1. When/how did you discover your ‘love’ of burlesque?
I was an acrobatic performer before I discovered burlesque, there was one show, Cabaret Askew, made by the exceptional Kali Zahira, that had quite a nice range of cross over between dance, cabaret and circus. During the rehearsals I met the fabulous Miss Candy Phloss, now Phlossy Roxx. We became friends and at the afterparty of the show she asked me if I had a solo act, I said No, so she said she’d help me make one and put me on stage for my first time as a ‘burlesque’ performer for the first Queerlesque in Auckland, that was about three or four years ago now. I just never stopped.
2. Where do you get your inspiration for costuming and choreography?
Now this is a hard question. It goes back long before I started to dance. I have always been a lover of storytelling, written and vocal. I used to write quite a lot. To me, choreography is the extension of that. I like to make acts that have a story, that have strong character characterization. I want to say something with my movements and the clothes that I wear enhance and accentuate the stories.
3. When/how did you secure the title ‘Mister Burlesque?’
It was in February this year that I competed, it’s an annual event which is fantastic for bringing performers together. This time it was held in Wellington but it moves around. I came in with an act that was all about character and had great fun performing it. I think that the judges could feel the amount of fun I was having with the act and they loved my audience interaction. My personal moment of pride was winning the “Miss Tease” award on top of the Mr title.
4. How did you come by the name ‘Ivan the red?’
Heh, funnily enough the name came long before burlesque and the need for a stage name. Back when I was a Medieval Reenactor, focusing on the ancient Rus, fighting with steel sword and axe. That was the name I used for my medieval alter ego, it just seemed to fit for burlesque too. Besides, red is my favourite colour.
5. Tell me about your last burlesque act?
My last act was Bad to the Bone, to the song by George Thorogood. It was the act that won me the Mr Burlesque title, though as with all my acts, it constantly evolves. It is a very high energy act where I got to throw in a lot of my contemporary dancing and, when the stage allows it, acrobatics. Mostly, the act is focused on characterisation. It is all about connecting with the inner badass whilst being seductive at the same time. The act is a lot of fun, I love entering into the headspace for it because I need to be a cocky bastard to present that on stage. I get to really play with the audience too, ending up with nothing but a cocksock.
6. Who would you like in your next or future audience?
Hmm… as much as it is always nice having industry professionals in my audience, what I love most are audiences who really appreciate it and need someone to entertain. People who don’t get to go to shows and never get to see the fun of burlesque. It means I’m a sucker for show made for a good cause.
7. Any influences?
Sooooo many! Where do I start? I’ll keep it to my main influences in burlesque. The Stage Door Johnies. When the trio came to New Zealand last year, the lessons I learned have stayed with me and are literally plastered on my walls. I rewrote my notes from their workshops, printed them and stuck them on my walls. Bazooka Joe’s lessons on musicality, which is my weak point. Jett Adore’s lesson on the application of the Stanislavski’s acting technique to burlesque is just brilliant. Ray Gunn is my absolute idol, he is a brilliant dancer, throws in fantastic acrobatics into his routines, and is the King of Burlesque 2013 in the Miss Exotic World Pageant. He is doing exactly what I want to be doing, maybe with a couple more years of training.
8. What is the most interesting thing about you?
Hmmm, did you know that I am also a philosopher? I have spent years studying at university and even more on my own. Particularly focusing in the existentialism of Nietzsche, Sartre and the absurdism of Camus. Just another tid bit of the many things that I do.
9. Do you eat breakfast?
Nope, just coffee, with the exception of when I go out to breakfast with good friends. Beyond that I follow a diet that makes me feel amazing but doesn’t include much if anything in the way of breakfast.
10. What makes you smile?
Passion. Whether it is on stage, in a book, in art, music. Passion calls to my spirit and inspires me to be passionate in kind.
I understand being homeless is not a choice – having experienced ‘sleeping rough’ before. Realising it’s an ongoing issue here in New Zealand, and that youth are also involved (sadly). I feel we need to address this issue now and the ‘Big Sleep out’ is my way of being visible and fundraising towards housing marginalised people. I would personally love to help every homeless person – but unfortunately I don’t have the financial means or expertise. Lifewise can make a difference. I’m happy to be apart of the ‘Whore’ team, being a ‘rough sleeper’ on 3 July and fundraising for a great cause. I find it amazing that society ignore the homeless issue. Why? Just remember you are ‘lucky’ to be sleeping in a (warm) bed, with a roof over your head!
Rebecca (Married Woman, Refugee) from ‘Whore’ is sleeping rough for the first time. She considers herself a bit of a nomad, travelling from country to country, trying to find a place called “home”. Find out why she is going to be a ‘rough sleeper’ on 3 July.
I’m doing the ‘Big Sleep Out’ because it’s important to see and experience what I don’t know. I have no idea how difficult it is for people to deal with this every (single) day. I will hopefully get the smallest taste of what it’s like, for people who do this every night. In the cold, in the wet, when it’s unsafe and you’re terrified about who might want a piece of you. By sleeping rough, I get to experience some part of how that (makes me) feels. That’s what I love about life – being able to relate to and understand people, including homeless people.