Interview: Burlesque Dancer, Porcelain Alice
Meet Porcelain Alice, a theatrical burlesque dancer from Sydney who seduces with old school charm on stage while wearing her own designs:
Could you describe what ‘theatrical burlesque’ is to someone that is not especially well-informed about burlesque and the different variants of it? How does it differ from other styles of burlesque?
Classic burlesque refers to the burlesque styles of the 1920’s through to about the 1950’s. I classify myself as a theatrical burlesque performer, rather than a ‘neo’ (being burlesque of the modern day) or ‘classical’ because I take particular aesthetics from the old world and muddle them with modern liberties.
I imagine audiences wish to be momentarily suspended in a reality which is not their own and I therefore feel theatrics such as narrative and character development enhance the art of tease. It is these elements that ensure it is not just a beautiful woman on stage but a woman in a world of her own to which you are momentarily invited to see.
How did you get into burlesque? Was it a transition from your days as a classical ballet dancer?
Ballet has certainly trained my body to respond to music with an intuition that instructs me to ‘point my toes’, however it was actually long after ballet when I began pole dancing classes that I discovered burlesque.
How did you choose your stage name, ‘Porcelain Alice’?
It was a hurried decision however one that I do not regret. I have an extensive collection of vintage Alice in Wonderland books and having loved the character Alice ever since I was young I wanted that name for my alter ego. ‘Porcelain’ came because the first thing I bought Alice as I began giving her life was a set of ivory feather fans. My first show was upcoming and they needed a name quick, so ‘Porcelain Alice’ emerged.
You create all of your own costumes, some with added found objects like peacock feathers and pages of old books. Tell me more about why you do this and why you use these objects…
I want my performances to be unique and creating costumes allows for me to ensures this. Furthermore, for burlesque to be an expression of myself, I have to be engaged with the piece I am creating from conception, to design, to creation, and right up until the last layer has been peeled off me on stage.
I should however mention that my partner helps almost every vision I have become reality. He sourced the vintage chandelier that we transformed into crystal lingerie, and has sewed countless items for me.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your costume designs and your live performances?
Imagery, particularly art deco artistry often inspires costume and stage aesthetics, however it is usually a particular discourse, folk story or pop culture ideal that inspires a theme of a show… then it’s a matter of matching the music to the tone of the concept, creating a costume and choreographing the performance.
Who are your burlesque icons?
Josephine Baker (pictured, right) hands down. She was reported to have been an ally in WWII as she hid information about Nazi activity in sheet music, as she traveled freely amongst neutral countries.
How do you prepare for a performance? Do you get nervous pre-show?
If I am well rehearsed I am not nervous. As many of my costumes have elaborate parts, like a moving peacock tale, hidden beneath a dress, or underwear made entirely out of crystal pieces that may awkwardly shift, dress rehearsals to me are crucial.
How do you spend your time when you are not working on an act or performing?
I study Media and Communications at Sydney University. I am excited to be in the Miss Burlesque NSW Semi Finals this March which will be just before I resume study for 2014.
Keep up to date with everything Porcelain Alice has got going on by Liking her Facebook Page.
Interview by Carol Bowditch.