In the midst of what can only be described as horrifying electoral campaign season, we are reminded that women, femmes, feminists, queer and trans folks – in the midst of resistance to overwhelming sexual and state violence against us – we are still creating the lives we dream of. Resistance can be joyful. It can remind us of the possibilities, it can usher in new freedoms.
All of this describes, the recent work of Andi Stardust and Laika Fox, whose Team Starfox productions are transporting the tradition of burlesque – bawdy, hetero-oriented, white dominated and reifying of thin women with huge breasts and butts – into politicized, body loving, genre-busting territories. The Body Political: A Subversive Burlesque and Variety Revue, comes to Oakland this week on October 20th at the Oakland Metro Opera House.
For some time, these two San Francisco-based burlesque performers tried out new incarnations of Burlesque within traditional performance realms. Over time, inspired by the stories of women, genderqueers and trans-identified folks who responded to their political aspirations for the burlesque tradition, they dreamed up a community-driven performance that would showcase the depth and breadth of women’s relationships to their bodies, engaging much more challenging material within the burlesque tradition.
Some 3 years ago, Stardust and Fox put out their first community call for performances, and the results have been nothing short of astonishing. Andi notes:
Laika and I developed a friendship years ago, because we were both doing burlesque infused with social justice, the body, femininity, gender, queerness – defying expectations. We were outliers in the work, but lots of folks were coming up to us at the end of the show and saying – -oh, I love what you are doing, I could never do that!
Over time, feeling the passion of their audience, they came to believe that many, many people could do just that, if only there was a supportive venue. Their first call, for a show in San Francisco, garnered over 40 submissions – demonstrating how important this potential space was – how hungry the community at large was for a focal point for body positive expression, creative development and performance.
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After whittling down the submissions to 10 acts, Team Starfox workshops these acts in front of a panel of seasoned burlesque performers. This step is almost as important as the performance itself. Validating the many forms that performers work in – from spoken word, to comedy, to music, to burlesque, there is collaborative, affirmative spirit that drives the development of the show. Laika notes:
Our feedback is designed to help the performers express themselves as clearly as possible. We want the pieces to be read by the audience per the performer’s desire – so we try to help them get to their best expression and to understand that there is a safety net for them – a performer’s community there that has their backs, and wants them to succeed.
In this way, the process of curating and creating the event embodies social justice values and practice, strengthening the content and impact of the performances. And this kind of organic process always bears one-of-a-kind evenings that emphasize different elements of body-positive work. Andi reports:
Our first show, in San Francisco, we had a preponderance of submissions on size and body acceptance. The second, in San Oakland, really emphasized themes on race and gender. Now, our third show – coming soon to Oakland – submissions were strong on consent, rape and domestic violence.
In this way, The Body Political performances reflect what is happening in the communities they are embedded in. It’s kind of a temperature reading – people hear about the show, and their submissions reflect the current struggles and breakthroughs in performers’ lives.
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Andi and Lakia note that the best way to support liberating practices and projects like the Body Political is to show up! Tell your friends, and come celebrate your own political body.
If you can’t show up in person, you can always donate to The Body Political.
The mission of The Body Political is to confront social myths about bodies through personal stories of resistance and reclamation. Types of acts include burlesque, spoken word, comedy, music, and more. Performers will explore topics such as: gender, racial justice, age, weight/body type, domestic violence, trans visibility, health, sexuality, body positivity, and bodily consent.
The show will take place October 20th, 2016 at 8pm at Oakland Metro Operahouse. It will run 2 hours including a 15-minute intermission. Attendees must be 21+ with valid ID. This venue is wheelchair-accessible. Ticket are available at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2606309, $25 for VIP (seating) and $20 for General Admission (standing). This venue is wheelchair accessible.
More information can be found at http://thebodypolitical.com.
In order to continue producing high quality content and expanding the message of radical, unapologetic self-love, we need to build a sustainable organization. To meet these efforts, we’re thrilled to share the launch of our #NoBodiesInvisible subscription service. This service will provide our community with access to additional content and rewards for your monthly investment in furthering our radical self-love work.
Need some help growing into your own self love ? Join us for our free webinar 10 Tools for Radical Self Love.
[Feature Image: A photo of a person wearing a black hat and a black bra. They have shoulder-length wavy hair. They are standing to the right of the frame. Behind them is a red curtain. The entire photo is in red and grey scale. Source: Photon]