non-feather fans: Miss Ivy League

February 6, 2011

I was lucky enough to meet Miss Ivy League backstage at a New York School of Burlesque Student Showcase. I was instantly enamored by her fans and asked if I could get her to talk about them on my blog.  She was a sweetie, and after my initial forgetfulness, sent over this great  write up.  Who needs feathers when you have this level of creativity?!

Whenever I go see burlesque, I leave with a million ideas for my own acts. Not re-workings of performers acts, but maybe they’ll do a little move, and in my head it will spin off into it’s own direction. I think I probably came up with the idea after watching a beautiful fan dance at the Slipper Room in 2008 or 2009. As in, “It sure would be neat to see or do this idea!”
I’m trained as a sculptor and as a landscape architect, and in a lot of my artwork and models I’ve used fake plants in non-traditional ways. In some ways, leaf-fans were the most obvious expression of that. In February of 2010 I took the Essential Burlesque series at the New York School of Burlesque and I already had the idea for the fans
then. I was excited to learn fan dancing there so that I could apply it to the as-yet-nonexistent leaf fans –but I didn’t know to what music, or when, or if I’d even like fan dancing at all!

So, that 3 hour class with Jo Weldon was my first time fan dancing and I loved it even though I was sort of appalled by the cost of feather fans. And the thought they’d have to match a number of costumes! How could I afford them anyway? Good thing I wanted to make leaf ones!

Photo by The House of Indulgence

Photo by House of Indulgence

Around that time, Michael’s Craft store opened in my neighborhood and I leapt for joy – they always have a great selection of fake plants, and decent sales. I waited and got four “boughs” of Ficus. Still didn’t have music, still didn’t know if I was actually brave enough to get on stage. But I had the boughs.

In May of 2010, Lena Horne passed away.  My father had been a big fan of hers, and when I was little (like 2 years old) I met her and apparently she picked me up and called me charming and such. She was always so elegant, and lovely. I was watching videos of her on youtube, when I found her singing with Kermit the Frog a duet of “It’s Not Easy Being Green” and I knew I had found my music and my act. It spoke to everything: my own childhood watching Kermit & Lena, it talked about being different – and when Lena sings it she is talking about being a person of color not just a frog, it talks about pride in being who you are. Best of all, it’s just a little funny too. Jim Henson (another hero of mine) has such a unique and funny voice. And everybody loves Kermit!

I still had not made the fans though! Then Jo Weldon sent out a request for performers for the January 2011 new student showcase, and I said I’d do it…. And crap! I NEEDED THE FANS! It was a good thing I’d bought the boughs as Michael’s was out when I went to buy dowels and spray paint.

Photo by House of Indulgence

The fans are not constructed like traditional fans. Basically, I justtook a ½” dowel, cut it down to two 6″ long pieces, and drilled four holes into each piece for the bough stems. I cut down the stems with a good wirecutter, and glued them in with Gorilla Glue, which is super strong. When I hold them, I either hold the dowel against my four fingers and pressing down with my thumb, or I actually will loop my fingers over the dowel. Before going on stage I usually “fan out” the boughs a touch more and arrange the leaves.

To make the leaves pop on stage, they are lightly sprayed with metallic green spray paint in a blotchy layer, and on top of that a layer of gold glitter spray. They probably cost me a total of $50-$60 to make. The boughs were the most expensive part at $8 a pop or so if I remember correctly, and I used two cans of glitter paint, but only one can of the green metallic.

They work pretty much like “real” fans but they don’t collapse. Occasionally the leaves bind up together and you have to give a bit of a tug to separate them.
I adore them.

Photo by Anna Fischer

Photo by Anna Fischer

I have lots of other non-traditional fan dance acts I’d like to do! I have at least 2 I think are pretty feasible, and another 2 that will take a lot of technical engineering. …
I tend to collect the bits I need as I go along rather than trying to do it all at once, right before a show.  The leaf fans in that way took a year to make – but really it was only a day of construction. Not even a day. A few hours, maybe 4 but they were spread out over a couple of days! So, these other fans may take a while. Right now maybe I’m missing the music or it’s not the right time for the event – I’d love to do a Christmas fan dance, an Easter fandance, a Channaukah fan dance! The possibilities are endless.

OK, I guess that’s more than four – off the top of my head I have 7 alternative fan-dances I’d like to do! Making stuff is a big part of why I do burlesque. I think it’s half the fun! The rest of the fun is split up between making people smile, and the liberty and freedom and confidence that comes from not being afraid to get naked on stage!”

To find out more about Miss Ivy League, friend her on facebook


2 Responses to “non-feather fans: Miss Ivy League”

  1. Thank you SO much for featuring me on your blog! You’re wonderful and I can’t wait until we get to see each other again 🙂

  2. Ivy, if you didn’t already have a great name, you could be Dita/Lita/Sita/Rita Von TREES!

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