Sunday, 20 January 2013

Meet the Queen of British Burlesque Eliza DeLite

Photo by Tigz Rice
Since starting my business about three years ago i have met some amazing and talentet people.  I am proud to call them my friends.  I am going to do a series of blog posts introducing them to you!

You won best UK female at the Burlesque games last year for your signature act.  Tell us more about that act, where did your inspiration come from?

Religious Iconography has always fascinated me (not something many people know). I actually hated going to church as a youngster (not that I attended for very long) - but the one thing I remember was a strange looking picture on the wall of who I assumed to be Jesus and I was struck by it's odd style (I can't have been very old at the time). I just remember staring at it for what seemed like hours every Sunday, as I found the vicars sermons to be inanely dull (and to be honest I didn't believe a word of it - so I zoned out). 

Pierre et Gilles
The religious artwork was about the only thing I took away from my time at church but it definitely lodged itself in the depths of my consciousness, and it was years before I acknowledged it again. As an art student studying varying art mediums - I came across an image by photographic duo Pierre et Gilles. It was an elaborate, colourful & kitsch photo of 80's pop singer Marc Almond depicted as the devil opposite an angelic white cherub statue, they were surrounded by beautiful pink blossoms. This became my favourite art photo during my last school years, and on entering 6th form I came to discover more of their work - including the image  "la madone au coeur blesse"- which inspired my signature act. 

marc almond
 A lot of Pierre et Gilles work plays on the aesthetics of various religious icons and I wanted my costume to be as rich and colourful as their photos. It wasn't until I heard the piece of music (a string quartet cover of Madonna's "Like a Prayer") that the act clicked together in my head and I began working on it. 

When did you first get into burlesque and why?

I think I've always been a bit of an exhibitionist and I've always had a desire to stand out and to fight against the norm - so when I began performing as a burlesque artist it felt completely natural. I've studied dance on and off (ballet, tap & modern classes as a child) though I quit ballet when I was about 12 as I deemed it too girly for my tastes & despised the pink leotard I had to wear. I took  up dance properly again during my A levels when I studied A level Contemporary Dance, where I excelled in my choreography but not so much the academic side of things (laban notation was a serious headache). I actually went on to study photography & film production at university but during my second year there I discovered the university burlesque society. I got involved and quickly made some very good friends. It was only after my third show that I got picked out by an audience member who went on to book me to perform at her birthday party - that was my first paid booking, the rest is history!

I'm at a turning point now where I've spent the last 7 months riding the wave of having won the British Female Crown at the World Burlesque Games - my bookings have shot up and I'm spending most weekends on a train travelling across the UK to shows. But I feel now more than ever that I need to work extra hard, more eyes are on me than before and so I'm taking on a few things that will help me to keep on top of my game - mainly these are regular dance classes - including elementary level ballet. I'm going to push myself hard and have no intention of stagnating! I've just received my first international booking over in Milan with Voodoo De Luxe, Italy's top burlesque agency.

You are a real life glamour vintage queen in the real life,  what is your favourite vintage outfit?

Oh god that's really hard! I don't actually own much in the way of vintage day wear - I'm a big sucker for long evening gowns. I recently bought a beautiful duck egg blue original 20's/30's ostrich boa cape which I adore and is great to slink around in post show. For my newest act "Ziegfeld Girl" I bought and restored an original 50's dance costume (leotard & detachable bustle). It was in a fairly run down condition but I spent a good few months (and an unthinkable amount of my earnings) breathing life back into it - making sure at all times that any new additions were in keeping with the era. I'm so pleased with the way it's turned out. 

Photo - Grace Elkin 

 One of my other favourites is my 1936 tail coat. I found this at Twinwood festival in the summer and it actually came with the matching trousers (which unfortunately were a bit too big). It's in near mint condition and fits fantastically. Unfortunately I've never been one for practical vintage - at present my vintage shopping ethic is generally "if I can't wear it on stage I'm not spending money on it". Maybe when I'm a little bit richer I'll be able to justify some nice vintage daywear. 

Candee Piccies

You put on a burlesque night in Leicester, Electrotease.  Tell us a bit more about that.

I started up ElectroTease in October 2011 after resigning my post as head of the Demon Belles university burlesque society. I'd run the society for a year along side one of my best friends and when she left Leicester it just didn't seem right to continue without her - this was also pared with my need to focus more on my own work as a performer and I just couldn't commit to the amount of time needed to running the society (and it's 20 odd members)! 

Photo - Grace Elkin 

Producing my own event seemed like a natural progression from running he society as I'd gained the organisational skills to put on and advertise a show. The only difference was not having to attend weekly meetings and making sure the other girls had their acts together - instead I began booking established performers and having to work more with the financial aspects of show production. I've never been the most organised person in general, but I think when it comes to event organisation I've come to find it quite enjoyable. It's hard work keeping on top of it all, and needing to always be thinking several shows ahead but it's very rewarding to see all the hard work put into action, and when I see the audience smiling, laughing & enjoying the shows it really makes it worth while. I also produce all my own poster artwork, one of the benefits of having studied photography & graphic design. 

Flyer for next event, for more info see facebook page

When I generated the idea for the event I wanted to bring something new to the already saturated burlesque scene in Leicester which is why I chose to include Electro Swing as an equally important aspect to the night alongside the performances. It's a music genre that's had me gripped longer than I realised - I got my first taste of ElectroSwing in 2006 - the track was called "Jazzhole" by Free The Robots and was the iTunes free single of the week. 

ElectroTease was also Leicester's first underground (literally) burlesque event - the venue (The Basement) is a lovely cocktail bar run by the popular Orange Tree group. The atmosphere down there is lovely and I do view that as a unique selling point. The crowd that generally attend ElectroTease are very fun, friendly and not shy to come and say hello after a show. Once the show is over, the stage is removed and the whole space is available for dancing - people tend to stay and dance for a couple of hours afterwards. Many of the performers tend to stay too and mingle with the audience which makes for a really nice intimate experience. 

Photo - Grace Elkin 

In August 2012 we managed to secure a sponsorship with Cointreau which has helped us to be able to add some bigger name performers to the line ups. And just this month we've also now gotten another sponsor on board in the form of Holloway Smith Noir who will be donating luxury nipple tassels & pasties as prizes for our raffles. We are always looking for ways to include fellow creatives and have in the past had small independent creative businesses set up shop at the events selling handmade goodies. 

I hope to see ElectroTease continue to grow over the next 12 months and am currently looking at expanding it to other UK cities. The website will be up and running soon but for now, anyone wanting to get a better feel for it can check out the facebook page which has lots of great live photos by our resident photographer Grace Elkin (she really captures the atmosphere perfectly)!

You perform at private parties, do you get scared going to a place you don’t know, to take your clothes off in front of people you don’t know?  Do you take any safety precautions?

I'm always very cautious when I take bookings for private events. Often if I'm not booked to perform alongside a fellow burlesquer I'll take Dr DeLite along with me - who very kindly acts as maid by picking up my costume after I perform (he'll argue he does this at home too!). The actual performance aspect doesn't scare me at all really - I find I generally get more nervous performing in front of people I know, who see me perform regularly, because they know the standard they can expect from me and I'd hate for them to see me off par. 

Photo by Neil Kendall

Whats the atmosphere like back stage?  Is there any bitchness between performers?

It all depends on the event really. Luckily most shows are hugely enjoyable and with the right mix of characters, the atmosphere backstage can be great fun. I make a concerted effort to always be friendly, inclusive and helpful back stage (if someone needs a needle and thread - I'm on it!) but sadly there are a few who don't always share this same work ethic and it can really put a dampener on things. 

I'd be a lier to say we're all friends in this industry (as with any creative industry). I've had to learn the hard way on a few occasions - that not everybody wants to be your friend - and egos can sometimes get in the way of professionalism. It's the ultimate downfall of the creative world. 

That aside - I have made some incredible friends through my work (especially in the last 12 months). I often look forward to an event more if I see certain names on the line up because I know we'll have a blast working together. I would at this point like to make a little shout out to two northern based burlesque troupes who I felt welcomed me into their world and I have never felt so much love & friendship from any other group of so many people - The Headline Honeys & The Coquette Collective! They are all the loveliest bunch of performers I've had the pleasure of working with and I'm so looking forward to making a guest appearance with the Honeys again in April. I only wish I lived a little further north so I could enjoy their company more often. 

Why do you think burlesque has become so popular in recent years?

I'm still trying to figure that out. I've not really been doing this long enough to properly speculate on the reasons behind this current resurgence. But I have reached a point where I now feel I ought to know a little more about it's in depth history and it's rise & fall over time, so I've actually been swatting up and reading lots of relevant books. I'm currently reading "Showgirls" by Andrea Stuart and can highly recommend it. It looks closely at how our idea of what the "Showgirl" came to be - quite fascinating really. I do consider myself to be a modern showgirl so it's useful to know about all the great women who preceded myself and todays other modern showgirls.

Photo by Neil Kendall
To find out more about Eliza DeLite and to keep up to date with her shows and performances, you can find her here on the web;

Instagram: elizadelite

Twitter: @ElizaDeLite

Next weekend i will introduce you to Lucille from Lucille's Locks!

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