Photo by StereoVision Photography
On any given weekend in Baltimore and DC, one can find women (and some men) dressed in elaborate sequined costumes stripping down to pasties in creative, hilarious ways. To most of these performers, Burlesque is a passion and a hobby, they work day jobs as veterinarians and teachers to pay for new wigs and spend their evenings sewing snaps into break away clothing. Dolly Longlegs is one of those hardworking and talented individuals active in the Baltimore Burlesque scene.
In her senior year at the Maryland Institute College of Art, Dolly helped found The GalHaus Review. The school’s burlesque troop that is going into its fourth year. Since graduating Dolly has performed locally and toured nationally, developing an eccentric set of acts including a pink flamingo fan dance, a Day of the Dead inspired skeleton routine, and my personal favorite “America,” a routine set to Dolly Parton’s God Bless the USA, which utilizes rifle spinning, an LED inlaid sequined bra, and a delicious helping of über-patriotic kitsch.
How long have you been performing?
I have been performing… it’ll be 3 years in January.
How did you to burlesque in the first place?
Well, it was kind of a weird progression into it for me because I had always really been interested in it, I used to go to shows and look at it online, I got really into retro styling more so first. In senior year of college (my fiends and I) made a point that every day that semester we would dress glamorously, we called it Glamour Fall. After that my friends Marla and Elyza had put together a fashion show line of all burlesque-y clothing. I was away for the show but all of my girlfriends were models so they kind of got over that initial fear of “I’m showing my body to a million people at once!” And then after that we were looking back at the pictures and the video and seeing how much fun it was and we were like “We could do this for real! We could actually, not just in a fashion show, have a burlesque show” and after that we decided we would start up the club at MICA, and that’s how we all got into it.
Had you performed in any capacity before you started burlesque?
Yeah, I did in high school actually to start off. I was on the color guard there and I was super-duper into that. We were the ones who spun flags and rifles and danced on the football field in between shows. It was basically like dance, spinning and weird group choreography. I have no dance skills pretty much and I’m not an actress by any means. [But] that kind of weird group dynamic and synchronized movements really got me going.. And then when I moved to Baltimore I started working on the street parades and street theater kind of stuff, putting on a magical thing in the middle of a place where it wouldn’t normally be.
What is your favorite act to perform?
Oh, America’s probably my favorite. For that act I was sort of looking at, well I knew I really wanted to spin rifles again because I had my rifle that I used in high school and I was missing that and trying to find a way to incorporate it. I was thinking about, you know how Americans are kind of obsessed with guns and breaking it down even further into this super-America thing like, what’s more American than blondes and boobs and guns?
Can you describe what goes in to preparing an act?
My process varies kind of act to act. Sometimes I feel like I’ll just hear a song and think “Oh my god I’ve got to use that” and then the rest will come from that but a lot of times I fell like it’s more like there’s a concept I want to get across in some way. And then after that I start to figure out a theme and pick music from there. But it does kind of vary by what’s going on.
How would you describe your burlesque persona?
I guess the most important thing is the humor that goes into acts. As a performer I really respect people who do classic burlesque numbers, especially if they do it really well, but that’s not really what I’m after. The point for me is to be able to entertain people in a humorous way using costume and props and crazy choreography, while also simultaneously getting some point across ideally. But the most important thing is I want to make people laugh.
Dolly in action, photo by David Schmid
What is one of your fondest performance memories?
I think my fondest performance memories are being able to travel, it’s given me an opportunity to travel around and do these things in different places which had never really happened to me with my art work, like I never really got a chance to get around and show what I do to different places but this has sort of given me a way to go festivals and book shows in other states and it’s totally valid because you have these acts that you perform but you can’t just keep doing them over and over in the same place, you know, the crowds that come back to burlesque shows are kind of the same, so that opens it up really quickly for getting out of Baltimore and going to different places.
Who are some performers you admire?
Oh my god, there’s so many. As far as classic burlesque goes, Angie Pontani, I’m a huge fan. I think she really pulls off the classic moves really well in a way that kind of captivates you. I’ve seen a lot of really boring classic burlesque that is dry the whole time and I think a lot of it is in her facial expressions and the way she makes eye contact and I admire that a lot. I also love Trixie and Monkey, I think they are the masters of humorous burlesque and I love that they incorporates their own unique acrobatic skills too, something you don’t always think about, being able to incorporate other skills into your burlesque and I think that they pull off the acrobatic thing really well.
How do you feel about the Baltimore burlesque scene?
I really like the scene here, And everyone here is pretty open and enthusiastic. It’s interesting because I feel like the Baltimore and DC groups are very close knit because we’re constantly booking at each other’s venues. And we have this huge Facebook group that’s all Baltimore and DC performers and it’s really nice to have that kind of support network whenever you do have a question, even something simple like; “How is this venue? I’ve never performed here, what should I know?” Stuff like that. It’s just cool to be able to have this whole network of people to draw on for questions about local stuff.
You produced a show recently, is that something you would like to do more of?
Yeah, I feel like I could definitely get in to more producing, that was a good time, it was cool to be able to allow other performers to come here who hadn’t ever performed in Baltimore before and have a place for them to do that. Also it was great to bring new performers to the Baltimore audience because a lot of the time they are seeing the same folks over and over. Also, producing brings out my event planning craziness really fast.
What are some of your upcoming plans? What acts would you love to develop?
I have a few kind of mulling around in my brain right now. As for future plans, I had a really busy summer so I’ve kind of taken a little bit of a step back from performing just to reevaluate where I’m going and what I am trying to get across with all of it. I am talking with some folks about getting together some group numbers which I’m really excited about, getting back to that group dynamic that I really like. And then just applying to shows here and there to keep up my costuming and that sort of thing, but I am definitely taking some time to reevaluate what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.
Keep up with Dolly Longlegs by becoming her friend on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/dolly.longlegs