly dance both have a strong influence on the way I move and dance. Musical theater taught me a lot about stage presence and how to fill up a room, as well as strategies for blocking and using stage space well. Belly dance is something I’ve seen a lot of and dabbled in, both dance and costume-wise. I was always impressed by the importance of both choreography and improv in that style. You can tell a lot of stories through belly dance the same way that you can with burlesque. It’s also very close to burlesque in how extravagant the costumes can be. I can’t resist the sparkly!
Do you have any influences or inspirations as a burlesque performer?My fiancé showed me a lot of Dita VonTeese’s photographs when I started burlesque. I really connected with the lavish opulence of her looks – so many rich textures and so much sparkle! She also brought the poise and elegance from her performances into her everyday lifestyle. I’m a little chaotic as a person so the idea of taking the spirit of burlesque and molding myself to its ideals is really amazing. Also, I really admire Nina Amaya, a local belly dance performer. She leads the Aubergine Troupe, and I took a few lessons with her after seeing their performances at local events like Artscape. They do traditional belly dance, but also do performances and storytelling as fairy dancers! She’s a very whimsical lady who makes a living by bringing a fun loving, childlike spirit into her dance. I really admire her as a person and for what she has accomplished as a performer.
What’s been your most memorable experience (good or bad) on stage so far?
There have been a lot of really good ones from my church days, but one in particular sticks out to me. I led a congregation in a song called “Wade in the Water” one week. There were about five or six hundred people in the room that Sunday. The song had a lot of soul and I really was able to grind and get dirty with the sound. The lyrics talked about the struggles of life and the hope that it would all mean something in the end, which everyone can connect to. It was call and response, where you sing one line and the audience sings back. By the end of the song, everyone in the room was on their feet, stomping and clapping. The energy was really intense. I remember that I was shaking by the time the song was over, it was just that powerful. I hope that I can bring that kind of vulnerability and connection to future performances, because I will never forget that experience.
Tell us a bit about GalHaus. How has it shaped you as a performer?
I can’t speak highly enough about GalHaus. Dolly Longlegs did a great Burlesque 101 workshop the semester I joined the club. I was still wrapping my head around the idea of stripping, but the welcoming atmosphere she created along with the club leaders encouraged me to give it a try. The first year was a little challenging because very few of us had been exposed to burlesque before, but having mentors like Mimi Madly who could teach and give us direction while developing individual acts for Big Show 5 was so helpful to our growth.
The second year, the returning members did a fall show that brought in a lot of new students, but also gave them a head start on putting ideas for an act together. Having so many people who already had strong and unique ideas made Big Show 6 a really diverse show. I remember feeling confident about approaching my second act with the club, as I was starting to learn what kind of dancer I wanted to be and what kinds of themes I wanted to bring to my performances. I even got to try my hand at leading a workshop for the new members. I really hope that I can give as much back to that club as it gave to me.
I’m giving the pro thing a go because GalHaus taught me how much I loved burlesque and wanted to keep doing it. That kind of drive and inspiration is hard to come by, but GalHaus has it in spades. I hope the professional community continues to keep an eye on future Big Shows, because the people who stay in Baltimore after graduation have turned out to be some pretty solid performers, and it really prepared me to go out and apply what I learned to other acts. I am truly grateful that I got my start in such a great environment. Cheeki Ho is heading up the club next year, and I am really excited to see how it flourishes under her leadership.
As a new performer, what are your biggest fears or concerns as you get into burlesque?
I worry about my lack of knowledge and exposure. Other than the GalHaus Review, I haven’t seen a lot of burlesque, and I don’t want to be disrespectful to those who have dedicated so much of their lives to cultivating burlesque locally and internationally. I really want to make it out to more shows so I can see what is out there and learn as much as possible from other dancers. I’m also a little worried about the actual cost of where burlesque might take me. It’s something I can see myself doing a lot of, but the cost of making new acts, traveling, touring, festivals, etc. is a little bit daunting. I tend to throw myself into things out of the sheer joy of it, and am worried that the money side of things might steal some of that spark. Still, I know there are a lot of performers who do it on a much tighter budget, so I just need to network and learn from those people so I can figure it out too. I’m really looking forward to the connections and friendships that are out there waiting to happen through burlesque, though. I just hope I can stay humble while still being the best that I can be.
[Photo Credit: Dorret Oosterhoff]