Lady Magnolia

1. Please introduce yourself.

I’m Lady Magnolia, I’m 37 and a professional burlesque and belly dance performer, teacher and choreographer.

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

I found burlesque by accident in 2008 when I attended a pole dancing class with Scar-lit Hearts and Diva Disastar who were just starting to explore the art of burlesque. I didn’t like the bruises that came with pole dancing so I decided to join Star and Scar-lit and do burlesque instead. I had no reference of burlesque before I joined Black Orchid. It was a happy coincidence and I’ve never looked back.

3. How did you discover burlesque?

I danced with Black Orchid for about 2 years before deciding to start teaching burlesque as an extension of my existing belly dance studio, The Feminine Divine. I eventually realized that the burlesque studio was an entity in it’s own right and so The Rouge Revue was officially born. I taught classes for 2 years before hosting the first Rouge Revue show in 2012. We’ve hosted 4 annual studio shows a year since then, which means that at the end of this year we’ll have done 28 studio shows!

4. What attracted you to burlesque?

I think that having belly danced for over 10 years, I was ready to step over the established sensual vs sexual boundaries of belly dance, and try something more risqué. I was drawn to the corsets, glamor, high heels and feathers, as well as to the feeling of power I felt when performing. As a teacher, burlesque is extremely rewarding, as I’m part of a community of womxn who really do support one another.

5. Did you have any reservations about starting burlesque?

Not at all! I performed at The Flamjangled Tea Party quite early on in my burlesque journey, and it was the first time that my mom, Verity,  saw me performing burlesque. She had a look of terror on her face throughout the performance and I was convinced that she hated it, but after the performance she told me that she’d been terrified that I was about to fall off the narrow dj counter that I had been given as a stage. My mom is the most eccentric womxn I know, so nothing could shock her.  She’s often in the front row at shows, although she really loves to be part of the energy and shenanigans backstage too!  I don’t feel ashamed of my sexuality, so if there are people out there who judge me for it, I don’t take it on.

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

My little sister Tiffany is my biggest fan. She doesn’t do burlesque herself but she loves the shows. I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by open minded, kind, supportive friends and family who are incredibly supportive so it’s not something that I think about too often.

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

I have a ritual when I get ready for a performance. I have a glass (or two!) of champagne while doing my hair and make up and getting into character. There’s usually so much to do that I don’t really have time to get nervous, specially for studio shows where there are up to 35 dancers who all need reassurance and assistance getting ready.

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

Initially I was nervous about how the belly dance community would react to my burlesque performances but I’ve tried to adopted the attitude that what other people think of me is none of my business. As a burlesque dancer, I’m lucky that this is my day job. I think the only thing is that when strangers ask me what I do and I tell them, I always feel like they’re waiting for me to be terribly interesting but I’m really very shy and nervous around new people so I usually just go quiet!

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

That’s a difficult question to answer because I’m surrounded to by so many beautiful performers and I don’t want to pick favourites!  I’m inspired by all of our local performers, both professionals and students, because Cape Town is a conservative city and it takes courage to do what we do.

My favorite international performers are Ginger Valentine and Medianoche. I saw them both performing live in New Orleans and New York and I fell in love with them.  I try not to be too influenced by other performers though, so as to keep my own essence when performing. When I met Ginger Valentine at a workshop in New Orleans, I burst into tears, I was so star struck!

10. What is your favorite thing about burlesque?

I love that burlesque is a body positive space. When I’m feeling insecure about my body, I remember all the times that I’ve seen performers on stage and reveled in their beauty, and I remind myself not only am I beautiful and  worthy despite my perceived flaws, but also, that I am more than just my body.

I love the burlesque community and the friendships that develop. As a teacher, seeing womxn find a way to express, enjoy and celebrate their bodies, sexuality and beauty is incredibly rewarding.

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

Burlesque IS my life! I have to consciously make time for the other things and people in my life that I love.

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

See above re champagne! I feel like the moment that I apply my red lips and lashes, is the moment that Tenille disappears and Lady Magnolia arrives. At studio shows we try to take a moment before the show starts to stand in a circle, hold hands and connect with each other, just sending energy and positive vibes between the performers. It helps to ground the dancers and make us feel connected.

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

I decide on the energy of the piece I wish to bring to the stage and then find a song that feels right. I make a music map of the song to help with choreography and then put it all together. For my solos’ I really enjoy
improvising, so I often go on stage with just a vague idea of what I’ll do but a clear energetic intention.

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

Feeling disconnected from the audience.

I once forgot to take off my bra during a performance in front of international performer, Louise De Ville, she said she thought it strange that the teacher was such a prude!

I have terrible pre-show nightmares about the stage being made out of mattresses and there being no plugs for sound and lighting….

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

Someone once told me that they can see fairies dancing in my hair when I perform and a little girl once asked her dad if I was real as I walked past after a performance. Those were very beautiful moments.

On another occasion at a show in aid of Rape Crisis, one of the performers took a moment to tell me that as a rape survivor, she was grateful for the platform to help raise much needed funds, but also, to reclaim her body and sexuality in such a public and powerful manner.

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

We laugh a lot in every class, I am the funniest person I know, so there are too many funny things to remember one specifically! 😉

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

Anais Nin. I admire her courage, determination and ability to live an extraordinary life.

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

No, the first show was part of the journey to where I am now.

I did delve briefly into singing on stage which was traumatic and terrifying. I’m not sure I’d like to repeat that experience.

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 – Custom corsets, stockings, swimwear
Peter Brophy – Most of my costumes are custom made by Peter.
Ambra Creations – superb pasties
Saray Design – Gorgeous burlesque and belly dance costumes

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

For my heart:

For Burlesque