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Natasha Riot Oral History Interview, January 4, 2020

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LAURIE KURUTZ: Today is January 4th, 2020, my name is Laurie Kurutz. Would you please Introduce yourself, Tell us your pronouns if you care to, and tell us what you do?

NATASHA RIOT: I'm Natasha Riot, I am a Burlesque performer. Also, I do fire performance, Middle Eastern dance in a contemporary version of it. I also produce shows. I make my own costumes and headdresses, and that's creatively what I do.

LK: Excellent. So, what is Burlesque?

NR: Burlesque is a lot of things to a lot of people, and to me it's a form of 00:01:00expression. It's a story-telling sort of thing. The word Burlesque is, you know, the dictionary defines it as a parody of something. Burlesque shows used to be a three-part show with comedians, and dancing girls, and just a lot of entertainment acts. I think that Burlesque as what we know now is called broadly, Neo-Burlesque, even with people doing Classic acts, is a lot of empowerment for a lot of factions of people. It's beautiful and sparkly, or weird and subversive, or nerdy, or anything really that you can put on stage and feel good about.


LK: How would you describe the kind of Burlesque that you do?

NR: I- it's hard, I do a lot of different styles. I think, probably what I'm known best for is strange Nerdlesque, character-driven stuff. I am not really a Classic Burlesque performer at all. I definitely bring a lot of my dance background into it and will incorporate fire, or will incorporate some belly dance, or incorporate fire performance where I can into the Nerdlesque and character work, or just me in a sparkly outfit.

LK: What, in a nutshell, would be the difference between Classic Burlesque and Neo-Burlesque?

NR: I think Classic Burlesque would be defined as you definitely have a formula. 00:03:00There's a certain look to the costume, there's what you do from beginning to end, and Neo-Burlesque takes that formula, and goes off in different tangents with it.

LK: You have several names that you perform under. Can you tell us what those are and how they came to be? Why perform under a different name?

NR: That's a wonderful question. I was belly dancing primarily, actually, when I started belly dancing, it was also customary to take a stage name. But I never found one that I felt comfortable doing. A lot of people would take on Middle Eastern, or Middle Eastern sounding names. And that just never sat right with me. Not to say that that's bad, or good, or whatever, it just wasn't right for me. So I just didn't ever do that, and by the time where I started getting 00:04:00known, it was too late. I just always belly dance under my given name. And then, when I started doing Burlesque, I have gone through different names in Burlesque just because I haven't- I didn't at the time figure out what I was doing. A lot of people would say that they would choose their name because of their persona in Burlesque. Because I was doing so much character-driven work and I wasn't pigeon-holing myself into "Oh, I'm a Classic performer, oh, I'm a Nerdlesque performer." I didn't want to have my name describe this one thing. So, Natasha Riot what's been sticking. I'm not changing it again, I promise. I get teased a lot about it. Then when I dance in clubs I have a different name for that, 00:05:00mostly to separate what I do. Yeah, so that was a long answer to a short question.

LK: It was perfect. Where were you born and where did you grow up?

NR: I was born in Mountain View, California, and I grew up in Willits, California, which is in Mendocino County.

LK: What brought you to Oregon?

NR: I was living in the Bay Area, performing a lot in the Bay Area, and then the Bay Area changed so much that I wasn't able to afford to live there anymore. So I tried my hand in LA, which was awful. Sorry LA. But it was mostly because I was still working in the Bay Area and having to commute every week, it just didn't work out. I was touring at the time with a band, and we stopped in Portland for a couple of days. I just remember getting off the bus and feeling 00:06:00this was right. So after tour, I packed everything up and came to Portland.

LK: What year was that?

NR: That was 2016, so January 2016.

LK: In your formative years, what did you do that led you towards performance?

NR: I think I've always been a performer. My mom put me into gymnastics and dance when I was three, I think, and I did it all. I wish I had stuck with gymnastics now, but- well, I think that I fell off the parallel bars. I don't remember this, but this is what I figured out as an adult, because I don't like going upside down, or being on parallel bars or any sort of thing. I think I probably fell off them. I stopped doing gymnastics after that, but did tap, Jazz, ballet, combo, and then I really gravitated towards jazz dance. Then, I 00:07:00did Jazz all through my childhood into high school. Then after high school I started belly dancing and did West African dance. And did flamenco. And found my way to modern dance and Hip-Hop, and then I dabbled in everything. Not everything but enough.

LK: What formal education and training have you had?

NR: When I was a kid, I was in a dance school. Then I took classes at the community college. And, I worked with that. You know Willits is a really small town, you know, with not a lot of resources. So, there were two teachers that I worked with that also taught at the college. Then I would work with visiting teachers. I worked at and took classes at a dance school in California called The Space- a school for the Performing Arts and Cultural education. We would 00:08:00always have visiting teachers come in from the Bay Area and create choreographies for us. So we would be challenged, and as teachers and as students. Which was a wonderful. Then I would travel to the Bay Area and take classes, or workshops with people where I could and all that. So, I never went to school for dance, but I had lots of different -different outlets for it.

LK: In those formative years, was there anyone who was an influence or an inspiration for you?

NR: I - I looked over these questions before, and then it - it was Solid Gold. It was Solid Gold when I was a kid. I wanted to be a Solid Gold dancer so bad, and I would watch the show, imitate the dancers, and my mom was mortified. I was 00:09:00like "Someday, I'm going to be a Solid Gold dancer." She's like "yeah". Look at me now Mom!

LK: What year, and how, did you get started in Burlesque?

NR: I don't even know if it was on my radar before, I'm going to say, 2003. I saw the Yard Dogs Road Show and it blew my mind. They were so fantastic and they had performance with fun music. "Wow, this is really cool" and that prompted me to be like "What are these girls doing? What is hap-" like I just wanted to know more. At that time I had been- I didn't have the internet. I had it for like an hour a week and I just bought all the books that I could, and researched. Like, 00:10:00just pursued, like, how can I know more about this? So, and then in that, being like "Oh, that's kind of what I'm already doing," a little bit. I was doing a little more of Vaudeville stuff. And so, it was, even though, you know, back in the early turn of the [19th] century, you never mixed Vaudeville or Burlesque, now it's different. Where, at a Burlesque show, you can see a variety of performances. I really attribute it to the Yard Dogs, opening my eyes to that sort of wonderful world. So, thanks guys!

LK: Keying off of that and your other training, how did you develop your career?

NR: I owned a dance school in 2004, 2005, in Mendocino country. I was doing that 00:11:00a lot, and traveling to the Bay Area to take classes, so I could bring back that new and fresh material. And then I got hired for a festival in West Virginia, of all places. And they said "can you do 45 minutes?" And I was like "sure... let's see if this- okay." So I had to create a 45-minute act that would keep people interested. Which is incredibly hard. It's hard to keep people interested in a 10-minute belly dance act in a restaurant, much less a 45-minute act on a stage at a music festival. I was pushed into- like "okay, here you go. Take all your theater training, take all your dance training, and put it together." Which then in itself became a Burlesque, because I had to throw comedy in. I had to throw different characters in. I had to... you know. It was everything I could possibly do. All of my dance training into this one act. I ended up taking that 00:12:00[act] two different places, and you know, whittling to it down to, like a 10-minute act. Which was as far as I could whittle it down, wherever I could do that. So that kind of jump-started me into people being like "Oh, well, why don't you take this here, and take this here." I got hired for parties, and different things. Then I found the Hubba-Hubba Review in San Francisco, kind of by accident because I knew another producer who was a friend of mine who is like "come and be in my show." She happened to be sick on that day. So Jim [Sweeney] from the Hubba-Hubba Revue was emceeing that show, saw my act and was like "we need you for Hubba," and then the rest is history. I still work for the Hubba-Hubba Revue. I do their online stage management and I whenever I'm to San Francisco and performed with them. They're definitely my Burlesque family and 00:13:00always will be. I just like...cry. Jim is amazing. He creates this wonderful space for so many different performers in the Bay Area. He really is one of the- I mean Hubba was voted one of the top 10 Burlesque shows in the world, and he really deserves that accolade.

LK: There have been a lot of what's considered Burlesque royalty to come out of that Hubba Hubba.

NR: Absolutely, there's Sparkly Devil. [Burlesque legendary performer] She started in Detroit, but when she moved to the Bay Area, you know, I remember the first time I met her. I was in a Burlesque cheerleading squad called the Cock Tease. So actually... I can't believe I forgot about the Cock Tease. I joined them when I was still living in Willits. I answered an ad and went to an audition for them. We were cheerleaders and we had a uniform. I remember one time I called it a costume, and they were like "not a costume, it's a uniform." 00:14:00I was like "I'm sorry, oh, yes". We each had our own characters and we did cheers. We never stripped, we just did really naughty cheers. I met Sparkly Devil at one of our Cock Tease acts and she was a force of nature. "Who is this woman?" And then when she started at Hubba, I was like yeah, she's family. She's wonderful. Uh, Jim- I just performed a couple of weeks ago. I got off stage with one of my signature acts, which is Space Babe. I come out in a space helmet and a space suit and basically Space Babe isn't very bright, so she can take off her clothes, but she can't take off her helmet because she'll die. So, being kind of a bumble-ly character, a lot of things can go wrong or a lot of things can go right. I had fixed my costume and didn't test it out. So, I was having a really 00:15:00super hard time getting out of my costume, which then led to the act. And it just made it funnier because all of the things I was actually trying to do turned into slapstick when it wasn't working out, and it kept going and going and going. And I get off the stage and Jim says "that was the essence of old-school Hubba-Hubba Revue." He said "Sparkly Devil, she's looking down on you right now and is so proud of you." And I went "You're going to make me cry Jim." So, I just was like, yeah, Hubba is a huge part of my Burlesque world.

LK: What do you do outside of performing Burlesque?

NR: I bartend, and I also perform at a - well, I guess it's not outside of 00:16:00Burlesque -- at Burlesque club here in Portland, called the Kit Kat Club, here in Portland. It's interesting, someone just asked me this question and I think most of my life really revolves around performing because bartending is really the only thing that I do for money that's not tied into performance. But hey- it's another performance art itself. I am really happy that I have created a life where it's mostly performance-based. Pat myself on the back.

LK: Do you participate in the Burlesque Festival circuit?

NR: To a very small extent, yes. It's a great way to get known, but it can 00:17:00become very expensive. So I kind of allotte, whether I'm going to apply for it every year, just so I don't put too much out without getting anything back.

LK: What's that process like? Can you just sort of paint a picture of how it works, the applying, and how does the travel work, and just give us a picture of that?

NR: Okay, yeah, it's- what I meant by not getting anything back, that kind of sounded dire. I choose to do it because I love it. That is what I get back. It's just the financial part of for me. So, the application process is generally- there's a nominal application fee. And, depending on the festival, you can submit one to two... I've had festivals that will let you submit three acts, so one to three acts. You have to have a fairly good video. A lot of places will 00:18:00say "oh, you can film in your living room if you want." I think it's better probably to send in your best work on a stage so- The stage lights make your costume look how you want it to look. And then, you know, the description of your act is very important too, because if you just write down "I take my clothes off, I'm really sparkly," you know, they might not even look at your video. Then, unless you are a headliner, you generally have to pay for travel. Some festivals do offer a stipend, which is wonderful, but generally not enough to cover your travel. And also some festivals will help you find lodging, or will pay for your lodging. But festivals are wonderful. You get to meet people from all around the country, all over the world and see what's going on outside 00:19:00of your bubble. It's really exciting. I had just participated in the Australia Burlesque Fest, and that was really fun to see what the Australians are doing as far as Burlesque goes. I'm going to the U.K. in February to a variety and Burlesque festival, which I'm super excited about. I haven't been accepted into any European festivals until this one. I feel like Europe has a very high standard as far as they're very Classic and they're just diverting from Classic and they're probably going to look at me like "What are you doing, weirdo?" So, when I get accepted into this Festival, I was like "cool, I made it."

LK: That's great. The stereotype of Burlesque from the olden days, and possibly 00:20:00today, is of male producers and of exploited female performers. What's the Burlesque community like in Portland?

NR: I have not experienced that in Portland, which I'm super grateful about. They're... I'm not sure how one of our producers presents themselves. They are gender-fluid, and then the other one definitely is a male. And I haven't had any problems with either of them. I've never heard any- any sort of complaints about them at all. I think, Portland is this general really great open loving space. So, it's very inclusive. And also, it's small enough to where if people were acting out in a way that was not ...favorable, they would be quickly called out 00:21:00on it.

LK: Can you tell us just a little bit about all of the places where there are to perform in Portland? All those places that you perform.

NR: There are so many places. Dante's is one of them, and Dante's hosts Inferno, which is the longest running variety show on the West Coast. The Lovecraft Bar is where I do my show [Burlynomicon] which I actually took over from The Mad Marquis last year. The Crush Bar does performances almost seven days a week. Those are the three that come to mind. Oh, The Jack London Revue, which is underneath a pool hall, that is in a building from the 1920s. Which is wonderful, so it's a jazz club. Then every Saturday there's a Burlesque show after the Jazz show. I'm missing so many other places, there's so many- there's 00:22:00so many bars or clubs that- that host Burlesque. There's a tiny little place called The Big Lagrowlski that The Little Lioness perform, uh, produces at. And it's just, it's tiny. And there's a tiny little space for a stage, but it's great, because of those people there. Local Lounge is a Queer friendly space as far- as is Crush. Those are all from the top of my head, but there are probably at least a dozen more than that too.

LK: Portland has some festivals and competitions.

NR: yes.

LK: The Oregon Burlesque Festival.

NR: yes.

LK: Tell me about your experience with that.

NR: I've won two titles with the Oregon Burlesque Festival. The first year, I think it was 2016, the year I moved here, I won the Keeping It Weird award, with 00:23:00my "Master Shake and Carl" act from Aqua Teen Hunger Force. The next year I won Queen of the Roses with my epic fire act that was based on an Erte painting. This year I was one of the judges for the competition. Last year I was supposed to crown the next Queen of the Roses, but I had to leave because I was hired in Texas to do another performance. Oregon Burlesque Festival is wonderful. They have now moved into the Alberta Rose Theater, which is a beautiful historic theatre building in Portland. There is also the Metalesque Fest, which is a 3-day festival to all Metal music. Which is super fun if you're into that sort of thing. So, yeah, what other- I mean there's the Miss Exotic Oregon 00:24:00competition which is hosted by Exotic Magazine, which happens every November. There's lots of more little, strip club industry competitions, that generally don't necessarily include Burlesque, that some performers do. The Miss Exotic Oregon is definitely more performance-based. There's the Pole Erotica competitions which is all pole-artist based, which is amazing, mind-blowing, so yeah, lots of opportunity.

LK: Well, it's so rich here, you probably don't need to travel too much. Describe a week in the life of being a creative industry entrepreneur. What's 00:25:00your week like? You've already talked about a lot of your performance, bartending, and then you've alluded to producing. All the things that that entails, so just paint us a picture of a week.

NR: Okay, let's go to a week in the summer where I produce three shows a month, which is insane. I shape my days to where I usually work in the evenings. So I will get up, and I will start on my productions. I will hire my performers pretty far out, so that is already done with, and I can then just continue on with promoting in different ways. I have a bunch of community calendars that I 00:26:00post to, different sites that I will then bought out and I post on different calendars. That takes a good hour at the very least to put the info for each show on, so if I'm doing three times a month producing, that's at least three hours of putting things out because they're different shows. I can't just copy and paste one for the entire summer. So that takes a lot of my time. Thankfully, I have a deal with The Lovecraft Bar where I do my shows, where it's the same deal no matter what show I do. So that's kind of already done and taken care of. I have to organize the performers and make sure that they're promoting on their social media sites. That's a challenge in itself because it feels like every 00:27:00month some new rule is coming in where the socials [social media] where, now I can only invite 50 people to my- to my event, that's like the capacity of- so, trying to find creative ways of getting the word out, that's another brain space altogether. So, doing that. Making costumes and rehearsing my new acts. Remembering to send my info to other producers and then going to work. So it's a lot. A lot, no down time. So it's, it's funny when people ask me "What do you do in your down time?" Like, it's really boring- you don't want to know. I sit at my computer, or I watch the Drag Race while I am rhinestoning. I'm not out 00:28:00living this like, fabulous life that is depicted in a movie called Burlesque, which is awful.

LK: Shifting to more artistic aspects, what's your process for creating a new piece of Burlesque for yourself?

NR: It varies. Sometimes I'll be inspired by a piece of music. Sometimes I'll be inspired by a specific theme, or a costume piece that I had just felt compelled to make. It used to be music primarily. That has shifted as the time has gone on, and now sometimes people will be like "oh, here's a theme." Which I'll be interested in, but not have an act. I'll be like "okay, I can create for that." 00:29:00The most recent one was a Nightmare Before Christmas act. Actually someone was just like "We want you to be in this show," I would be like" I don't have nothing like that." "Hey, but we still want you to be in the show." I have someone who I kind of bounce ideas off and who will give me ideas too. So that's nice to have somebody to help me because sometimes I'm so burnt out that I'm like "I don't- I don't know- I don't know." I also, before that, created an act based off the movie Demons, because it was a Dario Argento show. So I was like "Okay, so that'll be fun." Just had a really fun time with that one, so, yeah.

LK: There's a good deal of talk now and education now around the topic of cultural appropriation. What are your considerations when you're creating a piece of theater? What do you consider?


NR: There's so much to consider. Mostly "Is it my story to tell?" And I think that's the biggest consideration. I think this has been a topic in the belly dance community for years, for years and years. I mean, the women who introduced it [belly dance] to America and who are prominent figures now, a lot of them first started by watching women that came over from the Middle East that were dancing in nightclubs. There was no codified, like, this is how you do each movement. It was just- it was all like "do it." So, they would take classes from these women, it wasn't like oh, okay, you do a Maya like this, it wasn't even called a Maya, it was something else. So in that way, were they culturally 00:31:00appropriating? Maybe, and maybe not, because they were learning it from the women coming over. Did they take it, and do something else with that? Is that cultural appropriation? Or is that growth of the dance form? So it's- it's a big topic, and it's a sticky situation, and everyone's going to have a different opinion on it. So, with my Contemporary Fusion Dance where I incorporate belly dance into what I do, I make sure that I don't call it belly dance because it's far from the traditional styles that I've learned, that I've researched and know about. And then I've taken it and made something it different, but I won't call it, well that's Lebanese dance, because it's not. It's- it's my own creation.

So in Burlesque, I think it's more the themes that you have to watch out for. So, it means, as a cis white woman, I'm not going to delve into topics in the 00:32:00Queer community, or in a Latina or Latino community. Anything that's not me, it's not my story to tell. The one act where I was a little hesitant about but someone had asked me to create it, who was in the Queer community, who I trust. They wouldn't ask me to do this if they didn't feel like this was appropriate. It was to do a Mortal Kombat act. So I thought... They wanted me to do the character of Katana. I researched it and Katana is a fictional character that's ten thousand years old. She's a princess. I'm like "Well, okay, I'm none of these things, and neither is anybody else. So..." I think where the conversation 00:33:00could come in is that it's possible that the creators of that video game took some Asian influence and put them in these characters. So, I'm still kind of back and forth on that one. That act will only be presented in places that it is OK, [where] I've gotten accepted into festivals. I don't feel like I'm culturally appropriating Asian culture. I'm culturally appropriating a video game character? I don't know if that's valid? I mean, it's tricky too. You know, like, when I do my "Master Shake and Carl" act, would someone say that I'm making fun of Carl and people that are represented by Carl? No. Because I'm playing Carl. So, that's the same thing. I'm playing Katana, but I'm only in a 00:34:00very surface aspect of it, because I- yeah. So, it was another long answer to a short question.

LK: It's a complex topic, and that's why I'm asking.

NR: Yeah, it's tricky and I don't want to offend. That's definitely never ever my intention, and I am very aware. If I'm not- if I misstep, I want to be told that I'm miss-stepping. So I can change my behavior. I just want to have fun, I want to bring joy to the world. I don't want it to- I don't want to make someone to- I don't want to make people feel uncomfortable. Unless that's my intention by being creepy.

LK: In Portland, what's been your experience with diversity in Burlesque in performance? How do you define diversity and then what do you see in the 00:35:00Portland community?

NR: I feel like we have a very rich Queer culture. And the shows that I'm in, the shows I produce, I try and pull all aspects. I'll have Drag performers, Queer performers, however they want to present in my shows. In my monthly show, I want someone who is doing Drag, someone who is doing Burlesque, as it's known. I want someone of color, or different culture in, so it's... it's well-rounded, and people can see that we are diverse. And it's so- the thing for me is, I don't understand why it's never... why it hasn't always been like that, why it's 00:36:00ever been a conversation, why... it bothers me that people have been suppressed, especially in the entertainment industry. I know it exists, and I want to help nurture the growth and the inclusivity of everything, because if you're a good performer, you're a good performer. Yeah, bring it.

LK: When you tell people what you do, what kind of comments do you get?

NR: I was trying to think about this question and answer it succinctly. I think I have, I have voiced the answer to that question, in a way where people are either thrown off guard by it, so they don't really have anything to come back 00:37:00with. Or it's like so grandiose and I'll say "Oh, I'm an internationally touring Burlesque performer," and they go "Internationally? Oh, what about this is so-" and they get interested about it right away instead of "Oh, you're just a stripper." which that I would go "oh, just a stripper? Okay, let's talk about this." Because there's a stereotype that needs to be shut down right now. I've had a little bit of backlash from my family who doesn't understand Burlesque, which is totally fine, it's fine.

One of the comments I got was "Well, why are you going so much into Burlesque, you're such a good dancer." I'm like "Well, look at what I'm doing on stage," I'm like okay, yeah. For instance when I'm Carl, I'm not being very elegant, because that's not the character. But I'm making people laugh, and they can 00:38:00relate to me because they've either seen the show or the character is so strange that they're like "this is cool"... or not. Or they think it's disgusting, that's fine too. My conservative family back East was...I toured to the New York Nerdlesque Festival with "Shake and Carl," and I saw them later, and they were like "So wait, you take off your clothes on stage?" And I was like "No, I switch characters on stage." But yeah, Carl strips. But then I'm in Carl's suit, so yes and no. When people come at me in a sort of closed-minded area, and they're, I can kind of tell that they're not ready to learn about it, it's just kind of meeting them where they're at. So, like, sure, I'm stripping, but I'm stripping 00:39:00into another character. So that way the stripping that you're thinking about isn't this, but it is.

LK: People in Burlesque say that it empowers them. What's your take on that?

NR: Absolutely. I think that creating an act is empowering. I think getting on stage just in general is empowering. Seeing people grow from "I would never go on stage" to just a few years later where they're owning everything about themselves, and filling the stage with their essence is just so beautiful to see. And even if you don't even want to get on stage. Seeing, or feeling that 00:40:00it's okay to expose your body. It's okay to express yourself through dance. That's just empowering in itself.

LK: I've heard people talk about how Burlesque can be a force for social change. Your thoughts?

NR: I feel like, I mean it ties into the empowerment thing. I think the more that we become empowered, the more our eyes are opened to what's going on around us. And then, also tying into the cultural appropriation. You start being aware of what's appropriate and what's not, and what's boundary-pushing and what's offensive. So in that way, that social change comes out to in, like, wait a second, that makes me uncomfortable, I see it's making other people uncomfortable. It's not because it's a creepy sort of thing that I'm not 00:41:00familiar with, it's because you're making fun of something. So, yes, Burlesque means it's a parody of something, but are you parodying it in a negative awful fashion, or are you parodying it because it's a joke?

So, and that again opens up a whole other can of worms. Just be nice to each other. Then that itself will inspire change in everybody. Just meeting people where they're at and you know even though- even the most awful conservative person has a story to tell. And even though we don't agree with it, as long as they're not harming people, and- I mean, if they're racist and misogynistic and awful, it's hard. Like I used to be really- I don't know why I'm going off on this tangent - I really want them to change their minds and open their minds 00:42:00with this utopian vision that I want everyone to live in. But- sometimes you can't and it's disheartening, but those aren't the people that are going to come to the shows anyway, so you can only reach who you can reach. I think that's my point. If we can- you know it's the old saying of "change starts in yourself." So, if you can change you, and inspire people to change, and then hopefully they can inspire and inspire and inspire... We can't change everyone, but hopefully maybe change a lot of people's opinions and ideas about other people.

LK: I think you just answered the next question, but I'll do it anyway: what are the challenges facing Burlesque today do you think?


NR: I think Burlesque is a lot more accepted than it has in the past. I have no qualms about telling people that I do Burlesque. This kind of goes back to the name thing: when I was starting Burlesque and I was doing Middle Eastern dance too, one of the reasons that- not only that I needed to take a different name, because that's what I did with Burlesque. But I needed to separate my legal name from my Burlesque name so that people- the Old Guard in the belly dance community wouldn't look down upon me because I was doing this kind of lewd thing. You know, this was kind of early 2000s, I feel like in the years since then, it's been a lot. Fusion belly dance and now contemporary Fusion Dance has 00:44:00evolved in such a way that it has become its own art form that it- that it is looked more favorably upon. So now, I don't have any qualms with telling my mentors in belly dance "Oh yeah, I do Burlesque." Because I feel like they'll be like "Cool, okay." So it's definitely changing. It's becoming more accepted which is great. But then you know, I live on the West coast. I don't know what it's like in the Midwest. I don't know what it's like in the South. I've done festivals in the South and on the East coast, but in general, I don't know what the scenes are like, or what the population thinks about it.

LK: Final question: what do you wish the general public would understand about Burlesque?


NR: That it's an art form. It really is, and you know this has been a topic of conversation within the Burlesque community, and I think outside of the Burlesque Community too is that- The division between strippers and Burlesque. And, what is that division? In Portland it's very unique, because there's so many strip clubs. We boast the most strip clubs per capita of anywhere else in the country. Each club has to be unique for patrons to want to go there. So, you know, I work at a Burlesque club and we have feature sets every night. Different themes, on the weekends it's run like an old-school show-club where there's two shows a night. So, in that way, you know it's like the stereotypical stripping 00:46:00and Burlesque meet. I guess the difference would be stripping doesn't necessarily have a storyline. Where Burlesque does, in many places you have to keep your pasties and panties on for Burlesque. But in some places you have to keep your panties on and/or pasties in stripping, too. So, it really is-they [stripping and Burlesque] are sisters, you know. They're not twins, but they're definitely sisters. And one borrows from the other constantly. When I wasn't as confident about my body as I was now, I was very reticent to be like, "Oh, yeah, I guess I am a stripper because I am removing items of clothes." Even if it is changing into another character. But that's okay, it's all right, it's fine. Everybody has a body. And the people who are showing you theirs are really, 00:47:00really bold. So, there shouldn't be this stigma about it, but that's another long conversation.

LK: Thank you so much.

NR: Thank you for having me. It's been an honor and a pleasure, thank you.