Saturday, September 11, 2010

Lola van Ella, Candy Barr & functional Western wear

So Poetry Scores is producing a live show 8 p.m. Thursday Sept. 23 at The Foxhole at Atomic Cowboy. It involves a small burlesque component. We'll have the Dave Stone Trio improvising a score to Missouri Poet Laureate David Clewell's long poem "Jack Ruby's America," with the poet performing the poem. They will be joined for a brief stretch by Lola van Ella dancing a burlesque scene she is choreographing for the show.

"Jack Ruby's America" is Clewell's meditation on the Dallas burlesque club owner who shot Lee Harvey Oswald dead on national television. Oswald, of course, had been arrested and accused of murdering President John F. Kennedy and a Dallas police officer.

Ruby ran a Dallas burlesque club called the Carousel. When I first approached Lola about choreographing and dancing a burlesque routine for the Carousel Club part of the poem, she immediately got enthused about Candy Barr, a dancer who worked at the Carousel, and said it would be fun to work up a tribute to her.

One thing I love about Lola is what a geek she is for artistic process. From the first days of our friendship and collaboration, we cleared the air that we could talk shop at any time and never feel constrained to just party or small-talk. So I am just thrilling on the following peek into her artistic process.

This is a message from Becky Simmons, who works with Lola on her costumes. She is writing to Lola about the Candy Barr costume for the Poetry Scores show, in reference to the above images:

Becky Simmons: I pulled these two pictures. So I can take a regular pair of panties and put fringe and whatnot on them to make them look like they do in the one picture, and either cover a bra or make a triangle-style top and match it to the bottoms, then make a panel skirt of some kind to go with it? And you could wear something else on the bottom so I could make the panties snap off, like your blue bow ones. And maybe if you had a little denim jacket or something over it you could just start with that, and make that the first thing you take off, then the panel skirt, then the bra, then the panties, and then the holster if you want. Or you could leave that on I guess, I don't know what she did. But I can get a little red piece of fabric so you can tie it around your neck, and it doesn't look like she wore a hat but maybe if you had a miniature one (kind of like a miniature top hat) that might be kind of cute?

I totally, totally, totally love this! I learned so much from it. Of course it stands to reason, but I had never considered that a burlesque costume has moving parts - it is as much a machine as it is a garment. Janet Jackson taught the world about "wardrobe malfunction," but I now know a burlesque artist and her costume-maker are all about wardrobe function.


Dave Stone, Lola van Ella and David Clewell perform "Jack Ruby's America" at 8 p.m. Thursday Sept. 23 at The Foxhole at Atomic Cowboy, 4140 Manchester Ave. Admission is $7 at the door.

Poetry Scores is a Missouri non-profit arts organization based in St. Louis that translates poetry into other media. Email for information.

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