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


Photo copyright Monty Leman, 2009

The night of my debut I was lucky enough to see Lefty Lucy perform a fantastic fan dance, but with no feathers used at all.  For those of you who have been reading since the beginning, as a vegan, I don’t use animal products, so trying to find a way to do a fan dance without the feathers has forced me to try and become creative.  When I saw Lucy’s fans backstage I knew it was something I would love to share with others!

“Fan dancing is a staple of burlesque, and I wanted to figure out what would make my fan dance unique. I am really impressed when I see someone like Dirty Martini or Catherine D’Lish do a fan dance, but I’m not yet skilled enough to do a pretty fan dance. I needed a “gateway drug” so I could at least begin getting more skilled at fan dancing, but I didn’t want my lack of skill to make the act look sloppy or unintentional.

I love Nasty Canasta’s Car Alarm fan dance, and I love when people do fan dances with things that aren’t fans, like Little Brooklyn in her mechanic act, or Sapphire Jones in her lunch lady act. All of that had

Photo copyright Davonroe, 2010

been on my mind for awhile, and I’d been watching a ton of fan dances at shows and through youtube. There are three main elements that usually inspire an act idea; One is the costume, one is the concept/character, and one is the music. For this act, I heard the Richard Cheese cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit, and “apathetic fan dance” was my first instinct. I instantly knew that this would be my tribute to Kurt Cobain and the imagery of the grunge movement of my youth, and fans made out of old flannel shirts from thrift stores seemed perfect. I also found the contrast between apathy and the beauty of a fan dance amusing, and thought I could play with that.

I spent a few weeks collecting plaid flannel button down shirts in the right colors from various thrift stores, bought a yard of tissue lame to give the fans some shine, and went to home depot, bought some wire, and asked for as many free paint stirring sticks as they’d let me take. My friend and costume designer David Withrow (DW) was living with me at the time, and he helped me figure out the physics of making fans that work, and patterned feathers for me. I then spent a few weeks tracing the pattern and cutting out a billion faux feathers in a

Photo copyright Davonroe, 2010

few different sizes, and once all the materials were ready, I E-6000’d the staves together. David took it from there, and assembled the “feathers” in to the fan I use now.”

-Lefty Lucy, 2010

On Saturday Cheeky Lane and I headed to China town to find me fans.  Yesterday I shopped the garment district for fabric, bases and trim.  Here is what these trips resulted in:

purchases from the garment distract and china town

Almost all of these items has some plan behind the purchase.  Now whether or not these intended plans will actually happen is a different story.

The fans are for the non-feather fans I need to make for next week’s Burlesque essentials class.  I’m not sure what fabric would work for it, but I bought a few just in case.

That big pile of brown fake fur will be going towards a specific costume idea. Still to be determined if it will have any kind of trim or not.  Also, I need to sew a corset (no boning) which will be quite a challenge.

oh my, stars are a pain to sew on!

Because of these momentous purchases and tasks, I’ve decided on Saturday I will actually pull out my sewing machine and get to work on starting to put together costumes.  Now, it may seem like a lot of work, but it can’t be too much compared to the pain in the butt my star bra was.  You may remember me talking about this bra from a previous entry.  Well, I have finished the stars, which were quite a task that I worked on while on the train, at home and on breaks during my job.  Not sure if I will add any fringe to it or not.  I guess we will see what the weekend has in store!


April 30, 2010

For a week I had struggled with whether or not to sign up for a 4 week Essential Burlesque Movement class through the New York  School of Burlesque.  I waited to try and get in (there were only 10 spots available) as a way of procrastinating so when I eventually did sign up, it was full.  I emailed Jo Boobs about letting me know if a spot cleared up.  I almost instantly got a reply that there was one spot left and I could paypal her the money.  Taking this as a sign, I signed up and read mroe about the class.

There are two parts that had me a bit concerned – boa work and fan dance.  Both of these rely heavily on feathers, which as a vegan, I can’t get behind.  I emailed Jo back and asked if it would be okay for me to bring vegan substitutes and she said that it would be fine.

Awesome! I have a scarf I knitted with fun fur I could use no problem, but what about feather fans? In case you don’t know what I mean, imagine Las Vegas showgirls with those really fluffy looking head dresses.  Well, it’s that but the plumes are stuck on a fan.  Fan dances are beautiful to watch, but I can’t help but feel saddened by it in the end.

So, what to do in exchange for feather fans?  I have been struggling enough with finding fake feathers for head decorations, I don’t think I’d be able to find large fake plumes on top of that.  I also don’t think fake fur would do the trick like it did for the boa.

As I sat and pondered this, I remembered an act I saw at the Jim Thorpe Burlesque festival where a woman had fabric fans that looked like fire when she moved them.  I contacted her and she sent me a link to them. Ugh, silk.  ALSO NOT VEGAN!  But this got me thinking about the fans and their construction.  The fan is merely a piece of silk attached to a fan frame. No reason I couldn’t use satin or another kind of fabric.  This will become a new project, but in the meantime if anyone comes across a vegan one, please let me know.