There's one person consistently in my top 5 burlesque performers - Anna Fur Laxis.
When I was first getting into burlesque and attempting to devour every morsel of burly information possible, I listened devotedly to Lili Von Schtupp and Chris Beyond's Burlesque Podcasts. One podcast they had a British performer on from Yorkshire who's passion for and commitment to burlesque shone through, along with her charm and wit....this was Anna (here's her first appearance on the Burlesque Podcast, and here's a later one she did).
So I had to go off and find out more about this woman!
Anna was one of the few British performers (and to be honest worldwide performers) at the time with a decent website. It had her modelling photos, details about her and her acts....I don't think at the time it had any videos, but I might be wrong. But even though it was decent to start with, she's updated her website several times and it's now this wonderful thing to behold:
I've just checked out the acts Anna has on her current site.....none of the ones she was doing at the time are part of her current list, she's updated and outgrown even those. From memory Anna was doing Castaway, Domestic Bliss, Everything Stops For Tea and I think a French inspired act, and a Pony Girl one.
Anyway, I started getting into burlesque and going to shows. A milestone for me was going to my first show on my own (my backstory is I have severe social anxiety). I was incredibly excited about it. It was the Candy Box Burlesque in Birmingham, their Hi-De-Hi Show....and not only was Anna on the bill, other huge burlesque stars including World Famous *BOB* were too.
This is the act Anna did that night:
Later that year I started maiding (setting up stage for performers and then picking up their clothes and props afterwards) for burlesque shows........and I got all fan-girl when Anna was booked to appear at one of them. I was going to actually meet her!
And I have to say Anna and the other essential part of her life and acts, Mr Fur Laxis are two of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. They are totally charming, funny and interested in other people. By this point Anna had introduced Cheesecake Cheesequake into her repertoire and that night she debuted a fan dance Next. I can't find any video of the actual act with the soundtrack she uses (but here's clips of it with a different accompaniment) - it's a remarkable song, Scott Walker's Next....possibly the last song you'd ever imagine doing a fan dance to IF you listen to the lyrics. But the funniest thing was that her movements with the fans and her facial expressions totally detract from your ability to listen to the lyrics. The Next fans are truely amazing - they are a work of genius by Mr Fur Laxis (as I say, a totally essential mad-genius part of everything Anna presents on stage). He specially designed unique grips for Anna's hands so that she can work the weight of the fans (which anyone who's done fan dancing knows can be incredibly heavy and difficult to wield around) and do amazing flicks open and shut in time to the music.
There are various things that have me in awe of Anna, other than her being a total lovely. Here are just a few of them that I have try to remember and implement to hopefully make me a better performer:
- She never stands still. She is always innovating and trying things that others wouldn't even dream of. She takes time to learn skills outside the 'usual' burlesque catalogue. She learnt to throw knives and axes, travelling around the world to perfect her skills - and then adapted these skills for her Laxis of Evil act. I don't think there's any video of the act because Anna doesn't like having it filmed....but here's the lengths she went to learn new skills. The same goes with the act that won her First Runner Up at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend 2011 - The Prestige. I know it took her and Mr Fur Laxis years to learn and perfect the tricks within this act....as well as build the amazing 'cubicle' not only so it works amazingly but can be transported around the world....even if it is in 7+ suitcases. All this had to be done from scratch, them working out how things were done. They tried but no magicians revealed any secrets to them. Here is the wonderful result:
- Her costuming is just as creative, intricate and ingenious as her acts. If you want to be treated like a star or top performer then you have to dress like one. When you walk on that stage you need jaws to drop and your costume to announce you mean business. Anna's costumes do this and what's more they are great publicity for her acts. Whenever Anna introduces a new act she'll tease us first with stunning professional photos of some of the costume you could see if you make an effort to turn up. Just check out some of the breath-taking creations on her Acts page and in her Gallery. She thinks about each layer, what purpose it can have, nothing is wasted. (I did hear a very wise thing from Mr Fur Laxis at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend though when talking about levels of sparkle.....he rightly said, and it has stuck with me, that there has to be a stopping point with the number of crystals you put on your costumes, because if your shoes are too sparkly the audience won't be looking at your face ;)).
- Anna knows that her 'performance' doesn't end when she walks off stage. There's nothing false about Anna but I'm regularly in awe of is how polished she looks 'day to day' ie. if you follow her Facebook, or Twitter, or website blog etc you'll regularly see photos of her travels and she looks blooming stunning and in gorgeous outfits (even the casual ones are ones most retro and vintage fans would kill for). I know when I go to burlesque events/conventions I pay a little more thought about what I'm going to wear in the daytime to 'keep up appearances' but Anna has this down to a T.....I told her once how amazing she was to look so polished all the time and being Anna, she graciously thanked me but added "it takes a lot of work" - and that is the secret to it. Anna thinks about herself as a brand, she spends time thinking about her whole package. She utilises social media and networking like a pro. Her website is amazing. She was one of the first performers in the UK to have her own line of merchandise and t-shirts for fans. She totally knows how to work the press. If ever there was a great example of a burlesque performer being a serious brand and credible business person, it's Anna. She aims high, thinks big....
OK, OK I'm going to stop gushing before she gets worried and puts a restraining order on me ;) Anyway, there you go, one of my biggest burlesque inspirers - Anna Fur Laxis - long may she reign. And as a parting gift, here's her wonderful Bettie Page tribute: