Friday, June 09, 2006

Tales of a Stripper Artiste

posted by Vonessa at 11:22 AM


In Back of the Throat I play 3 separate women: a librarian, a business woman, and a stripper. Guess which character is most out of my realm of experience? One of the great things about being an actor is the exposure to all walks of life in the pursuit of research. So, I imagine, it was just a matter of time before I found myself going to Jumbo's Clown Room on Hollywood Boulevard to watch and learn.

I didn't go alone, of course. Damaso (the director), Ammar (who plays Khaled), Rachel (the costume designer), Shawn (the scenic designer), and others in the ensemble for moral support. There were probably six girls dancing that night. And they were all attractive and all good at what they did. One would dance for a song. Sometimes using the one chrome pole on the dance floor, sometimes using the mirrored walls, sometimes engaging with the various patrons sitting alongside the stage. One by one they would do their dance, partially stripping but in general no nudity, and then the rotation would begin again. I found myself preferring the artistry of some girls over the other. After their routine was over they would get on their hands and knees to retrieve the money that was thrown at them during the performance. Rachel referred to this action as 'the crawl'. I was one of the patrons sitting along side the edge of the stage and I couldn't resist asking them a couple of questions while they were doing their crawl but in true TV beat cop fashion I paid them for their information. Well, AFTER the ex frat guy next to me explained that it was customary. What did I learn? Apparently, even Goth girl who can do splits in the air and land on the dance floor doesn't choreograph her routines, she wings it. What? They all just go out on stage and feel the music? Body rock girl concurred (she didn't have an outfit per se, just a bikini and she generally used the pole to do the wave with her body).

Obviously one night of watching women dance does not make me a stripper. At this point I have gone to two stripper clubs and watched a lot of stripper movies. For those looking to do some research without wanting to shadow an actual stripper (I guarantee it's expensive), watch the documentary that Daryl Hannah made for the movie Dancing at the Blue Iguana (it's a special feature on the DVD). This is also the movie that inspired Sheila Kelly's pole dancing work-out studios. I took the introductory class there one fine Sunday (so much easier on Sundays when the parking is free on the street) and that was just as much of an eye-opener as Jumbo's Clown Room. I got the feeling the 'eight-week sessions' were more of a work-out and you learned more technique than the intro class (unfortunately the next session did not start until after the show opened). Still, the two-hour intro was educational. During the class the twelve students were treated to a demo by the two teachers. Oh my! Just remember when you walk down the street, or are in a restaurant, or at the gym; one of the women near you might have a big secret. And they might have a pole in their bedrooms too ($300, by the way, to buy a pole for your bedroom...more if you need it custom made).

I'll let you in on a little joke. The choreography for my pole dance has really been a collaboration (no, I will not be winging it like the expert dancers at Jumbo's). But we are crediting a choreographer in the program. You know the old 'use your middle name and the street you were born on and that's your stripper name'? We couldn't resist. Choreography done by Lorraine St. Charles.

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