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Luz de la Concha Oral History Interview, January 9, 2022

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LAURIE KURUTZ: Today is Sunday, January 9, 2022. My name is Laurie Kurutz. My pronouns are she/hers. Would you please introduce yourself, tell us your pronouns if you care to, and tell us all the things you do.

LUZ DE LA CONCHA: Absolutely. My name is Luz de la Concha. I use she/her or Aya pronouns, and I am a Burlesque performer in-based in Portland, Oregon.

LK: And what is Burlesque?

LC: I think to me Burlesque -I can only define it for myself, and I feel like it is an evolving art form like so many art forms. But there's some roots in-in the 00:01:00word, coming from "Bularse" which is "to make fun of." That's true in Spanish I think, also, in Italian root-to make just, to sort of like-a parody, so I think there are elements of that.

I think at this moment Burlesque is-there is so much different space for Burlesque. You could go to a Burlesque show in one place, have a completely different experience somewhere else. So I think for me, Burlesque is a movement based art form. So, there is a component of movement, musicality, and sort of grandeur and glamour, however the artist defines that. So there's-to me, a thread you can see no matter the theme of the show would be that music, movement, and then exaggeration, and sort-of presentation. So that could look 00:02:00very high glam, it could look like a swamp monster, you know, it's a big range. But that's sort of how I might define it now and everyone would define it different.

LK: And how do you describe the kind of Burlesque that you do?

LC: Great question. I've thought about that before and I think, definitely because of my music choices, it's like Neo-Neo Burlesque and Classic. Sort of between those-those two spaces. I don't have a lot of pieces where I come out, like as a modern day, like, character or a modern day-you know, like, a cartoon-like I don't have a lot of pieces like that, so many of my pieces are usually really tied to the music, and then I do have a tribute piece as well. I think I'm a blend between Neo Burlesque and Classic.


LK: And why do you do Burlesque, of all the art forms? What does it give you artistically?

LC: I continue to do Burlesque because it brings something to life that I feel over my lifetime, and over many lifetimes, is shamed inside the human body, is taught to be repressed and contained, in terms of taking up the fullness of one's physical form. I think for my own personal journey-which I know we'll talk about more-I've done a lot different creative art forms, there was something so... it just clicked for me with Burlesque. Where it was the ability to move, 00:04:00and to shape everything, about what's in front of you, and how you present yourself. It's continued, as long as somethings keep me curious I kept going back to it. So it's kept me curious, and interested, and I haven't run out of that yet for this art form.

LK: Some people think Burlesque falls somewhere in the spectrum of sex work? Is it sex education? What are you-how do you feel about that?

LC: I think my perspective has widened and expanded from when I first joined Burlesque. And I think there's a lot-I almost think of it as, like, circles. If there was a bunch of circles that were all linked together; Burlesque would be there, sex work would be there-so there's overlap, I think, in a lot of those spheres.

There are some folks that do sex work and also do Burlesque, there are some 00:05:00folks that see them as one and the same, and some folks that would define them very differently. But the way that I see it is there's just these spheres that overlap and there are different components to it. I haven't spent time in clubs, for example, like strip clubs-a lot of times strip clubs-I know that that in particular, like the work schedule is long-it's just very different containers, I guess, for movement. Also economy and dollars that can come out of the different spaces, but I see them as very connected and-depending on the person-they may be completely-very close or very distant.

As for sex education, I think because we-in the United States society-there is so little-there is so much shame around sex, and whatever little education we 00:06:00might get, it's often, like, wildly inaccurate or-. So I do see it as being a way of like, opening a portal to like, what sexuality and sensuality can be. But it's like, layered with any other kind of explorations that you are doing on that topic.

LK: Great. So where were you born and where did you grow up?

LC: I have moved quite a bit, but I was born in Southern California and then close to Los Angeles. I spent some time there in the Los Angeles county area and also in Southern Peru in South America. I've also lived quite a bit of time-for a few years actually-in San Francisco, in the Bay Area, in Los Angeles proper in 00:07:00the city, and in Portland.

LK: What took you to Peru?

LC: My father's life. So my father is from South America-from Uruguay-and we moved for his work.

LK: And so then Oregon. What brought you here?

LC: You know, that could be its own story on its own, but I think sort of the wider version is that at the time I was living in Los Angeles-kind of around the time of the economic crisis, like 2008, around 2009, 2010. My partner and I were just looking for a different lifestyle than the running around that we were 00:08:00doing to make ends meet, at the time. And so, almost accidentally, there was a little bit of purpose, but a part of it was really getting into a more natural space and having just the closer connection to nature and getting away from a large city in the middle of, just, a really hard time financially. And so, we ended up here. It's been a little over 10 years now, in this area.

LK: And so back in your younger years-your formative years, whatever that means, what led you to creative expressions; dance, or art, or whatever?

LC: I think that's just how I-how I came into the world. It's always been really important to me and I always, when I was younger, like a child, I would always 00:09:00dance-like do dances myself and make choreographed dances. Do the talent shows, and lip singing and all that. I didn't go to dance classes at the time, we didn't have a lot of extra money for classes. So I would make it all up.

So I got very comfortable with that DIY approach at a really young age, and-and then I ended up kind of shifting as a young person towards writing and poetry, and then shifting, like, in my early 20s into songwriting, and music performance. Then shifting towards Burlesque, so. And I still tap into a lot of those art forms, but I definitely consider myself a multidisciplinary artist and performer. Sometimes it's a lot of threads but they all kind of feed into each other.


LK: And what-if any-formal education or training do you have? College degree or?

LC: Would that be specific to art forms, or?

LK: Whatever you prefer. Yeah, either, just in life or a specific to art-art if that's what you wanna focus on.

LC: Years and years ago, I did get a bachelor's degree in creative writing, so it was a very long time ago. I-so that's the formal education in terms of degrees. I've done a lot of different kinds of certifications and training in my "Muggle", which is sort of every day 9 to 5 how I make a living, not related to art forms. I also have gotten into, recently, more somatic and embodied work, 00:11:00and healing practices, and how being able to share those. So, those are some of my interests. Yeah, formal-formal degree would be in creative writing.

LK: And then Burlesque specific, in what year and how did you get started in Burlesque?

LC: In what year did I get started? So I-I want to make sure that I remember the dates correctly. I have a poster that will help me, let's see. Yes, so, I started at-in 2016 at the Rose City School of Burlesque and really went very slowly into the community. I'm someone that takes their time. So I graduated, I 00:12:00think it was March 2016.

I originally was taking the class just to improve my stage presence. I never anticipated I would become a Burlesque performer and go on to do some of the things that I have. But I-I fell in love with it when I went took my first class. I had someone early on, Ruby Rounds, who really encouraged me to check out the Burlesque Hall of Fame, and BurlyCon, so I could see the whole range of what was out there and not-and see beyond what was just in Portland, and they were really encouraging about that, so I was able to sort of see. But I took my time before performing, I Kittened-which means being like a stagehand to help in supporting a show. So I did a lot of "Kittening" or stagehand work for maybe nine months before I started performing, to get to know people and see what I 00:13:00thought of the community, and just to check it out.

LK: And what, of all the dance classes or movement classes possible, what prompted you to take a Burlesque class?

LC: I don't remember what show it was, but I went to a show. I can't remember how I got there, like I don't remember if a friend invited me-I don't remember how-but I got to a show. At the show there was a mention that there were classes and I was like, "Oh that could be, that could be really fun. I should do that sometime." But really did not go into it thinking: "Oh I am going to be doing that." It was like, "Oh that would be really good for me," 'cause I always performed, I was comfortable being on a stage, so I was performing music for 00:14:00many years and was on stages a lot.

But as far as, like, owning my presence, that-that was harder for me. Like I had no problem being on stage and sharing my art, but I wasn't gonna, like, lock eyes with someone really, you know, or. And so, I was like, "Oh, you know, I think-let me take this class, I think it could be a fun way to, like, explore stage presence," you know? And then I was like, "Oh I really like this." And once I'm drawn to something, then it's, you know, I'm going to pursue it, so you know.

LK: At the Rose City School of Burlesque in 2016, who were the teachers and what is a Burlesque class like? What do you cover?

LC: I don't know if I remember all of the teachers. The director was Zora 00:15:00Phoenix. I remember Baby Le'Strange taught facial expressions and that was one of my favorite classes. So you kind of-like as an example of what that would be like, is like, you were paired up with someone and you were just making these extreme and absurd and exaggerated expressions and back and forth. It could be smoldering, it could be anger, it could be-and just breaking up, sort of exploring what your eyes and your-your face could express, that was one of the teachers.

There was also classes on makeup, I think it was Megan Mayhem teaching make up, I think that T.L. Ford was doing movement. I think they were a teacher then I can't remember-but I did meet them then. But there would be-there was a range from like movement to makeup to, sort of, expression and stage presence.


LK: And you also mentioned BHoF. What is that?

LC: So the Burlesque Hall of Fame, I only have a been once and that was in-if I'm remembering right it was in 2017 that I went. That is typically annual. Typically would in person in Las Vegas and it's in-there's a Burlesque Hall of Fame Museum in Las Vegas. It's a big fundraiser event and you have performers and fans and a kind of Burlesque adjacent community that comes from all over the world.

So it's pretty-it's like rigorous schedule and very amazing and every night there's... from what I remember, every night there's like four hours of shows. 00:17:00Three, four hours of shows on this beautiful stage with performers from all over the world. There's classes, and that was where I first met some Legends. There's like some Legends who are, you know, Legends of Burlesque. They're performers who have been performing for decades and many of them are now 60s, 70s, 80s.

So, it's a really intensive immersive experience and it's a way to sort of see how broad the Burlesque community is. And to really see a lot of different performance styles.One of the nights is the Legends night, and the Legends that are there perform and it's beautiful and-. So yeah, that's the Burlesque Hall of Fame. There's, of course there's the competitions and crownings, and, you know 00:18:00people-someone will be crowned the royalty for that year. It's a really, it's a big deal that people work really hard to try to be featured and apply to perform.

LK: You have a picture, I think, of one of the Legends, next to you. Who is this? And what's her significance in Burlesque?

LC: I do. So I have a few Legends next to me, which I'll show you, but this is Marinka. She is not with us on the earthly plane. She passed away, it was last year now, I confuse the two pandemic years so it's kind of a blur. And she wrote-before passing away-she wrote her autobiography with the help of a writer, 00:19:00Louis Star, who is a person I don't know, but it's called From Havana to Burlesque. She [Marinka] was a world-class international performer that was originally from Cuba and immigrated to New York. She went on to have this entertainment career that took her all over the world. I had a chance to meet her in person-I think it was at a BurlyCon or the Burlesque Hall of Fame. I can't remember which- I'd have to look at my notes-and she was offering her class-am I allowed to curse on this?

LK: Yes, you can say whatever you like.

LC: OK. So she was offering a class where she taught you to fuck a curtain, which was like her signature-one of her signature moves. But really, she was talking about her life, and how to be. We all practiced and moved, and that's 00:20:00how I first met her.

And we both speak Spanish, so we kind of stayed in touch and messaged a little bit, here and there on Facebook. Then I got to...with the Oregon Burlesque Festival, she was a featured performer and very honored guest. One of the producers, Holly Dai, hosted a brunch in her home. We were all with Marinka and able to share stories and just, that was really, like, a beautiful experience that I'm so grateful for.

But yes, she's was one of the Burlesque Legends that has passed on now. In her book she shares-which was something she wasn't open about publicly-but she shares that she was a transwoman. She shares the struggles of what that was like 00:21:00for her as a showgirl, as a show... like, world traveler. How she had to... just the struggles she faced in Cuba, and also how she had to navigate in order to pursue her career and make the living that she was, how she had to navigate disclosure around that.

But it's-if you have a chance to find the book, I'm sure you have it already, Laurie, but for those out there, if you can find it it's just beautifully written. She was a very warm person, unapologetic person, and just a beautiful, beautiful woman. So I am very grateful to have met her, but there are living 00:22:00Legends, as well.

I have a picture, this is Tina, Tina BonBon. I have a picture signed of Miss Toni Elling, and again these are living Legends that have been at some of these events like BurlyCon and Burlesque Hall of Fame or at the International Latin and Hispanic Burlesque Festival. Camille 2000 was there, and so was Julie Mist. So, they're really special people. Miss Marika, and I am just really grateful to have met her and have a conversation with her.

LK: You mentioned you have a tribute act. What is that?

LC: That tribute act, and I actually have-this is a tribute to Conchita Cintrón. She is a bullfighter from the -she was born in the like, 1930s. She 00:23:00was Chilean, Peruvian, grew up in Peru but I think originally born in Chile. Then I think she was mixed-like one of her parents might have been from Puerto Rico and one of her parents was white, so I think she was mixed-I may be confusing some of those details. But she definitely grew up in Peru.

She was drawn to bullfighting and ended up being a woman bullfighter in a time when no one was doing that. She also traveled the world and there were some limitations to how she was able to show up in the bullfighting ring as a woman, in Spain, and... Anyhow, I tend to dive deep when I am working on a new act and that's why I'm a little bit slower with creating new acts, because I get really 00:24:00into the song or the piece.

So my tribute act is really inspired by Conchita Cintrón, and what she stood for. I'm not-I'm not like a big proponent of bullfighting, I'm a vegetarian and all of that, but what this woman did and how this woman lived... And again, she has this autobiography that is amazing, and she's like-there's a line there where she's like, she's very decisive and she'd like,"I left bullfighting in the same way I came to it. Like one day I just walked out of the ring," like the same way she, like, decided one day, she just decided "I am going to be a bullfighter." For me that was one of my first acts once I had been-once I graduated and I was Kittening a lot of shows, and I was trying to think about what I want to put out there. So I was like, "I want to do this piece. I want to 00:25:00be both the bullfighter and the bul." So I come out in a costume where ... it's a non-authentic bullfighter costume-those are very expensive. I pieced mine together little by little-but I kind of come out in this formal suit and-suit and tie-but I'm also the bull. So it's a piece sort of, where both of those sides come out. That's sort of my tribute piece that I do.

LK: And your stage name, how did you choose your stage name?

LC: Well, I'm glad that we got the curse word thing out of the way because I'm going to-I'm going to share. So, that was one, and again, as someone who loves words and poetry and writing, I just sort of brainstormed and broke down a bunch of ideas and-. Luz de la Concha, that directly translates-like if you were to 00:26:00enter that into Google translate-it would be: "Light of the Shell," so "Concha" means "Shell" and "Luz" means light. So the "de la" part is sort of an-I'm a mixed race person, I'm Uruguayan, I'm Latin American, I'm Latina and in South America a lot of times, like, it's very gendered.

And so "de la" shows like ownership of, in a way. If a cis man marries a cis woman, like sometimes-it's less common now but-they would take that as their last name, so "de la" "pertaining to" and then the man's name. So it's kind of a play [on words.] Where I'm from-where my families from, specifically Uruguay, 00:27:00"Concha" doesn't mean "shell" it means "pussy", so-but it's very regional. In the Southern Cone, like Uruguay and Argentina where that meaning is known. In Spain, there's people named Concha, the way, like the name Maria is. Like it's very common, it's not-it's not a curse word at all but there's just a lot of cursing that happens in Uruguay and Argentina and it's meant to be derogatory often. So it's like, "Andate a la concha de tu madre!", like "go back", or "Andate a la..." you know, there's a lot of like, "whore mother" or "Go back to the Concha that birthed you," and there's a lot of insults that way.

I wanted to flip that upside down. I also liked that, you know, light-"Luz : 00:28:00Light", "Concha : Shell." I liked... those are all such beautiful images, and they don't necessarily have to mean that other layer, and coming out of a shell, there's just a lot of reasons.

But I'll say the only time an audience has ever "got it", you know like the full layers, was when I went and performed in Argentina. My name was announced and I was there, and I kind of forgot-because it never happens-and when the audience just started laughing, like, because they got it, you know, and it's-So yeah, it's sort of a play on words and can mean different things. But for me it's also about subverting, in a sense, claiming and subverting this word that gets often thrown around in a derogatory way towards like women and fem people. So that was kind of how I came up with it.


LK: And that's a very Burlesque thing to do, to reclaim, or subvert, or turn things around and sort of use it for your own and also make fun of that. Yeah, that's, yeah that's great. OK. So Rose City School of Burlesque and other beginnings, how did you develop your performance career beyond those beginnings? You stage Kittened for a while, and then?

LC: So then I met Ruby Rounds, who is not performing anymore but was a performer and producer at the time, and she really encouraged me to apply to do "Tassel Talk" which is-they're starting to do them now again, they've been doing them 00:30:00virtually actually, Lacy Knightly has been doing the virtually. But, it's more where you go in front of your peers like in a regular room, no great lighting, no great stage necessarily, and you perform your piece, maybe an act that you are working on, and then you get constructive feedback.

So Ruby had seen my tribute to Conchita Cintrón and encourage me to go to "Tassel Talk", which I did. Then she took me under her wing a little bit, and worked with me on a few aspects of it. She gave me some ways that I could, you know, maybe I didn't have the resources to do a whole fancy costume change, but ways that I could elevate it. And then she did a-which is the poster right behind me of "De Colores Cabaret'' and that was in March 2017. The headliners 00:31:00were: Egypt Black Nile and Lola Coquette-and it was like a powerhouse lineup that I was just so honored to be invited to. Miss de la Rose, Jacqueline Hyde, a performer that now goes by Passa Flora who's part of the vogue community who used to go by Hydrangea.

So it's just this amazing lineup of performers and I was one of them and it was all performers that identified as Latinx or Latino or Latin, and that was like my first big show. So I felt really-and that was where I met, also, Perlita Picante who was someone that right when I saw them I just like, felt this connection to. It was just a very warm and welcoming and exciting space to be in with performers from all over.


So from there, that definitely like, coming off of that show was a big high and I decided, Ok, well this year I am going to go to BurlyCon, I'm going to go to Burlesque Hall of Fame, I'm gonna-Ruby encouraged me, like, to apply to some festivals. I applied to Ohio Burlesque festival, you know, I just kind of set this in motion because I had the opportunity to be around folks from all over the country and just sort of wanted to see what else was out there.

LK: So the Ohio Burlesque festival's been going for almost 10 years, tell me about that, and the significance, and the founder, and just paint a picture of that festival.

LC: So I met the founder, Bella Sin, and they were at-I think I met them at 00:33:00BurlyCon. At BurlyCon something that's really special that they do is an affinity group. Sort of breakout groups, and so there's spaces you can go if you identify as a person of color, there's spaces that you can go if you identify as Queer, there's spaces you can go for a Latinx identifying, you know there's overlap within all those communities.

I met Bella Sin [founder and producer of the Ohio Burlesque Festival] there in one of these spaces I believe. We both speak Spanish and we're talking and excited, and they are a-just a pioneer in a lot of the work they do. They are an activist, they are an entrepreneur, they do everything, they perform, they produce, they have a makeup line, like they do it all. I got connected to them 00:34:00and I think I was really nervous to apply [to the Ohio Burlesqeu Festival.]I think I applied a few minutes before the midnight deadline, just was like, "oh let me just throw my name in the hat," you know, 'cause I was like, I don't know about this. I don't know about-it was, I think it was the first or second time, I would have to look at the dates-that I was going to be leaving Oregon for Burlesque and it was, it's a big investment, and it's a big commitment, and it's like something... can I do this?

Anyways, so I put my name in the hat and I got in and went, and again, it was just incredible, it was several nights in a row. It felt like you were-just feels you're at this next level... magical space because there's people from all over. There's performers that you might not get to see otherwise, and there's 00:35:00just a lot of excitement and really packed audience. You get your festival badge, and kind of your bag of little goodies, and you're just apart of this special thing, this so-really immersive, really immersive experience. So that was just a really special, special thing to be a part of and a way to also see some different forms of Burlesque that were happening.

LK: And then you also went to the first annual International Latin and Hispanic Burlesque Festival in Florida. The first annual! How was that?

LC: That was amazing. So that was that was in January 2018. I have the poster here, so I'm able to get clear on the date-so that was-the producer was Lily de 00:36:00LeCroix. Again, it was something I applied to and was nervous about. But I really really was drawn in after that first De Colores Cabaret experience of being in this Latinx affinity space. I was really drawn to seeing more of that and I can talk more about that later. But I was really drawn to seeing more of that space.

So I put my name in the hat-and originally actually, it was going to be earlier it had to be postponed because there's a giant, I think it was a hurricane? It was something that was happening where a lot of us, like days leading up to the festival, we were still all going but it was-emergency was declared in the state of Florida. So Lily, thankfully, canceled it and was prioritizing safety, so we 00:37:00rescheduled it.

So January 2018 was the rescheduled, and that-so the Burlesque Legend was Julie Mist, and then Camille 2000 was also there. Bella Sin, Lola Coquette, and Bianca Dagga were the headliners, and so I think-that was early 2018- so I think the [Burlesqeu Festival] came after that. And that was...we got to spend more time with folks there, and again it was just an incredible experience. It feels so far away now, being in the pandemic and travel just feels very, ...I'm not traveling right now at all. So I feel really grateful to have those experiences to reflect on.


LK: And you've-you're an international performer. You've already mentioned Argentina, how did that come about?

LC: Again, I met in BurleyCon the producer, Yani is their name, Yani Giovanetti. She is based out of Rosario, Argentina. That's where the festival was based out of. It was called Salvaje, it's still is called Salvaje, and it's named after Rita La Salvaje. So, Rita, R-I-T-A, Rita La Salvaje, who you can find a little bit of information about, but they were a performer in Rosario, in that town and like a Legend in that town.

So I met Yanni at BurlyCon and, again, we're speaking Spanish to each other and 00:39:00connecting and talking and just stayed in touch. She said, "You know, if you ever come this way," 'cause my family is in Uruguay and it's on the way, it's literally on the way. "Like, if you ever up this way, let me know it'd be great to connect." And so I kind of saw that the festival was happening, this first ever Burlesque festival, and she runs Academy of Burlesque in Argentina, the only one there, and-unless there's more now but at the time it was only one-and it just worked out. Like I planned a visit to see family and I stopped there first and went to the festival and then went onwards to see family.

It was a really special experience. It was the first festival that they were having in Argentina. I don't know the name of the historic building-but it was 00:40:00this gorgeous building, with marble steps, giant epic steps, and going up to this beautiful stage, and it was just so elegant. There were folks, performers, from different parts of the world as well, and it was a smaller different group of performers. It was several nights, and each night was different, and it was different locations, and just really special.

To me it was just special to me because I did live in South America in my early 20s, when my father was around. I found it to be very repressive in terms of being a young woman, a young, like, kind of like punk DIY aesthetic. And so for me, being a little bit older and being able to go back and see the liberation, 00:41:00and freedom, and expression that was happening. Even on the streets there was a lot of graffiti and stuff. Like very feminist-oriented graffiti, and it was really just a powerful experience for me to have. Because I had had a lot of experiences that were really different than that.

LK: So that's October of 2018 and then about six, or seven, months later May of 2019, Panama City, Panama?

LC: Yes. So that's the last festival I've done, because we all know, 2019 creeps up to [the pandemic of] 2020. So, the Panama Burlesque festival, again, I sort 00:42:00of was like, oh let me-I'm just gonna throw my name in the hat, like we'll see what happens. That was just like a really, there was 3 producers that put that together, so; Amber Lust, Nina Montenegro- who they change their name it's now Mina Montenegro if I'm remembering their new name.

They created a space where they brought folks from like all over. So they really did a lot of that-I think-community bridge building, were they really tried to actively get a lot of different performers to come. Frankie Fictitious was there, Foxy Tann was there-so just like, these amazing performers were in the space. And they sort of built on their relationships in the United States and invited people to come. It was a lot of fun, and it was a whirlwind, and I was 00:43:00traveling by myself. Just kind of went on to travel a little bit by myself and just had a really amazing experience.

LK: Yeah, and so you've sort of-you've mentioned-you've mentioned the pandemic so we'll talk about that, but before the pandemic, what was the Burlesque community like in Portland?

LC: I guess I could speak to my experience of it. I'm-I tend to be a quieter person backstage, so I'm very... when I'm in show mode I'm very observant. And so, for me, some of the deeper connections I've made have been at a slower pace. 00:44:00A little bit... smaller one-on-one connections. I'm not someone who was out with big groups of people after the show doing things like that, so I'm more about the one-on-one. My experience of it was really about support, about being backstage, about sharing something that we are all passionate about.

I love the backstage space, even though there's nerves, there's makeup, there's tape, and there's beautiful-you see all the beautiful behind the scenes of the costumes, and it's just a really special space. So for me the community was around that. It's also an industry, a business, and at different levels, there were definitely some folks that are working really hard, and are making a living, and are performing multiple shows a week. It's like their job, and 00:45:00they're showing up, and getting to work.

Then there's folks like me, that I have a different thing that I do, completely different from my 9-to-5. It's not as frequent of an experience for me and I'm really paying attention to the sensory experience and the audience. I think it depends sort of, what-who the producer was, what that might feel like, what the audience might be. But my experience was in person before the pandemic was pretty positive mostly welcoming. I think like any space I've been in, lots of different creative communities, there's that thing that you all share it together, and then you may never get beyond that particular connection, that just may be the space that you see each other. And then there's, out of that, 00:46:00sometimes you can develop a really deep connection with someone. So, I've seen that in other creative communities and Burlesque is similar, you know, there are some groups that are kind of several people all connect, and then there are some folks like me that are more individual, you know.

LK: Great, yeah. You've already described a lot of the business skills, even if you're just planning a trip for yourself, it's-it's really an event planning. Music, editing, costume making-just paint a picture of all the skills that it takes to do a Burlesque performance and then take it on the road.

LC: I think that was something-especially for traveling internationally-that I was a little nervous about. In terms of getting your costume down to a 00:47:00manageable size, I made sure to pack, if you're going international there's different regulations for suitcases and luggage. And you don't want to lose your costume.

When I went international and they did the same, nationally, I would try and get all the costume pieces to fit in my carry-on -so that if everything else got lost I would have these irreplaceable pieces. I am not someone that has a lot of craft and sewing skills, even though I do have, in my generational history there are seamstresses. You would hope that maybe I had picked that up but I haven't. And so, I have-have supported [the Burlesqeu community] by buying pieces from people that do make costumes. You know, this is from Velvet Suffer, everyone's 00:48:00got to have a Velvet Zephyr robe. This boa is from Charlie Sharp, it's like 8 feet long. This panel skirt is from Holly Dai. These gloves are from Burluxe from Delilah, they sell from New York.

I don't buy a lot of costume pieces because they're an investment and-early on when I worked briefly with Jacqueline Hyde in her Alchemist of Tease program, she really is very business minded. She is like, if you're gonna invest in this piece, write down how much you spent and make sure it cancels out in your performances, you know. And I try to bring that mindset, so I know I'm not performing multiple times a week. When there wasn't a pandemic. it was at the 00:49:00most frequent, maybe once a month for me. So I was able to mix-and-match with the pieces that I had, or I would try to also get pieces that are versatile, that I can kind of play and put together with other components.

Music, editing, that'd something that I've done-I don't tend to do a ton of complex editing, it'll usually be a song fading into one more. The promotion piece which can be challenging, 'cause it can feel a little bit insular online, where you're just promoting to friends that are already... you're all promoting to each other, but you're all promoting, right, you know. So that can be challenging but it's got to be done.

I think when you're juggling it all, it requires organizing your time, and scheduling out, like, really when you're gonna....I know some folks practice 00:50:00choreo. For me it's like I do schedule times, I'm going to dance an hour these certain days. I'm going to make sure I dance at least an hour if I have a big show coming up. I want to really feel into the music. So it requires scheduling your time.

If you don't have the sewing skills then, making sure you-you kind of do the research and find someone, that not only that can do the work but that you feel good about investing your dollars in, and supporting the community. Rhinestoning is something that I've learned that I do enjoy. I didn't think I'd enjoy, but actually it's very meditative to place rhinestones onto the costume piece.

I think it's a different layer when you're traveling than just sort of... you 00:51:00need to think about all of... your safety plan, and how you are getting to and from places. And if you're traveling by yourself how you'll let folks know that you got home safe. That kind of thing I think is important when you're in a new place, if you've got a bunch of makeup on, and a bunch of lashes, and you don't know what street you're on, it's just-it's good to sort of have those plans in place too.

LK: Right. Yes. And so then, Covid pandemic hit and how did that affect the Portland Burlesque scene and your creativity?

LC: I think, as far as the scene, we're-sadly we're still in it. We're seeing-I think a lot of-a lot of folks are very confused right now about exactly how-how we can manage this. But ultimately, there came a time where indoor shows just 00:52:00couldn't happen. It went on so long that a lot of venues closed, changed, went out of business. People started producing online shows and locally. The producers that I watched doing those online shows, Lacy Knightly was doing them regularly and consistently. The Melange virtual show is still going strong with Dahlia Kash.

Some folks kept a steady schedule and then there was one-off productions where a festival kind of experience that happened online from large and beautiful online virtual festival. So a lot of people locally in Portland... Lola Coquette took 00:53:00off as a producer and BeeBee Sanchez, and RiRi SynCyr. I think people stepped into the space, got really comfortable with Zoom or CrowdCast, and pieced together a new world for Burlesque. I think what was really beautiful about that.

For me, I didn't perform online. I haven't yet. I went to different shows, I did try to show my support that way by going to shows. I think it was really powerful to-to see how we can come together. Some people were building alliances across geographic distances that might not have been happening otherwise. So it was... and we're still seeing that, in some ways.


And, you know, with the pandemic and the fight for racial justice and everything... everything that was happening here in Portland, and across the nation, I think some people just really rose up and found each other, and built those alliances, and kind of made very purposeful shows. The What the Funk?! festival and just some amazing productions have happened. I think it's challenging because it does seem like we're on a roller coaster now with the pandemic. So I think it's very hard for people to plan, right now, and it can be very-it can be a risk and an investment to secure a location, and secure performers travel and all that. So I think there is a lot of...everyone's managing it the best that they can.


LK: So we are in January of 2022, just currently-or in the last couple months you've performed, and what have been the Covid considerations backstage, or at the venues? What's that been like?

LC: It's been pretty good. In the summer I went to a performance and in the fall some of them were Lacy Knightly shows. They were-the particular venue was a rooftop venue so there was comfort in knowing that there was open air. We were required, as performers, to provide our proof of vaccination to the producer beforehand and we were asked to-if we weren't doing makeup-to keep our masks on backstage, which can get a little challenging because you're putting, taking 00:56:00off. After a while your mask will just turn the lipstick into, like a spread if you're wearing lipstick.

So I felt the circumstances of the pandemic, of the risk changed in such a volatile way, but I think producers have really, from what I've seen, taken care to have a procedure, you know, procedures in place that are stated and written down so you can kind of agree that you're gonna inform people if you need to reschedule, one policy that I thought was really amazing, that I saw Lacy do was no questions asked. If you're not feeling well, you get rescheduled, we'll pay you for your performance and we'll rebook you for another time. So that kind of thing is pretty amazing to see. I know that's not feasible for all productions.


I think everyone is, in this region, very considerate of each other and wants to keep each other healthy. Also, like, everyone, again, it's really hard because there are some performers that are making their living this way, and so when they have to step away for 10 days and multiple shows, that's a huge economic loss. So it's a very challenging situation.

LK: You mentioned social justice and the Burlesque community of Oregon is a fairly white demographic, and how-how would you like to see, or how does the community work to achieve diversity in the shows that you're in? Is there 00:58:00outreach to underrepresented communities? What are you seeing? Or what would you like to see?

LC: I think-I think there are some amazing producers like I named, Melange, you know, and Dahlia Kash. That they are, in Dahlia Kash, they are a Black femme producer, and they are front and center, lifting up performers who...So that the majority of the show is black and brown folks, all the show is-the whole show is black and brown folks, you know.

There are some producers here in the Pacific Northwest, where that is the starting place. And then there are, I think other producers do work actively and reach out. I've seen that with Lacy Knightly, at least, reaching out to 00:59:00performers who, maybe, they're not even locally based in Portland, they're nearby. Just really trying to invite more of a range of diversity. And that could be diversity in body size, diversity in multiple range of identities, Queer identified folks-there's are a lot of us in the Burlesque community.

The umbrella for performers of color and so you can see myself, I am of a mixed race performer of color. I'm Latina and I also have very light skin and so that puts me in a place of privilege. It's not enough to have someone like me be on 01:00:00stage, but I'm also what's called "straight sized." I'm a thin bodied person.

I do think that performers-producers are working to kind of see that it's not just about, it's a necessity and it makes the shows so much more beautiful, and so much more what we all want to see, like what our audience wants to see.

I do think there's a lot more representation and I think the idea of nothing about us, without us. So, I just love to see when there's productions where it's led by the community that is often left out. I think that's what Perle Noire has tried to show folks, as well. Because, if you aren't seeing it happen, you don't need to wait for the invitation. Make it, make it! I love seeing that. I love 01:01:00supporting that as well. So when I can buy a ticket to a show that is just so intentional and created by the community for the community, it's a really beautiful and exciting thing.

LK: You kind of joked a little bit but it's true, about a lot of Queer representation in Burlesque. Why do you think Burlesque-why do you think that is?

LC: I feel-I'm sure a historian would know the answer better, but I know is my interview. I think, I mean I think that came true in a lot of art forms, but as someone who... I moved across a lot of different art forms, from experimental 01:02:00music, to writing, and like across different genres. There's something about movement, and being in the body that is so, it just gives me chills even thinking about. In a world where, broadly and I would say globally this is true in Latin America and I'll say this as an example, in Argentina I performed with different performers and there was some cis gay men that were performing in Drag and before they left the club, they were wiping off every last bit of make up because they said, "It's not safe for me to get home," right.

As a woman identified, and femme-presenting person, I'm always thinking about my safety out in the world. It was very, it hit me in this way to be in Argentina 01:03:00and just casually be reminded that this cis man, as well, is also in fear of his life because of patriarchy and what that stands for. So I think there's something about the movement arts, that I think can-if you-if you find them and it works for you as an expression 'cause that can happen in multiple array of art forms.

There's so many incredible Queer performers and writers in different genres, but there's something about finding that power in your own body. Once you do Burlesque long enough, it's like you celebrate yourself. You're going out there to also celebrate and be celebrated. And to create a message and communicate with the audience. But you have to find that thread with yourself and build that 01:04:00strength in order to get out there in the first place. So there's an embodied somatic component of doing Burlesque that is, I find, very healing and I would guess, maybe that's why there are so many Queer bodies in the space.

LK: People in Burlesque say it empowers them. I think that's kind of what you were talking about. What-do you have thoughts on the empowering piece of this?

LC: I think you can kind of get lost and find yourself a few times in it and I-for me, yes absolutely, like night and day from when I first started doing Burlesque, to like across, like, multiple facets of my life, the way that I've shown up differently, the way that I've...


Not just in Burlesque, but to be so audacious to be like, I'm gonna go perform. I'm going to fly to this random town in Argentina and I'm going to perform and I'm gonna to...you know. That allows you to be audacious in other areas of your life. For me it's been incredibly empowering and I've also had the opportunity to be studying in a physical labor last, and also be working in other healing forms for myself.

There's a lot of not just one thing for me, it's multiple things, multiple streams flowing into the river. But absolutely. It has helped me to come home myself, to rediscover my very young love for dance and to know that it's OK that 01:06:00I wasn't professionally trained since I was little. I still love music and love movement. Just the other night I was watching a recording of-from this year, this past years BurlyCon, and it was a Burly Pod of Willy Barrett, you know, teaching us the Pillars. ["The Three Pillars of the Artist's Warmup."] Reminding us we are our own planet and we encompass all the beauty and, you know, we, whether we're moving our entire body or just he tip of our fingers, there's the planet and the beauty is all there, so for me it's absolutely been empowering.

LK: And of course, you know, finding your own space and power is, you know, changes your life, but how about Burlesque as a force for social change?

LC: I think the arts are always ahead of the times. And, Burlesque performers, 01:07:00we are people, just like everyone else. But to be able to continue to pursue an art form under the societal conditions that we are in right now, I think that's where ally-ship, and solidarity, and not just performative ally-ship but... How do we, as a community, acknowledge what our own identities are, our own intersections? And if we aren't, how do we invest in lifting up our community? Because we're a reflection of our greater society.

I think that's where some of the powerful producers that we have, that are Black 01:08:00and Brown producers, and also lifting up spaces that are specifically affinity spaces. I think that's where you can see transformation and change happening. I think it's still-I know it's not mainstream, I know Burlesque is not mainstream. But it feels like it sometimes to me. But I know it's not. But there's definitely a lot of work to be done, in the community and in the industry.

There are still certain expectations of what is beauty that is based on like white European ideals and size standards and all of these things that-that people are breaking by creating a space that isn't that, just isn't that as a 01:09:00foundation. That everything that isn't even centered on anyway on that. I think that's been really powerful to see in the times that we're in. Knowing that people right now are, everyone's experience is different. We don't know what everyone's going through, but we do know who is the most marginalized and have been the most marginalized for all of time. How do we invest, and how do we show up? Because sometimes that's not-not putting your name in a hat, sometimes it's stepping back and sometimes it's like finding what other resources you might have to support something if you don't have the bandwidth to participate.


It doesn't have to just be about money. But, if you have it, give your money to those places that are doing the work. Yeah, so I think it's a spectrum of-of change and transformation like we see in our society and there will always be work to do.

LK: So final question; What do you wish the general public would understand or know about Burlesque?

LC: Who knows what year this will be watched in, so I don't know what kind of reality-you, the general public-are in right now. But, if the reality that you're in includes opportunity to see a Burlesque show, go check it out. I think just go see and have that experience for yourself. Know that ultimately that you 01:11:00might see a different theme, a different,...It's a celebration of being alive and it's ultimately a celebration of bodies, of movement, of freedom, of liberation and that there's nothing shameful about that.

I think it would be that really... go and learn, and see what you think 'cause it's a really magical experience, it can be. Then, I think the other thing would be just recognizing that these more liminal art forms, folks are left out sometimes. Folks have to-there's a reason people use different names [as stage 01:12:00names in Burlesque] -aside from it being fun-it's like, you know... So how can we, collectively, if you're not doing Burlesque, interrupt some of those harmful shaming attitudes and marginalizing comments that end up putting our bodies at risk.

And so I think it's like, even if Burlesque is not your thing, just honoring that we all want to live on a planet where all human life is giving space and dignity to move as it desires. So even if you don't wanna come to a show, you know that is something that you can do, is help lift that up. In your spheres of influence, interrupt some of those damaging comments and ideas. But yeah, other 01:13:00than that, go to a show and have a beautiful time.

LK: Great. Luz, thank you-thank you so much.

LA CONCHA: Thank you.