1. Please introduce yourself.
My Stage name is Chilli D’Vine. In everyday life I’m Tracy Cook or Dr Tracy Marks:) I’m 33 years old and work as a medical doctor in an emergency unit.
2. When did you start attending burlesque classes and performing burlesque?
I started attending classes with The Rouge Revue in Sept 2015. I performed 3 months after that for the first time.
3. How did you discover burlesque?
My now husband heard Lady Magnolia talking about The Grand Exhibition on the radio. He thought I might be interested in attending classes. What he didn’t know was, 8 years before I unknowingly went to a burlesque show in Johannesburg and saw someone I grew up with (in dance class) absolutely own the stage… Miss Oh! Since then I’d always had the itch to try it out but never actually took the leap.
4. What attracted you to burlesque?
Seeing women of every shape and size owning their space and bodies made me want that too. I also love any and every form of dance and to experience a new one enticed me.
5. Did you have any reservations about starting burlesque?
Not really. I didn’t fully realise what I was getting myself into. I definitely didn’t think I would be performing so soon or at all.
6. How did/does your family, loved ones react to you performing burlesque?
Well my husband told me about so he is definitely Chilli’s biggest fan, as is my 6 year old daughter who cannot wait until she’s old enough to come to a show! My mom has come to watch a show . It’s not her thing but she respects my choice to do it and knows how much I love to dance.
7. How do you cope with pre-performance nerves?
Champagne helps… a lot! Lol! (Well not currently since I’m 5 months pregnant). I cope by being prepared. By knowing my choreography and by joining in the fun backstage.
8. How do you reconcile your burlesque persona with your ‘day job’, do they ever collide/compliment or detract from each other?
I keep them separate. In my experience people tend to look for qualities in their doctor that they don’t necessarily ascribe to in a burlesque performer. I don’t hide the fact that I perform but I don’t advertise it at work either. It’s quite a conservative workplace and I don’t think they would be very accepting.
9. Please mention your burlesque inspiration, one local and one international performer and motivate your answer.
My local inspiration is the person that originally sparked my interest in burlesque. Her tease quality, beautiful lines and vintage style inspire me. My international inspiration is Zelia Rose, an Australian burlesque performer. I believe representation is important and she is a burlesque performer of colour that is doing amazing things. My absolute favourite is her tribute to Josephine Baker! Definitely watch it.
10. What is your favorite thing about burlesque?
There are so many!!! I love the crafty side of burlesque. Making costumes, pasties, doing make-up and hair, I love them all. But the burlesque family that I’ve become a part of is definitely my favourite thing about burlesque. I get to interact with strong, fierce, sometimes vulnerable women, and importantly, my daughter has many more women to look up to.
11. How has burlesque had an impact on your life outside of time in class and on stage?
I spend quite a bit of time making costumes (some not even used yet!). I meet up with some of the women that I’ve come to love and know through burlesque quite frequently. Our families have gotten to know each other too. We also have a monthly supper club where food is the main attraction and not dancing. Basically, it’s become a huge part of my social life:)
12. Do you have any rituals you do before you perform?
I can’t think of any specific rituals. I do my hair well before Showtime because… curls. And they’re unruly! To get Chilli’s signature finger waves takes a lot of glue gel. A LOT.
13. How do you start the choreography for a dance?/ Create a solo?
I find a song that I absolutely love and can listen to over and over and over (because that’s what happens). I then think about the concept and costuming. Once I have an idea of my costume/props I have a better idea of how I’ll be able to move and what steps I can choreograph. I then break the song into manageable bits and play with it:)
14. What, to you, is the worst thing that can happen during a performance?
Going completely blank and showing the audience that you’ve blanked out!
15. What is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to you regarding your performances?
I can watch you dance all night!:)
16. What has been your funniest experience as a burlesque artist?
In one of our class pieces we had to remove our shoes to do stocking peels. I decided to loosen my shoes beforehand so they’d be easy to take off when the time came. What actually happened was the moment I stepped on stage, my shoes came loose and I had to try and dance the entire first part with untied shoes. Not my sexiest moment (I was just trying to stay upright)!
17. If you could perform for one person, dead or alive, who would you invite to be in the front row for your performance?
My late grandmother. She may have a heart attack watching a performance, but she’d definitely appreciate the artistry and costuming!!!
18. If you could go back in time to your very first show, would you do anything differently?
Not at all. I had the best first performance with the best group of ladies. We danced to the live music backstage before we went on. We were so nervous and so excited. Most of the dance is a blur, except for the moment that we started unzipping our corsets. I have never had so many butterflies before. I’m also lucky enough to have had that moment captured by Miss Ruby. It was so exhilarating… And fun and I just wanted to do it again
19. Who are your go-to’s in Cape Town for costumes and props i.e. Lingerie, stockings, gowns, fans, props etc.
The Velvet Letter, Legwear Safari, China Town, Fabric City, Kwaai Lappies. I’ve recently started sewing myself so im dabbling in my own costume making.