A Note from Lilith Beast:
When tasked to find someone to write our first blog post, I knew immediately who I wanted to ask. Dale Stones - co-founder of Sirlesque, the producer of "Dale's All-Male Yardsale" amateur boylesque classes and showcase, and personal friend - is more than just a tall drink of water, he is a true ambassador of our community. In addition to traveling around the country spreading our Bostonian style, he actively encourages audience members to take the plunge into performing, and provides valuable support and learning opportunities. He has strengthened and grown our community by tutoring old and new performers, holding workshops on how to shimmy, shake, and hone their skills, as well as teaching performers of all levels some of the Dos and Do-NOTs in our little world. A mentor, gentleman, and talented stripper, I am honored to introduce our very first guest blog writer, Dale Stones.
1. a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
"Rhode Island's Japanese community"
2. a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.
"the sense of community that organized religion can provide"
There are few things things more hacky for a writer to do than lead a blog post with a dictionary excerpt, but I wanted to break down a couple things about the meaning of the word “Community” and how we here in Boston embody the independent concepts. So I did it anyway, and you’ll have to just deal with it.
Boston’s burlesque community is one of the strongest groups of like-minded people I’ve been a part of. Generally speaking, we’re of one mind about most issues; inclusion and support, feminist ideals, standards of pay and professionalism, etc. This isn’t to say that there aren’t micro-dramas that crop up now and again, because we’re hardly utopian. But for the most part, we’re a dynamic group of people who frequently cross the aisles in order to forge new partnerships meant to design and execute new performance spectacles for an endlessly enthusiastic audience base. In that way, we’re extremely fortunate, and our model continues to work.
I’m Dale Stones, the creative director and co-founder of Sirlesque. Sirlesque is a Boston-based group of male burlesque performers that started nearly six years ago through the coaching and encouragement of our sister troupe, Rogue Burlesque. Each of the members of Sirlesque have gone on to create and execute on many different projects over the years; Danny Drake and Brandy Wine of Sirlesque and Rogue respectively created “Holy Shitsnacks! An Archer Burlesque” this past summer, Dexter Dix piloted a Valentine’s Day show called “Stupid Cupid,” and I’m personally quite proud of the support I’ve gotten for “Dale’s All-Male Yardsale,” an amateur boylesque class and competition that’s recently had its fourth installment at Club Cafe, Boston’s most visible LGBTQ performance venue.
I mention all this because I don’t know how any of it would have been possible without the unfaltering support of the performers and producers that uplift and encourage each other as these projects take shape. While Boston is a troupe-based performance community (unlike New York City’s burlesque scene), we by and large create shows with help and contributions from non-troupe members, and attend shows that our friends develop, irrespective of their content. I say that with producer/performers like Sake Toomey in mind, who goes to every show despite not knowing even the rudimentary details about the works of John Carpenter or ever having seen a single episode of Archer.
I sincerely believe that as a new performer, an experienced performer, or a well-known name in burlesque, the most important thing you can be is a fan. We all create acts based on characters that we want people to truly appreciate, and then use them to tell stories with stripping. It's a completely insane concept. For burlesque especially, showing other performers you're interested in them is a simple and crucial way to reinforce and support both your community and the art form at large. Even better if you're unfamiliar with the character, as you can judge and critique a fellow performer’s act based purely on its technical skill, ultimately making your community stronger.
In Boston, we all know and work with one another. Even new performers have a place, and are constantly offered opportunities to grow and develop new acts. My own boylesque amateur showcase was based on Rogue Burlesque’s Lucky 13 bi-annual show, the brain child of Dixie Douya, Miss Sassypants, Busty Keaton, and Lily Bordeaux. For welcoming in the raw, neo-flair Boston has become known for, Dinah Deville created the monthly Punk Rockin’ and Pastie Poppin’ show at the Midway Cafe in JP. Considered Boston’s come-one-come-all, anything goes warm-up stage, Jane Doe, Honey Pie and Abby Normal now continue to curate the experience, and offer anyone and everyone a chance to showcase new content. For experienced performers, there are more big-time productions like the perennial success that is The Slutcracker, the seasonal burlesque/ballet hybrid from the mind of Sugar Dish, which is just now finishing up its 2016 run. The Slutcracker is most certainly Boston’s public-facing burlesque presence, as its advertising in both guidebooks and on the sides of city transit busses have justified Boston burlesque’s mainstream presence in the public eye.
I feel that way especially since me, Dexter Dix, and Ricky Lime were supported blindly before any of us had our stage chops. We were given several opportunities by Rogue Burlesque to learn and develop acts that were seaworthy, and critiqued with conscience at every junction. Although it took me a long two years to create something I felt was up to snuff for a burlesque audience, the only thing the Rogues required of me was the desire to keep participating and contributing, regardless of my skill level. It was that essence of community that made me feel supported, encouraged, and respected before I felt any of those things about my own art. I’m determined to continue demonstrating that to the people I welcome to the burlesque community in Boston, because to me, being both patient and welcoming is integral with what makes us who we are.
As a community, there are things that we will not tolerate. In the past, we’ve banded together to protect those who feel unsafe, and offered a variety of solutions for creating safe spaces both in the front of the house and backstage. As a community, we stand fast in refusing to work with those who will deny us the dignity of a fair wage, and do not tolerate disparaging comments about our bodies, our acts, our stylistic choices, or our sexual preferences. When I see that other performers make choices that exploit the vulnerabilities of others, I feel confident in speaking for our community in Boston that we will not work with them. While none of us would ever forbid others from working with producers who repeatedly undermine our standards of treatment, we do seek to leave an open doorway to welcome all to our side, and to show other aspiring performers the options they will always have.
For these reasons, I feel impassioned about being an ambassador when I travel to perform in other cities. I feel proud to talk to performers and producers from other communities about who we are and what we do. It’s important to me to show people that in Boston, we are cultivating a reputation of support and inclusion and are fighting against the injustices that had been built up here long before we came into our own. Most importantly, I want to show other communities that we’re not only here doing great things in our corner of the map, but that we’re interested in what you’re doing too. We want to see the creative accomplishments that you’ve worked for, and want to invite you to come see us and the community we’ve built here. We’re proud of you, and for you--and want to share your excitement in the same way we want you to share ours.
We’d love to hang out. Why don’t you come by and see us some time?
Dale Stones is a burlesque performer, instructor and producer. You can read more of his writing on his blog, Throwing Stones.