I know I had promised this interview awhile ago, but there were some details that needed to be ironed out on my side.  This interview seems long, but Dale is such a complex person and has such a great personality, you finish wishing there was more.  Heads up, there is some cussin’ in this interview, so if you have sensitive sensibilities, you were warned!

a self portrait taken by Dale Rio as part of her "a gallon of gas and a match" series.

Vegan Berlesque: Why what first got you interested in the world of Pin-ups and pin-up photography? 

Dale Rio: i knew some pin-up models through the vintage car scene when i lived in los angeles and photographed some of them for fashion shoots or personal projects.  i didn’t know much of the history of pin-up, though, until i started doing research for the classes that i teach.  don spiro and i got asked to do a pin-up class at one of the big burlesque events a while back, so we put one together.  we taught at tease-o-rama, exotic world, and burlycon, and when i moved back to new york last year, we started teaching through the new york school of burlesque.  it’s interesting, because something as extraneous as pin-up is actually part of an interconnected web of influences that you wouldn’t necessarily relate to each other; the economy, art movements, politics, war, fashion, etc.  the way we teach pin-up puts it into a sociological perspective, so it’s not just a bunch of pretty images of pretty women.

VB: Do you have a favroite pinup model or photographer?

DR: i really like bunny yeager, because she not only was a photographer, but she started her career as a model, so she’s experienced both sides of the lens.  i feel that must give her a better understanding of what her models go through than photographers who’ve never experienced being on the receiving end of a photo shoot.  also, being a female in a male dominated industry will earn my respect every time.

VB: What first introduced you to the world of burlesque?

DR: i was actually introduced to burlesque by sideshow performers who i was photographing.  I got to know them, and when i went to see them perform, it was usually at a 10-in-1 type show that featured burlesque performers as well as the sideshow style acts.

VB: Have you performed/Do you currently perform burlesque?

DR: i have actually performed…  on a semi-regular basis when i lived in l.a. and seattle.  time and money have prevented me from making it a regular habit, but i hope to find enough of both to be able to perform more in the future.

photo of Michelle L'amour at the Burlesque Hall of Fame, copyright Dale Rio

VB: Which burlesque performers inspire you?

DR: there are so many to choose from, but having seen michelle l’amour’s caged cat act at exotic world this year, she’s moved up to the top of my list with a bullet!

VB: Can you tell us a bit about Shimmy Magazine?

DR: shimmy started when a girl i skated with in l.a. and i decided we wanted to become magazine moguls.  actually, we both loved burlesque and sideshow, so we joined forces, (she was good with computers and wanted to delve into design more, and i’m a photographer and writer), and started both shimmy and our roller derby magazine, blood & thunder.  shimmy has been through several incarnations…  it started out styled after a ’50’s men’s magazine, but that was pretty cost-ineffective.  we then did a regular magazine layout, so we could sell it on newsstands.  (blood & thunder was about to hit newsstands then.)  but then my partner’s personal life, well, sort of consumed her, so shimmy was pretty inactive for a couple years.  but you can’t keep a good idea down, and i decided to take the reins on all aspects of shimmy, (i’ve learned a bit of graphic design along the way), and will be launching it as a “burlesque annual” in 2010.  a burlesque yearbook, if you will.

VB: Now, you are also invovled (were invovled?) in the roller derby scene. Do you feel the worlds of pin-up, burlesque and roller derby are similar in any way?

DR: i played derby for about six years, until i was injured.  (i’m taking an indefinite hiatus right now.)  with derby and burlesque there’s a definite sense of empowerment.  it’s expressed in different ways, obviously, and some people don’t really recognize it in either or both, but it’s definitely all about women taking control.  contemporary derby and burlesque are largely women-run, as opposed to their various inceptions in the past, and i think that’s a very important factor in why they’re both so popular.

VB: In these three worlds, do you find vegans are more common in any of them?

DR: vegans are still the minority in the gen pop, so unless you’re in a community that’s sort of geared towards that mentality, it’s hard to find fellow vegans, period.  i wouldn’t say that we’re more common in any of the three worlds, but i’ve found my vegan cohorts in each, and we look out for each other.

portrait of Darlinda Just Darlinda from Dale Rio's "Night & Day: Burlesque in the Workplace" series

VB: What made you decide to be vegan?

DR: i’d been vegetarian for eighteen years, and about a year or so before i went vegan, i’d started minimizing my dairy and egg intake.  it wasn’t a big conscious decision, really.  just like when i stopped eating meat, it was more of a natural action.  but, like many people, i thought it would be prohibitively difficult to be vegan, so i never realistically thought about doing it.  but then i went on a photo shoot upstate and met a bunch of boys who were vegan.  they were really awesome cooks and would get together on sundays and do big, vegan mash-ups.  i thought, “wait a minute, if these DUDES can do it, then i should be able to, too!”  it just made me realize how easy it must be.  and it is.  especially nowadays.  if anyone claims to not be vegan because it’s too hard, they’re full of shit and are most likely apologists who are trying to cover up a lack of willpower or legitimate desire to be vegan.

VB: What’s your favorite thing about veganism?

DR: THE FOOD!!!  and imagining vegan hells for people.  i’m actually a pretty mellow vegan in the way that i relate with others.  i don’t try to preach or whine about having to search out food if i’m somewhere that’s not vegan-friendly.  that said, i have very strong and definite opinions.  but i realize that foisting your unsolicited opinions onto others isn’t always the best way to effect change.  and i also realize that each person does what he or she is capable of, for their own reasons.  my favorite example is one of my uncles…  he’s vain and eats mainly a vegetarian diet because it’s more healthy, and he wants to look good for as long as he can.  regardless of his reasoning, his decision furthers a cause i believe in, so kudos to him.  i know  he’ll never go vegan, but he’s doing his part in the way that he’s able. and i also respect his honesty.  i can’t stand apologists who feel the need to explain how much they want to go vegan, but can’t, because (fill in the blank).  if it’s a moral decision, then there’s simply no choice.  you just do it and never look back.  the taste of cheese or whatever isn’t enough to overlook all the wrongs in the system, if you feel they’re there.  touching on that issue, i believe that vegans generally are more aware of what they’re putting into their bodies, and the far-reaching implications of things like factory farming and whatnot.  people always get on your case about how you’re going to get all your nutrients, but if you ask a meat-eater where all their nutrients are coming from, most of them have no clue.  they think that the standard american diet is, by definition, healthy, where nothing could be further from the truth.

portrait of Bella Beretta, copyright Dale Rio

VB: Favorite vegan food/drink?

DR: good lord.  how can there be one answer?  one idiotic person once said to me, “you’re vegan?  you must hate food.”  are you fucking kidding me?  i actually love really good food.  and i love to cook, although until i recently forced myself to not be quite as much of a workaholic, i rarely found time to do so.  anything i make in good company is an automatic favorite.  i think vegans have a greater appreciation of food and get together more often than others to cook.  but, let’s see…  i do have a sweet tooth, and vegan desserts are still relatively hard to come by, so i’d say an overall favorite is vegan baked goods.  and…  red bamboo’s chicken parmigiana, dim sum at the vegetarian dim sum house in chinatown, just about anything at lula’s sweet apothecary, mighty o donuts in seattle, ronalds’ donuts in vegas, (they get bonus points for the exceptionally sweet owners and for being an oasis in vegas and because you’d never know they were vegan by looking at the joint…)…  the list could go on.

VB: Where can we see more of you?

DR: my new site is up www.dalerio.com.  i’m trying to get established in philly, so i’m hoping to open a studio there within a month or so and offer pin-up and photography classes there, in addition to shooting, of course.  i’ll be shooting at the toronto burlesque festival, vending for blood & thunder at the east coast extravaganza, and printing my ass off! Blood Thunder Magazine & Shimmy Magazine

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Feeling the burlesque bug biting all day Friday, I knew I had to do something productive this weekend to get me closer towards my performance goal. I searched around the internet for shows, shops, whatever I could find to make some progress. It was when I was, once again, looking at the New York School of Burlesque’s website that I found out about $10 choreography classes. I sent the necessary pre-register email for the class and was in.

I was a bit nervous getting ready for the class (do I take the heels or not? Should I bring a non-feather boa in case the instructor asks us to do boa work? Should I wear a skirt or pants or a skirt over pants?!?) but luckily I pulled it all together and got to the class with a few minutes to spare.  When I made it to the dance studio located in the lower east side of Manhattan there were two other girls waiting for the class. I felt awkward and excused myself to go change into workout pants.  When I got back another girl had shown up, and during the class one more girl arrived late making the class 5 people in total.  The instructor entered, I put on my heels and the class got started.

Jezebel Express, who was the instructor for the class, had us all sit on the dance floor and introduce ourselves and our experience with dance and burlesque.  It ended up that the other girls were all aspiring burlesque  performers too,

My instructor, Jezebel Express. (She didn't wear that to class)

 and I felt much more comfortable.  During the class Jezebel went over different ways to improve your choreography such as different ways to sex up a walk, how to circle all parts of your body, simple ways to choreograph music.  Jezebel was so nice and approachable and even stayed after class to answer more questions we had when the studio time ran out.  She seemed really excited about the class and how she could gear the workshops towards exactly what we want to achieve while working towards our first performances.

After the class, a few of the other girls and I walked downstairs and discussed our burlesque plans till next class, which resulted in finding out more info about the Slipper Room‘s show that night.  I spent the time until the show that night looking for some music to possibly choreograph to and eating a delicious dinner at Kate’s Joint, a great vegetarian place near the Slipper Room. Side note: I had the southern fried tofu with mashed potatoes, gravy, and broccoli, it was great!

Then I was off to the Slipper Room, where I luckily got a table close to the front, sat myself down with a rum and coke, and waited for the show to begin. The place filled up pretty quickly but my partner showed up right before the lights dimmed and the go-go dancers came out.  The show contained sets from Trixie Little & The Evil Hate Monkey, Mstickle and Darlinda Just Darlinda.  I enjoyed all the burlesque, but the crowd was a little too “frat boy” for me and I was getting frustrated with the disrespectful things a bachelor party was yelling from the back.  My partner and I ended up leaving after the second set of burlesque performances, which was still a great amount of entertainment for a $5 cover.  All the performers were great, and Darlinda just Darlinda did some stuff that shocked me and I am too shy to mention on this blog!  My favorite act of the night was Trixie Little & the Evil Hate Monkey so  I’ll include a youtube video of them below so you can experience some of their magic.  If they come to a town near you, I highly suggest you check them out!