The art of Burlesque

Photo by Saryn Christina
Photo by Saryn Christina

We love the sultry, red-lit and velveted world of burlesque. The women are glamorous, sexy and self-confident. After all, Burlesque glamour is all about being a lady, although a lady with a naughty side!

One of the best known women in that world is Olivia Bellafontaine, a burlesque dancer and actress in Los Angeles “with legs longer than her name.” Her burlesque shows in LA are legendary. Her latest project, The House of Red Velvet, is an an avant-garde, experimental and very theatrical type of show with a sexy and bizarre element to it as well as a lot of surrealist influences. We had a chat with the charming Olivia.

IRMA: Can you tell us how a typical day of yours looks like?
Olivia Bellafontaine: As far as a typical day, it involves waking up and having breakfast somewhat right away. 🙂 Then I usually start right on emails and social media promotion for the events I have coming up. I go to the gym or take a yoga class. I pack my burlesque costumes, while my hair is in curlers. Then I sit at my vintage vanity table and do my make-up. I am almost always rushing to get out the door, so I remove the curlers, brush them out, put on my outfit, and grab my suitcase and head to the gig.

IRMA: I know you love Berlin. What does an “American woman” like you, like about Germany?
O.B.: I really love the Weimar Berlin history. I love the art of that era, and the political performances and cabaret. The first time I ever went to Berlin, I didn’t want to leave.. I fell in love with the German culture and the people. They value art and entertainment. They are fun loving people who know how to party, but still have a structure.

IRMA: What values are you committed to?
O.B.: I value passion. Especially in people. I think it is what makes the difference from a good artist to a defining and inspirational great artist. But passion is also something that is beautiful. Especially when you see and feel it radiating. Passion has always kept me creating and wanting to find inspiration to create. I value honesty and determination. And positivity as well. Good energy, connection and trust are imperative with collaboration projects.

IRMA: How come the things that make you happy don’t make everyone happy?
O.B.: “You live in the image you have of the world. Every one of us lives in a different world, with different space, and different time.” A quote from one of my favorite artists, Alejandro Jodorowsky. That answers it.

IRMA: Would you rather lose all of your old memories, or never be able to make new ones?
O.B.: I would rather lose all my old memories, because we can’t stop the fact that we have to move forward. Memories are wonderful to have, but I like to enjoy the moment, and not harp on the past too much.

IRMA: How do you prepare the image of your look & performance?
O.B.: It usually starts with music for me. I have collected a playlist over time of music I created an idea for, or wanted to create an idea for. I am a visual person, so when I hear a piece of music, I start thinking of a story, or a character. Some of my favorite performers have these out-of-the-box type of acts that they almost never get to do. It is unfortunate, because they are brilliant acts. I created a collective where the show is innovative and different from a regular burlesque show, but also something that is very artistic and thought-provoking. We did our first show in Los Angeles, and we completely sold out. I didn’t even know if there was an audience for it. I would love to bring it to Berlin!

IRMA: Does music tell your story? Which song?
O.B.: I am music driven. The lyrics don’t always tell the story for me. I base it on the mood of the music, and the genre to create my story or character. I dance to everything from burlesque standards to blues and rock and roll. I am very inspired by anything Jack White has made. I use a lot of his music.

IRMA: Would you live your life after a literary hero? If so, which one?
O.B.: I really like Edgar Allan Poe, ever since I was a young girl. He had a rather tragic and strange ending, so I wouldn’t say I would want to live my life after him. I think it would have been interesting to live in that era, though. Although, I think I prefer the 1920s era.

IRMA: Your ultimate make-up trick?
O.B.: I am a black eyeliner cat eye and red lipstick woman for the most part. Although I do enjoy a good smokey eye with nude pink lips. I really love the Stila Stay All Day black eyeliner, because it works like a marker. It makes it really easy to make a good even cat eye.

You can read the German version at Icon magazine.

Olivia Bellafontaine will be visiting Berlin from April 19 until May 10. Check her website for the upcoming shows in Berlin and other places:

Photos by Stephen La Marche, photo on slider by Saryn Christina.
Photos (above and on slider) by Stephen La Marche