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 Lulu Munroe 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?
My latest routine is a sea anemone balloon act, which uses balloon animal balloons rather than your traditional globes. Much of my initial inspiration these days comes from the show themes of my troupe, Boston’s Rogue Burlesque. I was looking on Pinterest for some ideas for our spring show, “Under the C-Cup: An Aquatic Burlesque,” and was struck by the image of a balloon sea anemone Halloween costume. After a vague call for suggestions on Facebook, I had my song - “Manah Manah” from The Muppets - which I combined with a snippet of dialogue from Disney’s Finding Nemo, and voila! I had “Manah Mananemone.” The piece is the perfect blend of who I am as a “real person” and Lulu: goofy, flashy, but rooted in classic burlesque.
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’ve technically been a performer since the age of two (although my mom would probably claim since birth!) and have training in both theater and dance. I answered a call for a burlesque apprenticeship about two years ago and haven’t stopped since! I’ve grown since my early performances, which relied heavily on my dance abilities, but I continue to draw on those talents when the need arises (like with my Dirty Dancing tribute that I’ll be presenting at this year’s Michigan Burlesque Festival).
3. Who would be your main influences or performers you admire?
Dirty Martini is my number one - I saw her on tour with Dita a couple of years ago and I couldn’t take my eyes off her from the moment she stepped onstage. Her stage presence, her movements, the ease with which she captivates a crowd - she’s everything I aspire to be as a performer.
4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a routine with, who would it be, and why?
It’s a little off-the-wall, but I’d love to do a routine with a cat! I know, a tad ridiculous considering all the incredible performers out there, but I can imagine having some kind of string costume that is unwound by playful feline. In reality, I’m sure the cat would have zero interest (or end up clawing me to shreds), but a girl can dream, right?
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’d describe my style as “classic burlesque with a dash of mischief and a dollop of dork.” I’ve only been performing for 2 years, so thankfully I have yet to deal with any harsh reviews or criticism!
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?
I know I want to do a routine to Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek.” I don’t know when or what, but it’s marinating in the back of my mind! My first song was a dance remix of “Let’s Misbehave.” I feel in love with it after hearing it on the show “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” and it still puts a huge smile on my face whenever I hear it!
I think the biggest question I get is, “Is burlesque feminist?” My answer? I don’t know. I do know that when I’m onstage, I have the power: the power to reveal, or not to reveal. It’s a few minutes of allowing myself to be vulnerable with an audience, who more often than not, wants you to succeed and wants to be entertained. It’s a gorgeous, symbiotic form of performance art that makes me giddy every time I step onstage.
8. When was the last time you were star struck by a burlesque performer and who was it?
Ooo, it’s a tie between Egypt Blaque Knyle and Dirty Martini. Egypt’s a powerhouse in the world of burlesque and I about melted into a puddle when I took her class about two years ago and she revealed she had seen my latest act and loved it. I met Dirty Martini at last year’s Michigan Burlesque Festival, and although she is a kind, lovely woman, I could barely form a sentence in her presence!
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?
The community! I’m so lucky to be in an incredibly supportive, nurturing troupe that performs in a city with such a close-knit burlesque/circus/drag community. I owe much of my success to Rogue and to Burlesque Boston. The worst part? Maybe the persistence of glitter? (I can’t think of any negative things right now; check in with me in five years!) Thankfully, I also work as a theater artist and choreographer, so if I ever had to leave burlesque, I could still get my artistic fulfillment!
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?
I love when people ask how I got an idea for a routine. My numbers have been inspired by so many different things; it’s a delight to go down those twisty paths. I’m pretty tired of the “So you strip? Do creeps ever bother you?” questions. They can lead to some enlightening conversations, but many people have already judged you and are only looking for a way to express that judgement.
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 was briefly with a troupe that did more harm than good in regards to my mental health and body image. However, it did result in a few incredible friendships, so I’m not sure I would want to completely erase it from my timeline.
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 just want to make people smile. There’s so much joy in burlesque; I want to spread that to my audience and my community. If someone hears “Manah Manah” and thinks of a balloon-popping sea anemone and smiles, I’ve done my job.
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