At Leiden Magazine we love a good costume. And what better type of costume than a Burlesque costume? When The Famous Spiegeltent recently came to Canberra, bringing with it Burlesque Idol: an intoxicating evening designed to support emerging burlesque talent, we were intrigued. We sat down the incredibly lovely Sarina Del Fuego, burlesque artist and producer to get the inside scoop on the world of burlesque.
Leiden: How did you get into Burlesque?
Serena: I had been working an antique store and a record company and loved the art form. So [I] started collecting trimmings and costumes and memorabilia. I had been dancing rock ‘n’ roll, west coast and east coast swing, and rockabilly for a while, with the occasional booking to dance at Star Casino in Sydney.
I guess it was a natural progression, although I never saw myself as someone who would get up on stage. An entertainment booker pushed me in to trying “burlesque” on for size, I started teaching myself from old movies and had a stripper mentor me in the art of feather fan dancing. After one performance I was hooked and never looked back.
L: You have performed all over the world, where has been your favourite audience?
S: Canberra by far. Canberra has such a supportive and appreciative audience for any type of entertainment. They keep coming back for more and I love Canberra for that. Second would be Amsterdam, where they love to have fun and anything goes.
L: Why do you think Burlesque is so popular again? There seems to be so many people interested in performing as well as a bigger audience with an appetite for it.
S: I think when things get tough, rent goes up, pay goes down and life becomes a struggle, that’s when people turn to the arts (especially the art of tease), to lift their spirits. With so many great schools and teachers in Australia, I think this attracts people to learn too.
Adelaide – Peaches N Gin Melbourne – Australian Burlesque School, Bottoms Up Burlesque and Maison Burlesque Brisbane – Bombshell Burlesque Academy and BB Le Buffs School of Performance Canberra – Canberra Dance Theatre and Canberra Burlesque Parties
L: How do you develop your costumes? Do you design them or do you source them? Do you have a character in mind before you come up with a costume or do the costumes help build your performance?
S: Costuming differs for each routine, sometimes I will fall in love with fabric and the costume and routine is inspired from that. Others start with theme or idea for a routine then I will design and make the costume to suit the elements in the routine. Some of my costumes are vintage pieces, some are designed by me and then made or some I have made from scratch or a mix of the above. Costumes are such a vital pat to tell the story you want the audience to see.
L: Can you explain the typical elements/props of a burlesque costume?
S: Outer layers are just as important as the under layers. Typically you would start at a pair of nipple tassels or pasties and a merkin or g-string, stockings, a great pair of heels that are to die for but must be comfortable and supportive enough to dance in. This could be all you need and a pair of feather fans or to add to the bare essentials, you could have pair of gloves, boa, corset, suspenders, bra, another layer of knickers and a two piece or gown.
L: How do you approach choreographing a routine?
S: Again this may differ between routines but sometimes it can start with the song or start with an idea or collection of movements. Either way I will have a style in mind and find perfect track to put this together then hit the studio with the costume elements and work out how to combine them all.
L: What style of burlesque do you enjoy most?
S: I’m a classic girl through and through. Showgirls of European yesteryear really inspire me and I love to watch too. Saying this, I love to watch other performers in more vaudeville and comic styles, it is something that I personally can’t do.
L: What’s next for you?
S: Back to London & Leeds for a while to perform and produce shows and continue working on Burlesque Idol BIG finale in September, which will be held at The Abbey 17th September (back in the Nations Capital).
Image: Sarina Del Fuego outside The Famous Spiegeltent in Canberra