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Teaching and Producing in a Pandemic

By September 12, 2020 No Comments
Fabulous Fan Society performs at Decadence and Debauchery

When I first took over the Muse School of Burlesque (formerly the Risque Bizniz School of Burlesque) never did I think I would have to consider how to mount a production with significant restrictions on both audience and performers. But here we are.

I’ve been so grateful to have the amazing Ferri Maya working with our students as a Guest Muse for this season of classes. Ferri has been working in a hybrid format, teaching in person every second week, and delivering classes online in a one on one format in the alternate weeks. Students have been working on their own solo or duo acts, showcasing their own sense of style and their take on burlesque.

I have been teaching 5 keen students in person a fun act featuring flutter fans as inspired by my recent learning and performing as part of Jazida‘s Fabulous Fan Society. We have met each week in person and navigated the restrictions and requirements throughout.

Fabulous Fan Society performs at Decadence and Debauchery in Canberra, Aug 2020

Jazida’s Fabulous Fan Society perform at Decadence and Debauchery. Photo by Damien Geary

One of the biggest challenges has been social distancing when dancing. We’ve been setting up the hall with plenty of room to maintain 1.5m between each student, and while learning individual moves a distance can be maintained. However as we work through a group choreography, keeping a distance is near impossible. So we have taken the next step, for those who cannot distance, to wear masks during our group performance. Inspired by the Fabulous Fan Society performance at Canberra’s Decadence and Debauchery, a mask does not need to detract form a costume. Thanks to LadyHart our flutter fan students now have masks to match our costumes!

These course have been run with a showcase production in mind, and as we’ve navigated through the current restriction in NSW, I toyed with the idea of moving the entire showcase in to an online format. However the experience of performing live is really the goal of these classes, building confidence and learning stage presence. And you really can’t beat that feeling of performing in front of friends and supporters.

So here we are, two weeks out from our In Person, Socially Distanced Muse Showcase. To make the show work we are following the current NSW guidelines which includes:

  • Restricting our audience to 35 people
  • Requiring all contact details for all patrons
  • Temperature checking patrons and requiring hand sanitisation before entry
  • Patrons must remain seated, unless attending the bathroom (with a total limit of 2 people in the bathroom at any time)
  • Patrons may book as a group, or identify who they intend to sit with so that we can arrange appropriate seating to ensure distance between groups
  • Having a COVID Safe Marshall responsible for the venue and maintaining the restrictions.

Given the audience number restrictions, we have put one show on sale, with the hopes of selling out and putting a second show earlier in the evening on sale.

Ferri Maya, Burlesque Performer and Teacher

Thankfully we have an incredible community hall for a venue. The Woonona-Bulli School of Arts has a fully functional stage with sound and lighting. We’ll have to carefully navigate the backstage areas for our students to ensure distancing. But it means if we sell out our shows, we can help support a community facility, and manage to pay our headline performer, Ferri Maya, fair industry rates.

I have watched other Burlesque Schools around Australia solve this challenge in their own ways, from online live shows, to recorded studio performances, to live in person limited audience shows. We’re all working through this situation as best we can.

But if you want to see burlesque blossom in the future, all I can encourage is buying tickets to shows, following all the required precautions, and sharing the love on social media. This is how we can navigate the pandemic together and ensure we come out the other side with a future for burlesque performance.

Hope to see some of you at the Muse Showcase on Sat 26 September at the Woonona-Bulli School Of Arts. Tickets strictly limited.

Mae de la Rue at curtain call for Decadence and Debauchery by Damien Geary

Decadence and Debauchery photos by Damien Geary.

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