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 Leena Allure 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?
Currently I have 4 acts in the work and each act feels like it's an extension of my personality. I have one that will have a bit of dramatic flair, another one that is a bit old school, one that gets a bit naughty, and one that pays tribute a pin up idol who has influenced a lot of my make up and fashion sense. As for my recently debut, It was to the song Roxanne from Moulin Rouge. It was me celebrating my newly found freedom of expression. It embodied everything I was feeling at that moment. It contains pieces of costumes I had to put on hold from 2 years and it embodies a sexier side of me. A bit more tease, a bit more play, and all the bits of things that I held back because I didn’t want to deal with the repercussions later.
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 a full time burlesque dancing since January 2016. I did dabble in burlesque a few years prior, but never really found my voice or style. It was the end of 2015 that I knew I needed a more creative outlet in my life. I was running on fumes in the pin up community and every single day was becoming the same routine over and over. So, I uprooted my life for the 10th time and started down the burlesque path and never looked back. This is when I started adventuring down into Detroit more and found this whole new world to explore. The Burlesque community was tiny. Usually the only way to see a dancer would be at an art show that may have 1 or 2 performer in it, and it was almost every weekend I was making my way into Detroit just to perform at one of these types of shows. This all changed when Holly Hock and I got together. I admire Holly because she really has the drive, determination, and attention do detail. She established an all burlesque dancer show, The Detroit School of Burlesque, and always works to help build the community. She proved that she has the follow through to make things happen. I was happy to support her in anyway I could and we teamed up to create a space that allows all types of people to feel beautiful and creative.
3. Who would be your main influences or performers you admire?
My main influence would have to be Dita Von Teese. Not just because I get referred to her a lot, but because she is the reason that burlesque has became main stream. She has more than proven her skill sets, sells out every show, and has established herself far beyond just burlesque. It really is all her hard work that is truly inspiring. Also, let’s not forget Dirty Martini, every time I went to Dita’s show, she is the one I left talking about. She works a stage, she has a silhouette to kill for, and knows how to entertain an entire crowd even with a simple twirl of the tassel. I actually got to meet her at Michigan Burlesque Festival last year and she is wonderful to chat with as well. But, if we talk local. Ms. PussyCat and Lily LaRue was my first exposure to live burlesque and both were so different. Ms. Pussycat has this wild crazy energy about her and Lily was a classically calm posed beauty. It was wonderful to get a peak a both styles at one time and now realizing how much they both set the stage for my ideals about burlesque.
4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a routine with, who would it be, and why?
Currently I would love to work with Margaux Royal. We get mistaken a lot for each other, but we both have a totally different style to our performances. It would be fun to explore what we can come up with. I do have a fear of set choreography, though I think she would be the Perfect Jane Russel to my Marilyn Monroe if we did a Little Rock routine.
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?
My style would be Strip Tease Story Telling. When I put together a routine I think of the character that I want to represent. I think of how each piece represents a part in the song or the story I'm trying to tell. I get pretty meticulous about how each movement will flow into the next. Figuring out where there should be a bit more tease, a dramatic pause, and where I have free time to play with the audience. I want to create a build up to the final reveal. Could it be rhinestone tassels? Could it be googly eye skulls? just never know.
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?
My VERY first act was to Ludo - "Skeletons on Parade." This was a Halloween show and I knew I wanted to do that classic image of the a skeleton dancing around in a top hat. I searched all styles and genres of music and this was the one song that I could picture the whole routine in my head. It was a simple act at first, the reveal was a full body skeleton suit with tassels sewn on it. At that time I wasn't fully comfortable with the idea of getting half naked in public, but each act after that was just a bit more comfortable and a bit more revealing. Now it's a wonderful reminder on how far I have came since the first time. Not only do I still use that act with a completely upgraded costume and reveals. I now happily love my body and run around without a care in the world that my skeleton is on parade. As for my go to music it is probably Celldweller. I have a few acts done to his music already and every time I hear it on my play list I always feel very inspired and energized again. I used his music for my Apocalypse act and my Mechanical act which are probably my most creative and I love performing them the most.
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 hear about how people are scared to talk to me. I get told a bunch of reasons but most say they were intimated by me or thought I was stuck up. I try to reach out to people first, but I'm so bad at small talk. I’m one of those people who would say happy birthday back to someone that said it to me. I always make the joke that I'm so bad at talking that this is why I strip. The wonderful part of being a teacher at the Detroit School of Burlesque is that as much as I teach our students, they also teach me. They help be get over my social awkwardness. I like that I'm available to them in a casual setting and they feel comfortable talking about their day to me or ask me questions. I enjoy being able to share my knowledge and I love seeing how much they grow as a person and as a performer.
8. When was the last time you were star struck by a burlesque performer and who was it?
Dannie Diesel. She was booked for Dirty show this year and was a power house to behold. She knew how to work that stage and make it her own. Even just the few moments I chatted with her afterwards she was wonderful. Very easy going and a fun loving personality to be around. It was actually after I got to chat with her in the dressing room at Speakeasy Sundays is when I started getting star struck. She has the biggest heart out of anyone I have ever met. She is passionate, devoted, and has a drive to live life to the fullest. I have so much respect for her. Her passion and drive to share and protect the history of burlesque and all her knowledge is truly awe inspiring.
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 part of burlesque is the freedom to create. There are so many styles of burlesque that there is no limit or restrictions as to how much to reveal or how crazy you want to get. The worse part is the mental game of thinking whether or not you are good enough. There was a moment this year that I was considering leaving burlesque. My personal life was getting more strenuous and I was made to believe my burlesque was the cause of all problems, HA!. I announced I wasn’t going to make any new costumes. I started planning to sell off some of my costume pieces and slowly start to fade away from the community. Maybe fall back into my pin up lifestyle or work on getting into cosplay. As much as my personal life was falling apart burlesque was the one thing that was always there. The one thing that made me feel good about myself and the one that I kept holding on too. It really does make you a stronger person.
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 get asked a lot of questions and I never shun away from any of them. I tend to be an open book. But very rarely I get asked the one question that makes me feel established in the community, and that is when someone directly asks me for help. Worse questions would be when some random person asking me to fulfill some fetish of theirs.
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 am actually pretty happy in my current situation. I'm doing things now I never thought I would have be been capable of a couple of years ago. I moved into my own Apartment and all that was funded by the money I have been saving up from doing Pin Up and Burlesque. Though there is a moment that happen 2 years ago that I wish I could absolutely take back. Though looking at it now, it was a learning situation that gives me a new perspective on how to help others get out of unhealthy relationships. This situation took a hard hit to my performances. I let another person's insecurities manipulated me into proving that burlesque wasn’t that important to me. It was a lot of mental games of being picked apart by someone that you thought cared about you. When you think you finally found a happy supportive middle ground only to be shunned afterwards. It's a mind f*ck. Even the little bit of burlesque I was trying to be apart of was still a burden because it took the attention away from them. Lesson: Don't ever sacrifice something your love for someone that forces you to change for them. None of my family or friends gave up on me, they have always been supportive of my art form. Even my burlesque family was always there and my love of performing never dimmed.
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?
This is a new step in my life. All the opportunities are now possible. I can now refocus my love of burlesque into new outlets and new passions. Even striving for a chance to maybe one day perform at the Burlesque Hall of Fame. Things are no longer out of reach. I’ll always strive to improve, to dance, and create well rounded acts that all can enjoy. I hope that I’ll be remembered. Even if its a foot note as a helping hand to another, or maybe, when I’m old and grey, I’ll be remembered as one of the local legends that helped inspire Detroit to keep pushing forward with freedom of expression and self love. Because you really do learn to appreciate your body, your mind, and your abilities when you have the freedom to dance around in your underwear.
LEENA ALLURE LINKS:
MICHIGAN BURLESQUE FESTIVAL LINKS: