Welcome back to the 2nd of our interview series, where I (B) live out my Scorpio fantasy and delve into the how’s, what’s and very curious why’s of our inspirational guests. We’re aligning with this month’s theme of shadow-work and exploring different versions of ourselves. There’s certainly a lot to undress here and when I got reaaaally thinking about this subject I found myself drawn to one, somewhat secretive world; that until this conversation I knew very little about.
I’m about to transport you quite literally half way across the world (hello Australia!) and into a flurry of fantastic feathers, twinkling rhinestones and elegant corsetry. You’re about to become part of the intimate audience shadowed behind the sensual mood lighting, that eagerly sits before the stage. The drawn velvet curtains tease with the floor as you anticipate the evening of provocative yet comedic dancing that lies ahead. Queue the swing music, ‘wooop wooops’ and nipple tassels. Ladies and Gentlemen, we’re headed into the world of Burlesque with the one and only Miss Maple Rose.
Photo by Rachel Mia
If you haven’t guessed by now, Miss Maple Rose is a world renowned Burlesque dancer, costume designer and instructor at ‘Maison Burlesque’ the largest school of its kind. Despite the 9,000 mile and 10 hour time difference, we arranged to meet over the wonders of the web. While I was getting ready for work, I caught Miss Maple Rose in the spotlight of her own kitchen, hot-fixing rhinestones onto her next costume as part of her evening wind down.
So please sit back and enjoy, because the shows about to start.
B: Well heyyy! The wonders of Instagram have led me to you, Miss Maple Rose, and I’m so glad that we’ve got the opportunity to have a chat
Miss Maple Rose: Heeey! A while ago I was actually admiring your sweatshirts and sweat pants, thinking I could design my own custom set but never got round to it in the end. But when you reached out and messaged me I was like oh wow, I know that company!
B: Oh amazing! Definitely meant for our long-distance paths to cross then. I’ve always been intrigued by Burlesque (although yet to go to a show!) and would love to learn more about it from a behind the scenes perspective so I guess it makes sense to start from the beginning. How did you get into Burlesque?
Miss Maple Rose: For 7 years I was doing set and costume design at theatre shows and there was a burlesque performer in one of my first shows called Lauren La Rouge, who I ended up becoming really good friends with. This was back in 2009, where the burlesque scene here was really underground but in the seedy club, amateur, cabaret way. (It’s changed quite a lot now.) I watched a lot of her shows and just fell completely in love with the art form
B: What attracted you to it?
Photo by Alexis Desaulniers Lea
Miss Maple Rose: With burlesque you have control over your performance from costume, to character work and cheorography. Compared to the theatre world I came from where it’s the opposite with working in teams and being told what to do. Here, everything is completely you
B: Oooh, wow! I’ve never even considered the difference of responsibility for performers in each on stage art form, so this is really eye-opening. From meeting Lauren La Rouge, how did you manage to get into your first show?
Miss Maple Rose: I like to call her my fairy god mother because she is the one who really pushed me on stage. She produced a show called ‘The Peel’ and was just like, you can do this, you have a dance background, a persona and theatre work experience. And yeah, I just went for it and haven’t looked back since
B: You mentioned a dance background there, where does that come from?
Miss Maple Rose: Ballet. I did it for about 15 years. Although I ended up going to university to study architcture and found that with all the academic focus I lost my love for movement that I had discovered as a child. So burlesque for me was a way to get back into this for fun, and without the pressure of being a trained dancer. Saying that, a lot of people come from theatre too so you don’t have to be a dancer to do burlesque
B: That’s really inspiring to know that anyone come from all kinds of creative background and find themselves welcomed into the burlesque world. Going back to what you touched apon earlier about the difference to theatre work, I wanna explore a little here. When you are performing as Miss Maple Rose, is this you? Or a fictional character?
Photo by Alexis Desaulniers Lea
Miss Maple Rose: That’s me on stage. I play myself but elevate my personality to a heightened level
B: Would you consider that as acting?
Miss Maple Rose: Mmmm it is acting, but I see it more as being true to myself. I’m not playing a role, I’m playing a character of me
B: Honestly, prior to this I had perhaps a naive pre-conception that every show on stage is a collective of actors playing fictional roles. To learn that burlesque dancers perform as who they are I can now understand how the shows connect with the audience in a very unique and personal way
Miss Maple Rose: Exactly. I teach students to find their style and be true to who you are so that this can really resonate with the audience
B: This is amazing. By discovering burlesque, you can also really get to know yourself, explore and live different versions on stage. How would you describe your stage persona?
Miss Maple Rose: I have a classic aesthetic because I love vintage fashion. I also use wit and comedy in my art form. I know I’m socially awkward, which is why I use comedy to cover up any mistakes if they happen and it makes them kinda adorable. Other peoples personas may be more sexualised, clown-like or even straight laced if it works for them. That’s the beauty of this, knowing that we’re showing up as the role we’ve created
B: As an instructor, how would you teach others to ‘find’ this version of themselves?
Miss Maple Rose: It’s a process. Like anything, It won’t happen over night but I teach students to be present in the moment of performance. It’s very easy to get caught up in your head of what we should look or be like. So particularly when we’re practising movement I get them to focus on how it feels, particularly with touch, within their body and then how that can be portrayed to the audience
B: So the focus is always on the feeling of movement to yourself and then how that feeling can be shared to the audience?
Miss Maple Rose: Exactly. It’s really important to connect with the audience, break that 4th wall and just feel comfortable having fun
B: I love how intimate burlesque show are with the audience. Do this play a part in the ‘show experience?’
Miss Maple Rose: For sure, so a good audience is always engaged. We generally say the louder the audience the better, you know they hoop and hollah, make a lot of noise for when we are taking our clothes off. Its an empowering energy exchange
B: For someone reading this and thinking, oh this atmosphere sounds absolutely amazing but feels like they just wouldn’t have the confidence to do this themselves, how would you say you found this confidence to perform?
Photo by Alexis Desaulniers Lea
Miss Maple Rose: It’s powerful to be on a stage, even just to step up on it. It’s important to remember that the audience is always on your side, and you can play with them to feel even more empowered. It’s great to free-style as you can almost control the audience, and every audience is different so you can tune in with their energy
B: It’s really hard to get started with something you want to do but that feels so far out your depths. However, I find that once you make that one small step in trying it out, it instantly gives you the confidence to push abit further out your comfort until eventually you find self-assurance in what you’re doing. The momentum builds up, but it always has to start somewhere
Miss Maple Rose: For sure! If you want to start burlesque then the best thing to do is watch some shows, research and learn about the art form then go to a local class and involve yourself with our community. You can create your confidence within learning
B: Has the burlesque community played a big part in your journey?
Miss Maple Rose: I like to call It a cult, that’s not really a cult- it’s the mystery that surrounds it. As soon as you want to get involved, you are part of the burlesque world and when you’re in everyone is like “Ooooh I get it now” because everyone knows everyone in the community world-wide. We are all very understanding and supportive of each other as it’s all about being yourself, so everyone Is welcome
B: That sounds like a really beautiful, accepting community to be a part of. Being surrounded with like-minded people who easily understand is so important. What aspects of your profession do you find challenging?
Photo by Alexis Desaulniers Lea
Miss Maple Rose: I am lucky that this is what I do full-time, whether that’s running the studio, teaching, making costumes, choreographing or gigging, a lot of it is free-lance and it’s every day of the week. You’re living the gig-lifestyle and taking work as it comes
B: That sounds a lot to manage, I guess you say it’s the ‘burlesque lifestyle’?
Miss Maple Rose: Yeah it’s a lot, and it’s hard to balance everything so it can be exhausting. I’ve also found that since we were out of the performing scene for years due to covid, we’re getting back into at 200% to make up for lost time
B: Do you feel an importance of getting dressed into your stage persona to separate performing, teaching and out-of-work ‘versions’ of you?
Miss Maple Rose: Yes, I love to be hands on in the creative process of getting ready. I use make-up to get into character and I tend to go quiet during this to get into the zone. It really changes my aesthetic and I transform into stage Miss Maple Rose. I also love putting on a corset. The feeling of ‘Confinement’ is really important to the art, not only for the drawn in waist and high heels aesthetic but its symbolises ‘breaking out ‘ during strip teases. I’m aways experimenting with myself and working on who I want to be
B: It has been absolutely amazing talking to you and I feel privileged to have learnt so much about burlesque as a lifestyle, art form and ‘cult’ haha, from someone with so much experience in this field. I read that you’ve also done a lot of travel performing across Europe to places such as London, EdInborough and Stockholm, then even visiting Japan. What else have you been involved with recently?
Miss Maple Rose: Yes! Like I said the burlesque scene is really is a world-wide community so it’s been incredible getting involved in shows across the world. It’s definitely built up my experience performing to culturally different audiences since every country has its own audience quirks and responses. I have also recently taught feather fan, flow work to the moulin rouge dancers which was incredible. And last Sunday, all 250 of our students at Maison Burlesque performed at their end of term show to an audience of 500 people. Performer wise, it is one of, if not the biggest burlesque show in the world which I helped produce
B: Insane. I can’t help but pick up on one last thing that I’ve completely forgot to mention- FANS!
Miss Maple Rose: Feather fans are my speciality and they are actually really hard to hold and move. You practise flow work, create lines with your body and use fans to take up space on the stage. Theres a lot of tricks that go into using them and many techniques have been borrowed from the circus. It’s a whole other art form in itself!
B: We’ve come to the end of our time (and zoom free 40 minutes is definitely about to run out) haha, but if you can leave us with a final message what would that be?
Miss Maple Rose: It’s one of my favourite quotes from World Famous Bob. “If you have cellulite, just throw glitter on it.” It’s about owning yourself, going for it and having a good time in the process.