According to a recent press release: "The Michigan Burlesque Festival started in 2012 with the intent to bring some of the world’s most unique performers to Detroit in hopes of reuniting the traditional concepts of original burlesque theater, where dancers and vaudevillians shared a stage to provide well rounded and entertaining sexy comedic show. It has grown into a two-day festival featuring not-to-miss local talent and award-winning performance artists and world renown burlesque performers, such as past headliners: Lushes LaMoan, Bella Sin, The Weird Sisters, Red Hot Annie, Super Happy Funtime Burlesque, Russell Brunner, Roxi D’Lite, Dangrrr Doll, Ray Gunn, Mr. Gorgeous, Jeez Loueez, Satori Circus, Hank E Panky, Dirty Martini along with so many more phenomenal performers." We get the performer Hannah The Hatchet to discuss routines, influences, and much more...
1. Tell us a little about your latest developed routine. What drove you to choose the particular piece of music, create the costume, and pull together the specific moves in the routine? Are there any links between that routine and your “real life” that tie the two side of you together?
This spring I debuted an act to No Doubt’s iconic song “Just A Girl.” The costume is all powder pink, very girly, 50’s inspired. I do a classic slow peel to the upbeat song and progressively get more angry/passionate/sexual throughout the song. This act was inspired by my deep feelings of frustration and anger at living in a world where women are seen as objects and valued unequally. It was and is a sort of cathartic F-U to the Man, that I very much needed to get out of my system. I was lucky enough to then work with Obscura Broadcasting and Detroit composer and musician Jarrod Champion to turn this act into a short film. Jarrod and I working with Bunky Hunt were able to compose a cover of the original song in a jazzy fashion which I personally sang over which made this act feel even more personal, as I got to put not only my body but my voice into it.
2. What got you into burlesque, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a performer? Building on that, is there a specific performer or act that guided your performances in the beginning?
I have been performing since I was 10 years old (not counting dance recitals starting at 5, haha!). I was lucky enough to start an all-girls pop-rock band when I was in 5th grade with five of my best friends. We stuck together playing music through high school performing all around Central NY. I was the lead singer and have always enjoyed entertaining a crowd! As for burlesque, my mother got me into it! She started a burlesque troupe with some gal pals in Ithaca, NY when I was 16. I join the Whiskey Tango Sideshow when I returned from college in 2015. Starting as a stage kitten, then choreographing group acts, and finally moving into my solo career over the years! My mom still does burlesque—we perform as a duo, having travelled to perform together in The New York Burlesque Festival, Ottawa’s Capital Burlesque Expo, and her in Detroit at the Michigan Burlesque Festival 2018! Even now, loving states apart we often call each other up to get feedback on act concepts and share costuming tips!
3. Who would be your main influences or performers you admire?
I would say Madonna, Audrey Hepburn, and Gwen Stefani would be my first influences as they were the women I listened to and watched and learned from in my childhood. They shaped who I am as a woman and therefore who I am as a burlesque performer because the two are so intrinsically tied. In burlesque be biggest influences are Gypsy Rose Lee, Angie Pontani, Calamity Chang and Perle Noire. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to personally learn from and work with the latter three women in the past few years! All three truly are not only amazing performers but are teachers, mentors and bad ass businesswomen!
4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a routine with, who would it be, and why?
Gal Friday. Because I want to be her when I grow up.
5. How would you describe your performance style to someone who’d never seen you perform before? What is one review from the media, an audience member, or a fan has made that made you cringe?
I don’t really like to box myself into any one performance style. I want to always be pushing myself, trying new things and finding what feels good for me as an artist. I had an audience member once tell me —in fact show me—how I should exit the floor after my performance! She clearly was well intentioned but the manner in her deliver was as if she was trying to give me a ballet master class on the spot. I smiled and nodded as I balled up my fists behind my back—nothing worse than having someone tell you how to do your job right after you get off stage!
6. When it comes to the musical component of your performance, is there a certain musical genre, artist, or specific song you have always wanted to use? What was the first song you ever used – and what does that song mean to you now?
Music is so important to me on a deep, deep level! I grew up in a household full of musicians and create music myself so I so deeply appreciate how a song can give emotion to an act, set a tone, and help tell a story! Though I perform to all genres of music, doing burlesque, and more specifically living in Detroit and doing burlesque, has thought me so much about jazz! The first act I ever did was to Tommy Dorsey’s “Opus One” which at the time I just picked because it was classic and upbeat, but interestingly at the time I had very little understanding or appreciation for jazz, haha, so funny that that’s where it all started!
7. What is one thing you wish audience members knew about you, your performances, or burlesque in general? What do you feel is the biggest misconception about you and your burlesque career?
I prefer wearing men’s pants, no make-up and enjoy dancing around like a freak—the elegant glamour gal just comes to me naturally, sometimes I’m not sure why!
8. When was the last time you were star struck by a burlesque performer and who was it?
Red Bone at Capital Burlesque Expo—she is just the most down to earth person! She complimented our duet and I nearly fell over. I’m so stoked she’ll be at MiBF this year! (Buy her Glam Jam—it’s the best body glitter!!)
9. What is the best part of being a burlesque performer? Conversely, what is the worst part? If you could no longer be a performer for whatever reason, what would be your other artistic outlet?
Best! Getting to be whoever the F*** you want! Worst! Getting to be whoever you want can be confusing sometimes!
10. What is one question you have always wanted someone to ask you as a performer – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?
Tired of answering: how do you do your sparkly red lips?! ...I was performing in Chicago last weekend and the MC did a bit about how she was starting to charge the audience members $5 to answer that question—Ha! I loved it, might have to start doing the same ;)
11. Looking back over your burlesque career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over”, even if it didn’t change your current situation?
I don’t really believe in missteps, or at least I try not to dwell on them too long, but in general I would like to have told myself /continue to tell myself today that sometimes less is more!
12. What is one thing you still want to achieve in the burlesque world? At the end of the day, what contribution to the local burlesque scene do you hope you will be remembered for?
I really would like to have the opportunity to work with, honor and learn more from our Burlesque Legends, across the nation, and more specifically our local legends, Toni Elling and Lottie the Body. They have paved the way for women in burlesque and I would like to learn from them and honor them!
HANNAH THE HATCHET LINKS:
MICHIGAN BURLESQUE FESTIVAL LINKS: