Baby Ray

1. Please introduce yourself.

Hello! My name is Robyn but you can call me Baby Ray. I am 25 and I am a counselor.

2. When did you start attending burlesque classes and performing burlesque?

This will be my 5th year of being a Burlesque Baby.

3. How did you discover burlesque?

I was walking along in the dust of the desert at Afrikaburn and came across these goddesses dancing in the warm glow of the steampunk saloon. I had no idea what the name for what I was witnessing was, but I just knew I had to be doing it too. I’ve performed every year at the steampunk saloon since, hoping to inspire others like me to join the magic.

4. What attracted you to burlesque?

Seeing these women holding such an enormous amount of power and presence on stage struck me in a way I really needed to be struck at that time in my life. I needed to rediscover my sexuality and my power and relish in it.

5. Did you have any reservations about starting burlesque?

I didn’t. I was in a relationship with someone who had reservations. We are no longer together. Haha.

6. How did/does your family, loved ones react to you performing burlesque?

My mom and sister are my biggest fans. My mom has made many of my burlesque costumes and given me her vintage dresses to perform in. When she went to New York recently, she bought me a beautiful pair of vintage gloves which I still have to debut in a solo soon. I wear the corset she made me in almost every act. My sister acts as my sounding board- I bounce ideas off of her all the time. I trust her judgement so if she says a dance is good, I consider it complete.

7. How do you cope with pre-performance nerves?

After so many years performing, I don’t get as nervous as I used to. I miss feeling really nervous- it’s a good tool to use energetically on stage.

8. How do you reconcile your burlesque persona with your ‘day job’, do they ever collide/compliment or detract from each other?

Baby Ray may come out when I need to speak publically or make important decisions- not her persona, but her strength. I lean on what I’ve learned as a performer a lot. Taking up space in a world that says Womxn should be small and quiet, celebrating myself.

9. Please mention your burlesque inspiration, one local and one international performer and motivate your answer.

I’m going to sound like a total kiss-ass, but Lady Magnolia for her infinite grace on stage and in life in general. I love Lady M’s ability to enchant a crowd with her wrists; making tiny movements gigantic in their impact. You can’t look away. And that’s powerful. Internationally, Giuditta Sin, Sina King, Porcelain Alice and Clea De Velours. They make use of classic burlesque elements, but their presentation is flawless and unique. They’re magical without trying too hard. That’s the key.

10. What is your favorite thing about burlesque?

Stripping. Making myself vulnerable but taking a position of power on a stage- having agency in the way I look and how I control where the audience looks. I also love that it’s a creative outlet for how I feel. I’ve got through so much emotional pain through the construction and performance of solos. It’s always more than just a dance to me- you’re seeing an emotion.

11. How has burlesque had an impact on your life outside of time in class and on stage?

I became comfortable being naked, I learned that I love champagne, I learned that I am a sexual being and that I shouldn’t be ashamed of that- I learned that I can make art out of that. I’m more confident now. More courageous. Also, I learned the value of having and holding agency.

12. Do you have any rituals you do before you perform?

I rehearse all day and then take a long bath. I like to take my time to get ready; slowly put Baby Ray on. I don’t like to talk to anyone before I go on stage and I usually sneak away somewhere quiet backstage to centre myself. Before I go on, I lift my head, smile and then strut.

13. How do you start the choreography for a dance?/ Create a solo?

I listen to my chosen song on repeat for several days. I freestyle in my bedroom or lounge or the studio (usually rather badly). Before every solo, I’ve had a dream about it. When I wake up, I eliminate the unrealistic things and then I usually have a template to work with.

14. What, to you, is the worst thing that can happen during a performance?

Wow. So much can go wrong! Besides for maybe the music stopping mid-dance or not being able to get your costume off, having an audience that doesn’t reciprocate energetically is THE WORST.

15. What is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to you regarding your performances?

Baby Ray fans are honestly the best fans! So many people have said incredible things but my favourite is when people are unable to describe the feeling they got, when they say they didn’t expect to feel something and then did.

16. What has been your funniest experience as a burlesque artist?

I love the moments backstage- the things the audience can’t see. But At AfrikaBurn 2016, Miss Penny Pinup and I were halfway through a rather unrehearsed group dance when I went completely blank. The choreography literally just floated away. When we had our backs to the audience I whispered ‘Penny, I’ve gone blank’ and we improvised the rest of this dance without any grace and rhythm and came off stage and nearly collapsed from laughing.

Recently, at our last show. The curtain was closed and all the Rougettes were in place ready to perform our group dance when I asked Vita Nova to readjust my stocking situation. She proceeded to tell me to squat on the floor, and clench while she realigned my underwear- the entire cast standing in the wings watching this rather unlady-like situation unfold moments before the curtains were about to open. There was also the ‘My Vagina!’ incident during a
photoshoot with the Rougettes and Miss Ruby. Those who know, know.

17. If you could perform for one person, dead or alive, who would you invite to be in the front row for your performance?

Courtney love and Lana Del Rey.
Also I made my 17 year-old dreams come true by performing to a song by L7 a while ago. I’d love to see what they have to say about that.

18. If you could go back in time to your very first show, would you do anything differently?

Not at all. My first solo was imperfectly perfect. I would probably tell myself to relax and enjoy it instead of focusing on the steps so much, but it lead to me knowing exactly who I wanted my character to be.

19. Who are your go-to’s in Cape Town for costumes and props i.e. Lingerie, stockings, gowns, fans, props etc.

Vintage and second-hand shops anywhere and everywhere! Everything Baby Ray wears is vintage (or made by mum) so sometimes it can take a while to find a complete costume.

20. Please send a link to a youtube video of your favorite track to listen to at the moment.

I’m listening to my solo song for the grand exhibition on repeat at the moment but I won’t ruin the surprise. So here is another: